Denver’s beverage scene is exploding. No one really cares who got there first. It’s all about what’s happening at the moment, and at the moment, there’s a lot going on. Much like the city itself, there’s a relaxed vibe … even in the most cultured beverage haunts. From sneaking through a hidden door for some classic tipples to requesting a Ping Pong paddle with your pint of ale, here are three that have you covered for a night out.
Williams & Graham
If you are a denizen of the craft mixology world, you’ve probably heard of Sean Kenyon. He’s known in bar circles — and in the Mile High city as a drink columnist for Westword magazine — as a no-nonsense, laid-back drink slinger with a personality that’s nearly addictive to be around. He can make you a perfect Sazerac, but there’s no dissertation on bitters. Kenyon’s an everyman’s man. And it shows inside Williams & Graham, the cocktail den he co-opened in 2011.
Entering a building that dates to 1906, you first find a tiny room with a spiffy host, who then escorts you through a trap door. Inside, it’s candlelit and dark and the conversations bounce happily off the walls. Where some bars might feel austere, there’s a true camaraderie here. The staff is as gregarious as the owners.
“The tin ceilings and hardwood floors are original,” Kenyon told me over a fantastic stirred tequila cocktail called the El Ocho Rosada. “For most of the first half of the 20th century, our building existed as C.H. Blezek’s pharmacy. The basement was once an illegal bar known as Johnny’s Inn.” Kenyon will give you what’s likely the best cocktail in Denver, so I suggest stopping in.
DETAILS: 3160 Tejon St.; 303-997-8886; williamsandgraham.com
Steuben’s and Ace
These two are situated virtually next door to one another and owned by the same people, so choosing to drink at Steuben’s means you can also mosey on over to Ace. Or vice versa. The love of these places isn’t in the proximity however, but in the cool beer selections, the hearty, fix-any-hangover food menus (chicken & waffles at Steuben’s gets a massive thumbs-up) and the cool industrial design elements — like retro barstools at Steuben’s and ping pong tables at Ace.
“We get the entire spectrum of drinkers, from people who want a cold can of Coors to cocktail enthusiasts who request our house-made cocktails,” explains Emily Biederman, the business manager. “Part of what makes these spots so appealing is the fact that such a wide variety of people love what we do. So you never know who you might end up sitting next to at the bar.”
HIGH NOTE: Both spots offer incredible patios that give guests options of sun or shade, small tables or communal, and misting fans in the summer.
DETAILS: Steuben’s: 523 E. 17th Ave.; 303-830-1001; steubens.com. Ace: 501 E. 17th Ave.; 303-800-7705; acedenver.com.