What: License No. 1 Bar in the historic Boulderado Hotel.
Where: 2115 13th Street, Boulder, CO. Pro tip: Use the side entrance as well as one through the hotel lobby.
When: Tuesday through Sunday, open 5 p.m. to Midnight. Live music in the jazz lounge as well as vintage movie showings are some of the special events.
Pros: The comfortable and speakeasy era atmosphere is perfectionist in its details. From exposed brick and red leather, this interior just screams 1920s end-of-prohibition party. Check out the billiards room, it is very popular among the patrons. Plus, the bartender makes a killer Old Fashioned.
Cons: Catacombs holds an inexpensive, grungy, college shaped place in my heart and will be missed. But, the refreshing change of pace to License No. 1 is in fact a return to the bars roots and historic significance.
Immerse yourself in another time, like a pre-prohibition fairy tale from the 20th century, at License No. 1. Catacombs has been put to rest, and in its place, the historic nod to a Boulder landmark. License No. 1 is the first booze slangin’ bar in the county, yet playfully re-imagined with high end drinks at cost effective prices. It is an underground Boulder gem you must experience for yourself.
Old, dark wood layered on top of blood red leather accents, a kitschy sign on your way in reads, “If you do not know the secret knock, please ring the bell.” Boulder held a strict alcohol prohibition until 1969, License No. 1 has the bragging rights of serving alcohol almost 60 years before its legalization. The space is now brimming with the jazz era atmosphere that it once had.
“Serving liquor since 1909, legally since 1969.”
Stained glass accents, black and white photographs from the bars sordid past, as well as the old-timey rail road lighting along the ceiling and above the bar all create this amazing scene of being transported back in time. The speakeasy vibe is only further enhanced by the amazing selection behind the bar—Fireside, Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace as a well as local Feisty Spirits whiskey to name a few. It’s locally sourced liquor lovers paradise.
You’ll see in the deep layout of the rooms in the bar an exposed elevator engine of the oldest working elevator in Colorado. It is a man operated elevator, running continuously since 1907. Step back in time as you enter into one of the final working operator-run elevators in the US.
Even more impressive than the beautiful and rich history in the space are the drinks themselves. Unsurprisingly, the No. 1 Old Fashion was to die for. They have perfected the sour and sweet whiskey cocktail that boasts local Buffalo Trace whiskey with a black cherry and orange accent.
Keep in mind this drink is stirred, not shaken. Shaking bruises the cocktail and will overkill some of the more delicate flavors. Sorry, James Bond.
I was truly impressed by the seamless Negeroni prepared by talented young License No. 1 bartender Ben. The License No. 1 negroni is mixed with Brokers Gin delicately balancing the flavors of noilly prat, campari, and orange zest. This is the Boulderado’s take on the classic aperitif, perfectly balanced with enough kick to satisfy.
Equally impressive in the speakesy-esque palette of cocktail is the Vieux Carré – made with one ounce Remy Martin Cognac, one ounce of Antica sweet vermouth. Then Ben adds 1⁄4 ounce Benedictine (orange and clove base) peychaud’s, and angostura bitters. It is License No. 1’s take on the Sazerac. Another brilliant, modern interpretation of a classic.
I fell head-over-heels for the Red Velvet Cake equip with in house made chocolate espresso ice cream and ripe raspberries. Absolutely one of the highlights of my night, I imagine the perfect date or a friendly, jazz night ending with this dessert. Maybe it’s the whiskey, or the old timey atmosphere, but the minimalist, and not overly sweet red velvet tasted like a simpler time. In the best way imaginable.
Every inch of License No. 1 is soaked in rich history. Stemming from the Boulderado itself, it is ready to create history again. Dated yet accessible, chic, License No. 1 is coming back around with all its grandiose of the past, ready to be celebrated in the present.
All photography by Lindsey Bartlett.