Although its name may suggest a dark and secretive place, the brand new Death & Co is a far cry from the intimate bar that opened in New York City’s East Village over 11 years ago. For Denver, the NYC staple has swapped out its snug quarters and dim lighting for the massive sunlit lobby of The Ramble hotel. There’s even a daytime cafe as well as a rooftop bar where co-founder Alex Day jokes they’ll eventually fill an inflatable pool with rosé. This echoes a similar trend their neighbor, American Bonded, is testing out — but theirs involves a slushy machine. Both spots, which are arguably run by the forefathers of the modern speakeasy, are now allowing for a little more sunshine and fun.
“Daylight is new for us,” said David Kaplan, one of the three Death & Co-founders. “But we wanted to see what it looked like when Death & Co goes outside.”
According to the team, Death & Co is more of an idea and it doesn’t have to exist within the original walls they built. But even though they’ve had a decade to mull over what that means exactly, it still can be a bit elusive when put into words.
“We haven’t figured out a perfect sound bite yet … but it’s really about giving a shit,” said beverage director, Tyson Buhler. Kaplan agreed, explaining that ultimately it’s about being able to perfect their craft but in a wide range of contexts.
“It’s not that the drinks themselves are more casual. Just as much science and prep and ridiculous labor goes into [these cocktails],” said Kaplan.
You can see this at the bar where you’ll still find drinks that are perfect for moody lighting and close conversation (like the Vaquero ($16) made with mezcal, reposado, corn husk and cacao) next to cocktails inspired by warmer climates or ones with low/no alcohol meant for a patio. We especially enjoyed the Windjammer ($16) a take on a tiki drink made with Jamaican rum, bourbon, banana, ginger, lime and a chamomile dusting. However, instead of a traditional totem tiki glass, it comes in a cast iron mug shaped like a pioneer man — which is one hint that the Death & Co team hasn’t traded all of its former tricks.
Overall, there is still something a little macabre about the place. Maybe because the decor — which one writer described as 17th-century France meets the Wild West — has a distinct feeling of a place gone-by. Couple that with American lore of haunted hotels and a part of you may feel like you’re in a turn of the century murder mystery or inside a really fancy game of Clue. But if you go upstairs it’ll become immediately clear that Death & Co’s original aesthetic hasn’t gone far.
“We haven’t given up our dark little room,” said Kaplan. Suite 6A — set to open sometime by the end of the month — is where you’ll find the traditional Death & Co experience. Small, cozy and intimate surroundings paired with creative cocktails made with rare ingredients and elaborate presentations — Suite 6A will be the place the Death & Co bartenders experiment with new ideas. The 20-seat space located on the mezzanine can be booked ahead of time or you can walk in and take your chances.
These compartmentalized spaces inside The Ramble are a big part of the new Death & Co — which services the entire hotel. This includes the daytime cafe DC/AM — located on the western side of the hotel lobby. The cafe and espresso bar offers up coffee from Denver’s Middlestate alongside a full breakfast menu filled with items like an egg sandwich ($7), smoked honey yogurt ($10) and breakfast plates like the bacon okonomiyaki ($9) with zucchini kimchi, cured egg, trout roe and scallions. The menu is imagined by a team of culinary experts including chef Wes Hamilton (former culinary director of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) and executive sous chefs Kathryn Caine (former executive chef of The Populist) and Quincy Cherrett (former executive chef of The Kitchen in Jackson Hole).
The chefs will also service the lobby and hotel with a wide range of dinner items including a killer dessert menu. We’d highly recommend the fava bean agnolotti ($18) which will be instantly recognizable to fans of The Populist as well as the fabulous olive oil cake ($12) with smoked honey ice cream and almond caramel. The Garden — aka the aforementioned rooftop — will be the hotel’s “pool bar without the pool” when it opens mid-May. It’ll be available to hotel guests all day and open to bar patrons later in the afternoon and on the weekend for brunch.
If you head back downstairs, there’s yet another component to the partnership between the hotel and the bar. Vauxhall is an event/ theater space that comes with its own Death & Co bar and will be used for private and public events. All programmed through The Ramble, the hotel expects to highlight film, live performance, comedy, art exhibitions and more. Upcoming events include a design showcase with neighbors Topo Designs on May 11, a listening party with Denver’s Vinyl Me, Please on May 26 and a RiNo First Friday showcase on June 1. As an independent hotel, the space also hopes to give back to its community by providing the area and hotel rooms for local non-profits like Volunteers of America, PlatteForum and the RiNo Arts District. Similarly, Death & Co is continuing its tradition of giving one percent of all of its proceeds to a local charity — although the exact one is still TBD. Featuring its own private entrance off Larimer street and a soon-to-come marquee, Vauxhall aims to be a place of its own while providing a taste of what’s next door.
If you ask the team behind Death & Co, what’s the main question they are asked about the new spot — it may or may not surprise you.
“To everyone else, it’s like why Denver? And I’m like, have you been to Denver? Denver is fucking awesome,” said Kaplan. Now with Death & Co finally open in the Mile High city, we’re expecting a lot of people to stop asking and start agreeing.
Death & Co is located at 1280 280 25th Street, Denver and is open for nightly service from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. DC/AM hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with an interim snack menu from 3 to 5:30 p.m.