Put down that Cosmo and back away slowly.Between Colorado's top-shelf liquors and the gourmet ush for local ingredients and culinaryinspired cocktails, even Carrie Bradshaw would pass on a candy-colored martini in favor of one of this summer's fresh, flavor-infused sips.Early-millennium martini culture has given way to speakeasy-inspired mixology. The Lemon Drop is out — tipplers may not even find it on some bar and restaurant menus — while the Lemon Zipper and the Lemon Quencher are in.A quick, unofficial survey of Denver-area cocktail snobs turned up 10 stops for this summer's must-sip spirits. But if there were one rule of thumb for a parched imbiber in search of a cool drink on a hot day, it would be this: Where there's a patio, a fine refreshment is never far behind.
- Produced By:
- Anya Semenoff
- August 17th 2011 at 01:01 p.m.
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$5-$8, Salt the Bistro: 1047 Pearl St., Boulder The approach to mixology favored by Evan Faber, the head "bar chemist" at Boulder's high-profile Salt restaurant and bar, should strike a chord with fans of the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. Faber's Cocktail Element menu allows customers to mix and match liquors, flavors and drink styles. He's paired it with a new iPhone app that allows at-home drink-slingers to reproduce the very same cocktails made at Salt. One of Faber's favorites for summer: the Strawberry Basil Scotch Collins. This variety adds quintessential summer garden flavors to the drink's traditional lemon juice, and uses scotch instead of gin. "It's really wonderful," he says.
B. Lemon Zipper
$8, Shazz Cafe and Bar: 4262 Lowell Blvd., Denver Using locally produced spirits and house-made mixers as its inspiration, this north Denver "farm to table" eatery hit a thirst-quenching home run with its Lemon Zipper. The drink contains Colorado's Montanya rum, house- made falernum (an old, herbaceous simple-syrup recipe), fresh lemon juice and soda water. "You get a lot of character in the drink without a lot of things floating around in it," says chef Benny Kaplan.
C. Mount Pelee
$10, Lou's Food Bar: 1851 W. 38th Ave., Denver At Lou's, chef Frank Bonanno's take on the gastropub, bar manager Ryan Caple has been charged with "finding a nice balance between innovation and the classics." This one has Depaz Rhum, Pusser's rum, tamarind purée, lime juice and homemade orgeat almond syrup. "It's refreshing and not over-the-top in sweetness or sourness," Caple says.
$10, À Côté Parisian Wine Bar: 2239 W. 30th Ave., Denver It's common for mixologist Kristian Kelly to whip up a new cocktail nearly any night he's working at this satellite bar next to Z Cuisine. But his "amped-up lemonade" keeps some sippers coming back time and again. It's made with granita, which is similar to Italian ice, rosé sparkling wine and a twist of lemon. "The French are about simplicity and fresh local ingredients," says Kelly. So are his drinks.
E. French 75
$9, Linger: 2030 W. 30th Ave., Denver Local mixology maven Anika Zappe just moved from Root Down to Linger, chef Justin Cucci's hot new spot in the old Olinger Mortuary building. Her cocktails at Linger are updated classics with a hint of apothecary culture, meaning some herbs and flavors will be selected for their healthful effects. But for summer, Zappe keeps things simple. Her French 75 has Square One organic vodka, homemade lemongrass simple syrup, lemon juice and cava. "It's really light," Zappe says, "and it appeals to both genders more than I anticipated." Her Garden Party (made with Bombay Sapphire gin, agave nectar, lemon juice, muddled watermelon and fennel, and black pepper) continues to be a summertime fave at nearby Root Down.
$10, Colt & Gray: 1553 Platte St., Denver This cocktail is among the newest to hit the ever-evolving menu at Colt & Gray, the foodie destination just north of downtown Denver. "It's our take on the classic cucumber mojito," says bar manager Kevin Burke, who helps concoct a new bar menu about once a month. This particular summery sip has cucumber juice, fresh mint, celery bitters, lemon and lime juices, and unaged "white dog" whiskey. "Cucumber has a really nice cooling effect, no matter how hot it is," Burke says, "and we wanted to play with people's perception of what whiskey can be."
Arguably downtown Denver's premier shopping and eating block, Larimer Square still lives up to its rich drinking history - a history that's as old as Denver itself. It hardly takes a booze hound to sniff out a fine drink from Green Russell, Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Ocean Prime, TAG or Euclid Hall, just to name a few of the destination bars and restaurants here. All of these outposts boast big flavors and alluring atmospheres, thanks in no small part to Larimer Square's tastefully preserved historic architecture. "He let me off at Larimer Street," Beat writer Jack Kerouac famously chronicled. "I stumbled along with the most wicked grin of joy in the world." Larimer Street around 14th and 15th streets.
$8, Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar: 891 14th St., Denver (in the Spire) In addition to launching a new "Sangria Three Ways" list this month, Row 14 bar manager Travis Plakke anticipates the ongoing popularity of the Mucho Take It Easy, a play on the margarita. It has silver tequila, fresh lime juice, muddled peppers and cucumber, Luxardo Triplum triple sec, and a hibiscus flower and smoked sea salt rim. "You get a bit of tart from the hibiscus flowers and it balances well with that spice" from the peppers, Plakke says.
$10, Encore on Colfax: 2550 E. Colfax Ave., Denver Taking cues from Boulder cocktail magician (and former employer) Bryan Dayton at Oak on Fourteenth, Encore's new beverage director, Adam Dunbar, aimed for "more style, more class and more flavor" with the restaurant's newest cocktail menu. "It was important to get away from vodka," says Dunbar. One popular result that carries into summer is his Discrepancy Theory, made with Old Overholt rye whiskey, Root organic liqueur, Benedictine liqueur, angostura bitters and an orange twist. "Root liquor is almost like root beer, and the orange twist really changes the structure and the preconceived notion of what whiskey should be," says Dunbar. "Every time my mom comes in, she doesn't drink anything else." 'Nuff said.
J. El Diablo
$9, El Diablo Cocina y Tequileria: 101 Broadway, Denver Things were heating up long before summer at El Diablo, Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz's popping Baker neighborhood uber-cantina. The eclectic bar menu is one reason why. Still stunning palates is the house special made with Del Maguey Vida mezcal, muddled "drunken cherries'' and blood oranges, and fresh grapefruit juice, then trimmed with smoky Gusano worm salt from Oaxaca. "hat's just a really unique drink,'' says head mixologist Lauli Cusimano. It's also one that enables her to illustrate the versatility of tequila and its kindred spirits.