Hey you. Can you keep a secret? Well, we absolutely can’t. So after you’re done ingesting Denver’s best cheap food, take your extra cash and show off your newfound knowledge of the city’s best and most secret(ish) bars...
North Capitol Hill
When you want a drink, an ice cream shop usually isn’t the first place you’d think to head into. But most ice cream shops don’t have an unmarked door that leads to a cozy ‘60s throwback bar. Now Denver’s got one that does. Skip the "cup or cone" conundrum and go for a glass instead -- one filled with a craft cocktail like the Concentrated Dark Matter with rye, rock candy, and orange bitters.
How to get in: Head to Frozen Matter and walk through the freezer door. Then head through the swinging metal doors to enter Retrograde.
Retro is a description that gets thrown around a lot, but B&GC is a true Mad Men-style step back in time. Sleek design, martini service, shrimp cocktail and caviar? That’s exactly what you’re getting here.
How to get in: B&GC is located in the the Halcyon, a hotel in Cherry Creek. But to find the entrance to the bar, you'll need to head down the alley between Second and Third Ave. Look for a sign that says "Stair 3" and a golden doorbell. Finding it is only the beginning, though. Hotel guests may be able to garner admission, but otherwise the bar is members-only, and the process of becoming a member remains under wraps.
Pair your cocktail with a view of the Rocky Mountains and the city lights from 27 stories up. The Peaks Lounge may be a pretty typical hotel bar where you’ll find mostly out-of-town visitors, but the floor-to-ceiling windows make for a sunset cocktail hour that’s enough to impress even the most jaded native.
How to get in: Head into the Hyatt Regency Denver’s main lobby and take an elevator to the 27th floor.
Come bathe in the red lights of post-Prohibition Denver at this historic spot that was the first bar to open the day after Prohibition’s repeal (although rumor has it there are secret panels and underground tunnels left over from its lesser-known moonshine history). Not much has changed at the Cruise Room since then -- the popular martinis and Art Deco style remain intact making this spot a true throwback experience.
How to get in: Head into the main lobby of the Oxford Hotel. Go past McCormick’s Fish House & Bar and you’ll find the Cruise Room on your right.
When you head to movie night at the Mayan Theatre, expect more than just the standard popcorn-scented experience. With screenings of independent films as well as regular midnight showings of classics like Rocky Horror Picture Show, this historic building’s got its original Art Deco charm intact. But the real draw is the full bar, so make sure to show up early for those pre-show cocktails.
How to get in: Once inside the Mayan Theatre, head upstairs to find the bar.
In 2014, Denver’s historic Union Station got a major makeover, transforming the space from a quiet, forgotten corner of Downtown into one of the most popular destinations for dining and shopping. Though many have already discovered this elegant spot to grab a drink, its upstairs location keeps much of the typical Union Station crowds away.
How to get in: Look for the Cooper Lounge desk on the South side of the main floor of Union Station’s Great Hall (near Amtrak). If there’s space, you’ll be escorted past a velvet rope to the lounge upstairs.
What do you get when you hide a bar with only seven tables behind a moving bookshelf? Apparently a lot of success. Williams & Graham has racked up local and national accolades so while it’s not really a well-kept secret at this point, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to use a real-life secret passageway -- especially one that leads to such classy cocktails.
How to get in: Head inside the “bookstore” and give the staff your name to add to the list. Eventually, one of the bookcases will swing open and you’ll be taken to your spot inside the bar.
Get a dose of culture and booze when you visit the Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s rooftop café. Offering light food options along with a full bar, the MCA Café offers city views from its balcony and a quiet, relaxed vibe in the middle of Downtown.
How to get in: You’ll have to pay the museum admission price ($8 for adults, $5 if you’re visitng after 5pm). Once inside, take the elevator to the top floor.
This 1920s-style speakeasy owned by Denver restaurateur Frank Bonanno encourages you to embrace the past with rules that include no cell phones allowed (except inside the telephone booth). As a chef-owned bar, expect bar food that goes above the norm and updated takes on classic cocktails.
How to get in: Follow the signs that point you down a set of stairs to a door that says, “Wednesday’s Pies.” Head into the (fully functional) pie shop, tell the hostess you’re looking for Green Russell, and you’ll be escorted through another door that leads to the bar.
