Thursday, October 15, 2015

5 Fun Downtown Denver Bars

Denver is known for its craft beer, but Denver also has a fun bar scene with craft cocktails.  During our explorations, we found five fun downtown Denver bars serving trendy beer cocktails, cocktails with unusual ingredients like prickly pear and root beer, and cocktails paired with pie.

Green Russell

GuanabanaCabana Green Russell Downtown Denver Bars

Green Russell is a cool downtown Denver bar that describes itself as a chef-driven cocktail joint.  Turn into a courtyard off of Larimer Square and follow a flight of steps down into a building basement where you’ll be greeted by a host in a bright waiting room area.  Tables can be hard to come by without a reservation.  We gave our phone number to the hostess and entered the dark, exposed stone and brick-walled Bar 1, the standing room only waiting area, and ordered a drink. 

Pie Cocktail Pairing Green Russell Downtown Denver Bars

Green Russell feels like a speakeasy and we half expected to be asked for the secret password before entering.  We didn’t have to wait long before getting a text that a table was available.  From our table we were able to witness cocktails being mixed and random flames shooting through the air.  My first cocktail was the GuanabanaCabana made with Rhum JM, Huana Liqueur, lime, grapefruit, cinnamon, and stomach bitters.  The cocktail was delightfully sour and had a mild punch of cinnamon.  I have no idea what my second cocktail was.  Green Russell is known for their pie (an odd thing for a bar to be known for), so I ordered a pie cocktail pairing.  The pie was key lime and when I asked our server what cocktail went with it, he said, “a good one.”  Good it was.

Terminal Bar

Union Station Downtown Denver Bars

Terminal Bar is located in downtown Denver’s Union Station.  Union Station is more than just a train station.  Union Station is downtown Denver’s living room.  Drinks can be ordered at walk-up ticket windows and enjoyed in Union Station's common area, or guests can sit at one of the tables or long bar inside where it feels almost like a train’s dining car. 

LoDo Funk Cup Terminal Bar Union Station Downtown Denver Bars

Terminal Bar serves cocktail standards like gimlets and Manhattans, but has a very original cocktail list as well, including drinks like Greek Economy and India Pale Whiskey Punch.  I went for the LoDo Funk Cup which is apparently not very popular because people are intimidated by the ingredients (but somehow the Chile Vodka Avocado doesn’t scare them).  The LoDo Funk Cup is a play on the Pimm’s Cup and part of the beer cocktail trend.  The cocktail contains Bombay Sapphire, Pimm’s #1, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and Funkwerks Saison.  I found it to be delicious and refreshing, not intimidating at all.

FIRE Lounge

FIRE Lounge the ART, a hotel Downtown Denver Bars

FIRE Lounge is located in downtown Denver’s the ART, a hotel.  Guests can enjoy a cocktail inside, surrounded by some of the art that gives the hotel its name, or on the outdoor terrace.  FIRE serves inventive cocktails created with fresh and unusual garnishes like ginger root and red peppers. 

The American Painter in Rome and Brazilian Baroque FIRE Lounge the ART, a hotel Downtown Denver Bars

Rome had The American Painter in Rome, made with Bulleit Rye, Carpano Antica, Cynar, sea salt, and lemon peel.  These ingredients combined together are quite strong.  Our bartender explained part of the art of the cocktail is stirring it with ice until it reaches its optimal flavor, chilled and slightly watered down to mellow the bitterness.  I had the Brazilian Baroque, an electric pink cocktail made with Pitu 51 Cachaca, prickly pear, fresh ginger, lime, and ginger beer.  While the bright pink color makes it look like the cocktail will be very sweet, it is actually quite refreshing, and the lime and ginger keep it from being sweet.

Cruise Room

Cruise Room Oxford Hotel Downtown Denver Bars

The Cruise Room, located in the Oxford Hotel, opened in 1933 the day after the repeal of prohibition and is Denver’s first post-prohibition bar.  The art deco style replicates the lounge on the Queen Mary ocean liner.  The walls are covered in symbols representative of toasts from countries around the world.  There used to be a swastika on the wall for Germany before America realized Hitler was a really, really bad guy.  That symbol was quickly removed.  The Cruise Room’s cocktail menu includes cocktails like The Other Woman, made with Wisconsin’s Death’s Door Gin, La Marca Prosecco, and Solerno and Bittermans Hellfire Habanero Shrub.

Avanti Food and Beverage

Avanti Food and Beverage Downtown Denver Bars

Avanti Food and Beverage is technically just outside of downtown Denver, but it makes this list because it provides an awesome view of downtown Denver.  Avanti F&B is Denver’s new hotspot serving both food and drinks.  Avanti F&B is a building made with shipping containers containing seven different food options and two full bars.  Guests order food from one of the vendors, take a seat until they are paged their food is ready, and in the meantime order cocktails from the wait staff.  There are some fun cocktails on Avanti’s menu.  I ordered a Scout’s Honor, made with Bulleit Bourbon, Leopold’s Cherry Tart Liqueur, lemon, and Rocky Mountain Soda Root Beer.  There are also cocktails served in coconuts.

When spending a weekend or longer in downtown Denver, be sure to visit one or more of these fun downtown Denver bars. 

Five fun downtown Denver bars serving trendy beer cocktails, cocktails with unusual ingredients like prickly pear and root beer, and cocktails paired with pie.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.