There seems to be a designated day for every food item or drink you can imagine. While National Ice Cream Day is sweet and National French Fry day is fun, the one national food day we can all rally around is National Tequila Day. Beyond margaritas and shots of Patron, we talked to bartenders throughout the city about their best iterations of a tequila cocktail. Even though the holiday only lasts today, take this as a guide of where to find Denver’s best tequila cocktails and selections to sip and shoot all year long.
El Chingon sits north on Tennyson Street, dishing up Mexican- and Latin-style works of culinary art from chef David Lopez. The cocktails coming from behind the bar match the caliber of the food as well. Bar manager Valentina Panic recently added the Que Padre ($8) to the drink lineup. Suerte Reposado, lime and sugar are shaken then poured over ice and topped with house-made ginger beer. A final float of Wild Roots Marionberry-infused vodka brings a sweet tartness to balance the spice from the ginger beer. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it is palate pleasing as well. Don’t miss it the next time you stop by El Chingon.
Since no list about tequila is complete without mention of chef Kevin Morrison’s lauded Pinche Tacos, we had to stop in for the Pinche Paloma ($8). The Paloma is oft forgotten as a tequila cocktail option, but we think it’s the best option. Short and to the point, Exotico Tequila Blanco, grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave nectar and Squirt mingle together in a Collins glass with a salted rim. Delightfully refreshing, you’d be hard pressed not to order a couple rounds of this classic.
Newly opened in RiNo, Mister Tuna is already shaking up some stellar cocktails from the hands of Michael Cerretani. The Chingon—or ‘badass’—combines fresh watermelon, tequila, lime and agave for a light and summery sipper that’s dangerously quaffable. If watermelon isn’t quite your taste, let Cerretani or any of the bar team know what you’re looking for in a tequila cocktail and they’ll find your flavor.
You wouldn’t know it when driving by, but Billy’s Inn at 44th and Lowell has an extensive tequila list. Blancos, reposados, añejos and mezcals line the back bar at Billy’s from top to bottom. They also offer flights so you can sample various styles and find your favorite. In celebration of National Tequila Day, Billy’s is offering $7 Casa Noble coin-style margaritas all day with $5 shots of Hornitos.
El Camino Community Tavern
A neighborhood favorite in West Highland, El Camino Community Tavern does tequila right with classic margaritas. The coin-style Histeria Margarita is only $6 during happy hour (3:30-6 p.m.) and is the perfect summer sipping tequila drink. If you like to mix it up a bit, try one of their house-infused margaritas—they’re currently pouring a sweet and summery strawberry margarita.
Adelita’s Cocina y Cantina is undoubtedly known for its delicious Oaxacan food and great cocktails, but not everyone knows they have a mezcaleria through the back hallway. Palenque is a small, dimly lit bar dedicated to serving mezcal. While the smoky characteristics of mezcal can be intimidating for some, the educated staff at Palenque can get even the most timid of drinkers on board with the smoky spirit. Stop in and sip away.
The Corner Office
For the adventurous eater and drinker, look no further than the Corner Office. Lead barman Eric Liebtag put together a mezcal flight with roasted crickets. It sounds odd, but the crickets—seasoned with salt and chile lime—actually dry your palate out, so you can fully understand the variance between each pour. The experience is an educational one, as Liebtag and the bar team will do one pour in a glass for you to smell and sip and another in clay pots for a more authentic taste of mezcal.
Though the trend of crafted cocktails has taken Denver by storm, sometimes you just want a margarita that is straight and to the point with no frills. Cue Illegal Pete’s, where the only questions you’re asked are if you want salt on the rim, lime to garnish and if you’re ready for the next round. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t lost an afternoon or two to margaritas, chips and salsa. You can pop in on National Tequila Day, when they’ll be doing $4 house margaritas and $1 off coin-style margs from 3 to 8 p.m. as they do every Sunday.
One thing you can count on in Denver’s cocktail scene is getting a good cocktail to fit a palate or occasion at Green Russell. The subterranean speakeasy is known for its craft cocktails of all variations, and that includes a mezcal cocktail. La Vie En Rose combines Vida Mezcal, Ford’s Gin, Pamplemousse, lime and lavender rose for beautiful (and boozy) concoction that sips light on your palate with floral notes and a slightly pucker from the lime juice. The mezcal rounds it out with subtle smokiness. Get down there soon though, as this is only a seasonal cocktail.