If you crave a dazzling atmosphere and an incredibly unique experience, join 303 Magazine on a visual tour of some of Denver’s most exciting throwback theme bars. Gaze upon the bustling Great Hall of Union Station from The Cooper Lounge’s mid-Mod mezzanine or shop for antiques at The Crown Social while you enjoy the music of local pianists. All boast outstanding libations and ambiance and each one of these pre and post-Prohibition era themed drinkeries will have you thinking you just stepped off a time machine into an era long past.
The Cruise Room
Where: Inside The Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th St., Denver
The Low Down: Tucked away inside The Oxford, Denver’s oldest hotel, The Cruise Room opened the day after prohibition was repealed in 1933. Originally known as a martini bar, Cruise Room has now made a name for itself as one of Denver’s finest cocktail lounges. The interior décor mirrors that of its authentic era, with large, original Art Deco murals adorning the walls and red lighting illuminating the bar. The cocktail menu at Cruise Room also follows suit with its post-Prohibition theme, offering an array of expertly made classic martinis, cocktails, and a killer champagne cobbler muddled with fresh berries. If you came into Cruise Room with an appetite, McCormick’s Fish House, also inside The Oxford, offers delicious appetizers such as Calamari “Fritto Misto” with roasted tomato sauce and lemon aioli. Pair a dirty martini with McCormick’s delicious selection of fresh oysters.
You’ll feel like you’re in: a dapper bar in Long Island circa 1930. Think Great Gatsby.
Where: 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver
The Low Down: One of Downtown Denver’s swankiest cocktail spots is Cooper Lounge, a mid-century modern themed dream occupying the mezzanine balcony of the Crawford Hotel at Union Station. This incredibly glamorous power lounge offers striking views of buzzing 17th street through the arched, ceiling-high windows. Watch over the bustling cityscape or scan the Great Hall while you enjoy a cleverly made libation. Boasting a classy and diverse cocktail menu, many of the concoctions start with Colorado based spirits. Take the house Manhattan for example — this classic is made with Breckenridge Bourbon and bitters, sweet vermouth, served with an orange twist. It even comes served on a literal silver platter. If you’re looking to celebrate with bubbles, toast with Infinite Monkey Theorem Moscato, honey infused vodka, and bitters, a house-made bubbly punch, if you will. Though Cooper Lounge is primarily focused on its bar, a continental breakfast, midday food service, and Club Car Cart menu are now offered throughout the day, executed by award winning chef, Lon Symensma. Whether you are a powerhouse businessperson or casual passerby, Cooper Lounge caters to all looking for a brilliant place to sit back and enjoy a skillfully made adult beverage.
You’ll feel like you’re in: an early James Bond film or episode of Mad Men.
The Crown Social
Where: 1446 S. Broadway, Denver
The Low Down: The Crown Social, nestled in South Broadway’s antique district, offers a completely unique concept complete with a piano bar, restaurant, and antique shop. Not immediately obvious to the naked eye, this operation takes place in a refurbished Victorian house, where each level and room offers its own novel experience. Sparkling crystal chandeliers illuminate the interior while dozens of antique paintings and trinkets line the walls, all of them available for purchase. In the center of it all sits a baby grand piano where you can catch live music almost every night of the week. Wednesday nights from 7-10 p.m., house pianist Mark Pressey tears up the keys with guest vocalists, and if you’re lucky, may take a song request or two. Treat your taste buds as well as your ears with one of Crown Social’s signature cocktails, such as the Elderflower Frost made with Ketel One, St. Germain, Prosecco, and a twist of lemon. The American contemporary menu offers anywhere from Louisiana Linguini with tiger prawns to Tofu Steak with mushroom sauce and wild rice pilaf, a beautiful accompaniment to the dazzling ambiance and tempting cocktail menu.
You’ll feel like you’re in: the first class deck of the Titanic.
Where: 1422 Larimer St., Denver
The Low Down: Denver’s original underground joint, Green Russell, is a Bonnano Concepts bar hidden next to Russell’s Smokehouse on Larimer Square. The lounge consists of beautifully upholstered booths and exposed brick walls that leave an earthy scent lingering in the air. This Prohibition-era themed cocktail lounge is serious about its beat, asking patrons to refrain from using their cell phones and discouraging parties of over six people, most nights. The cocktail offerings are strictly mandated by the 1920s theme, so don’t think for a minute you will get away with ordering Fireball or a vodka Redbull. Green Russell prides itself on housing some of Denver’s most creative bartenders who will gladly craft you a cocktail based on your spirit preferences. Pro tip: Make sure to ask your bartender to pair a cocktail with a slice of pie from Wednesday’s Pie, the shop that serves as its false front. A self-proclaimed “chef-driven cocktail bar,” Green Russell focuses on its impeccably made, hand-crafted ingredients and also offers small plates and appetizers for sharing — if you’re hungry.
You’ll feel like you’re in: A true-blue, pre-Prohibition speakeasy.