This sister bar to Colt & Gray may have a chic edge, but it’s not meant to be exclusive. Sure, you can get oysters and beef tartare, but you can also just wander in for one of the best burgers in town. And make sure to always try to grab a seat at the bar at this subterranean lounge so you can watch the skilled bartenders crafting cocktails.
How to get in: Head through the inconspicuous glass door to the right of Colt & Gray’s entrance and take the stairs down to the basement.
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1. Retrograde, Denver
2. B&GC249 Columbine Street, Denver
3. Peaks Lounge650 15th St, Denver
4. The Cruise Room1659 Wazee St, Denver
5. The Mayan Bar110 Broadway, Denver
6. The Cooper Lounge1701 Wynkoop St, Denver
7. Williams & Graham3160 N Tejon St, Denver
8. MCA Cafe1485 Delgany St, Denver
9. Green Russell1422 Larimer St, Denver
10. Ste. Ellie1553 Platte St, Denver
An unmarked, stainless steel door in the ice cream shop Frozen Matter doesn't lead to a walk-in freezer like you'd expect, but to Retrograde, an intimate speakeasy that serves eccentric artisan cocktails. The bar has a sci-fi meets 60's throwback feel, complete with cool purple lighting and drinks like the Concentrated Dark Matter with rye, rock candy, and orange bitters. in a glam, purple-lit space. The bar has a '60s throwback theme
This speakeasy (whose name stands for Boys & Girls Club) is hidden inside the Halycon Hotel in Cherry Creek. Getting into B&GC is no small feat -- you have to go down the alley between Second and Third avenue, and look for a sign that says "Stair 3" and a golden doorbell. However, once you're there, there's no guaranteeing you'll get in: the bar is members-only, and the process of becoming a member is just as secret as the bar's location. That said, there's no hurt in trying to get past the door.
This bar sits on the 27th floor of the Hyatt in downtown, offering panoramic views and classic cocktails -- perfect for a drink at sunset.
Located in the historic Oxford Hotel's lobby in downtown Denver, The Cruise Room appears almost exactly as it did in 1933. The whole place is styled after a lounge room on the Queen Mary and waitresses are dressed in the requiste flapper girl garb, which makes Cruise Room's legendary martinis and whiskey cocktails taste truly authentic. Order a Red Widow -- peach vodka, champagne, St. Germain, and jalapeño -- and be sure to ask your bartender about the hotel’s infamous ghost stories.
This bar is located upstairs at the Mayan Theatre and opens a half hour before the first show time, and stays open until last call 15 minutes after the end of the last feature. They also run a happy hour everyday from 3pm-6pm in the historic, art deco building.
Nested above the Terminal Bar you'll find The Cooper Lounge, a high-end cocktail bar with deep armchairs and strong drinks. They put out a sleek, '30s lounge-vibe paired with an array of original cocktails that feature local spirits from Leopold Brothers, Breckenridge Bourbon, and Peach St. For example, try the Palisaide Sour with Peach St. Pear Eau de Vie, egg white, lemon, and black walnut bitters.
Williams & Graham, a bar styled to look like a Prohibition-era speakeasy, offers up an eclectic selection of specialty cocktails, liquors, beers and wines. Additionally, there's a food menu that includes a variety of sandwiches, snacks and small plate dishes. You'd be remiss to skip this spot that was recognized as the Best American Cocktail Bar in 2015 by the Spirited Awards (basically the Academy Awards of booze).
This bar & café is tucked upstairs at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and has a rooftop patio with incredible views of the city. The full bar is complemented by a menu of light snacks, sandwiches,& pizza, plus the added bonus of an entire art museum to visit after you eat.
Only accessible via a secret door through a small pie shop, Larimer Square's Green Russell serves some of the best cocktails in Denver in a cool, speakeasy-like locale. This moody, elegant establishment has been serving up Prohibition-era cocktails since 2011. Named after Colorado gold miner William Green Russell, the joint is rooted in old-school sensibilities, but still appeals to the modern palate with its selection of made to order libations.
This speakeasy-style cocktail bar under Colt & Gray emits more of a party vibe than an air of seclusion. Plus there’s something kind of awesome about the fact that the restaurant’s own butchering and meat-curing facility operates just down the hallway. So before you take a sip of your bartender’s choices or grower Champagne, be sure to raise a toast to good salami, which you can sample on the cheese and charcuterie board.