The Happiest Hour: Barrel-Aged Cocktails at the Nickel

All photography by Roman Tafoya
The Study. All photography by Roman Tafoya

What: $5 specials in a stylish setting.

Where: Inside the Hotel Teatro, 1100 14th St., Denver

Neighborhood: Theatre District

When: Happy hour specials are available 4 p.m.- 6 p.m., seven days a week

Pros: Get the experience of sipping on carefully crafted cocktails at a deep discount.

Cons: Happy hour food selections are limited to only charcuterie so if you’re looking for more of a meal, you’ll need to turn to the regular menu selections.

Since its opening in July 2014, the Nickel has brought new vibrancy to the Hotel Teatro. Hotel restaurants often bring to mind images of overpriced, standard fare served in a generic dining room. The Nickel, however, is far from a standard hotel eatery.

Walking in the main entrance, there’s no long check-in desk waiting to greet you. Instead, to your left, you can catch a view of the kitchen staff working steadily as cured-meats sit ready for slicing behind a glass pane. To your right, you can relax in the Study, a separate, bookshelf-lined area where cocktails and coffee can be enjoyed in a quiet, relaxing space. If you’re looking for a happy hour with a side of class, this is the place for you.

The Nickel, named for the 5 cents that was once collected at the site of the hotel for streetcar fares, is all about paying homage to the past – but not in a way that feels stuffy or antiquated. The most notable quality about the experience at the Nickel, though, is the attention to detail. Nothing shows this off better than its happy hour selections. the nickel

Though wine and a selection of beers are $5 during happy hour, the real boozy draw here are the $5 barrel-aged cocktails. Many restaurants in Denver now offer craft cocktails, but the price tag is typically closer to $10 a piece. The Nickel’s cocktails are each created with a carefully chosen mix of ingredients (often locally made), then aged in barrels. Once ready, the beverages are available on tap at the restaurant’s bar.

Cocktails on tap can sometimes be overly sweet or just generally unbalanced, but the Nickel’s selections proved that these can be done right. The options will change seasonally, and new recipes are constantly being worked on. Plus, special attention is paid to garnishes like the raspberry-liquor soaked cherries that accompany the smooth Manhattan made with Leopold Whiskey and bitters from Dram Apothecary. From the fruity Metropolitan (Nickel’s version of a Cosmo) to the classic Negroni, each of these cocktails on tap was well-composed and more than worth the $5 price tag.

The Nickel
The Nickel

Of course, nothing is better with a great cocktail than cheese and cured meats. During happy hour, you can create a charcuterie platter with a meat, cheese, and a pickle selection for $5 – although you can always customize and add more. The Nickel’s Executive Chef, Chris Thompson, has created a rotating selection of fine cheese and meats – some cured in house – that provide a light but indulgent happy hour experience.

So what’s the verdict? The Nickel’s has a little something for any occasion. It has date night covered -stop in before a show at the theatre for an elegant choice that will impress (and a price tag you’ll love). Or just unwind from a long day in the Study and enjoy your own quiet corner in the middle of downtown. But either way, definitely don’t leave without trying a barrel-aged cocktail.

All photography by Roman Tafoya

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