Bundling up with a quilt and a pair of fuzzy socks isn’t the only way to get cozy this season.
We’ve found comfort in the warm corners of Denver’s coziest bars. And with a jazz band gently rolling on in the background and the smell of freshly shaken cocktails in the air — real life can seem miles away while you lounge and sip with loved ones. Whether it’s 15 degrees and snowing or 50 degrees and sunny, that’s what Denver’s coziest bars have to offer. And as winter begins to settle in, we’re drawn more so than ever to the sweet, boozy spaces that can be found across the Mile High City. Whether you like to enjoy a spiked cider after a long day on the slopes or sip something smokey on the rocks to warm up, Denver has a bar and a beverage for you. From RiNo to Englewood, there are cozy bars with a seat and a sip sure to warm even the coldest of toes this season. And we’ve put together a list of our favorites just for you:
Where: 1336 27th St, Denver.
The Lowdown: The idea for Greenlight Lab began nearly two years ago in a snug upper-northside New York bar. The couple was so impressed by this quaint space, with low music, dim lighting and perfectly crafted drinks that they decided to open one of their own.
“My wife made the mistake of saying ‘if we ever have a bar, I’d want it to be small and cozy like this, place where the music isn’t too loud and the drinks are really good.’ All I heard was, we can have a bar,” laughed owner Brandon Anderson. And that is exactly what Anderson and his wife created — a space that has now made it to our top 10 list of Denver’s Coziest Bars. Greenlight Lab is small, creating a feeling of intimacy between the bartender and the guest, but the ambiance isn’t the only reason that this bar has made our list. At Greenlight Lab guests are encouraged to not only allow the bartender to make them a drink that they’ve never had before but also vote on the rotating menu and even vote on the furniture. And because this bar is connected to a design studio the furniture is regularly rotating based on customer feedback. We can’t think of anything cozier than snuggling up in a place where your opinion matters.
What to order: The Hunter ($15)
Where: 1543 Champa St, Denver.
The Lowdown: Paying tribute to the true American bars of the late 19th century, this small space in LoDo is so cozy that once you’ve settled in, you’ll never want to leave. From the worn brick walls to the canvas-bound menus and the weathered American flag behind the bar, Union Lodge No. 1 offers an authentic type of old-timey comfort that few bars in this city can match. Bar manager Colin Overett was looking for something to warm people up after the winter parades and events that frequent the streets surrounding Union Lodge. And that’s why, according to him, they “decided to do hot classic’s,” like the Tom & Jerry, a classic Irish Coffee and a cider. And though this cider sticks to many of the classic components, it does have a few twists that make it unique — like a cinnamon clove, cranberry, rosemary and Genepi (a traditional European herbal liquor).
What to order: A Night Among The Fire ($14)
Where: 3435 S Broadway, Englewood.
The Lowdown: When Phil and Erika Zierke moved to Englewood in 2009 they built what they wanted — a neighborhood bar. The result is a place where the mailman or the couple next door could come to kick back and feel at home. A place with no cocktail list and no pretention, for local beer, live jazz, well-made drinks, stimulating conversation and above all — community.
“When we first opened people were like, you gotta have a cocktail menu,” said Phil. “But I didn’t want that. I have a love for places that do that but it feels to me that when you do the focused cocktail menu the emphasis becomes about what’s in the glass, rather than the person drinking it.”
From the “Englewood” mosaic above the door (created one tile at a time by Erika) to the end grain floor that Phil (by hand) built from 16,000 slices of four by four’s, Englewood Grand has quite literally been put together piece by piece. The benches that adorn the right side of the space are nearly 100-year-old antiques from the Englewood Odd Fellow’s Lodge, and those along with many other aspects of this quaint space are locally derived. And this time of year, the space becomes even cozier when the two decorate the bar, head to toe, in holiday garb. From wreaths on the door and the back of each chair to a huge live Christmas tree in the entrance — Englewood Grand is a holiday lovers paradise (they even have free stationery for guests to write notes to loved ones.) And if you’re one of those who seldom ventures past the bars of RiNo and LoDo, we encourage you to give this Englewood gem a try.
What to order: This bar, unlike many in Denver, does not have a cocktail menu. They do, however, have phenomenal bartenders with years of experience. We recommend begging them to recreate the holiday punch (prices vary) that they served at the Kris Kringlewood Bar Crawl.
Where: 1422 Larimer St, Denver.
The Lowdown: The Green Russell has been a Denver drinkers staple since before cocktails were cool in the Mile High City. And it’s no question as to why. This seductive bar is located underground, and few things can spur that cozy winter-time feeling as tucking away with a loved one in the corners of a dark bar. The sheer darkness of the Green Russell was enough to land it a spot on our list, not to mention the weathered stone walls and dim lighting that barely illuminates the space. With drinks that blend science and mixology, this underground bar is the perfect place for those looking to escape the cold and experience something unique in both beverage and location.
What to order: Hokus Pokus ($28)
Where: 1553 Platte St, Denver.
The Lowdown: Ste. Ellie is yet another hidden gem in Denver’s vast bar scene. Hidden underground next to Colt and Gray, this cozy bar is an elegant collection of illuminated marble, deep plush booths, low ceilings and fabulous cocktails. Flanked by thick velvet curtains and mirrored walls, Ste. Ellie’s petite space offers both intimate booths for couples and stool seating for those drinking solo at their bar. Though you may have a difficult time finding your way through the dimly-lit space — once your eyes adjust there is no better place to enjoy an intimate conversation over drinks. From rare bottles of Pappy Van Winkle to proper classics and winter-time twists like the Peach Diggity, Ste. Ellie’s drinks are as intimate as the space. The Peach Diggity, for example, was created (according to bar manager Dion Griego) when one of his bartenders (who worked at a tea shop) sparked his interest in tea. Griego and his team then made a seasonal drink from peach tea and the Peach Diggity was born. So whether you’re searching for a craft cocktail or simply looking for a cozy winter-time date spot, Ste. Ellie has all of the above and though it may take a bit of searching to find it, trust us, it’s worth the search.
What to order: Peach Diggity ($15)
Where: Second floor, 1280 25th St, Denver.
The Lowdown: Suite 6A is the final bar to open inside The Ramble Hotel. Taking inspiration from the intimate and highly personalized ambiance of Death & Co’s original New York City location, this space seats a mere 21 guests at a time. It’s low ceilings, dark leather chairs and dim lighting offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the main lobby bar — especially for those looking to get a taste of the flagship location. And anyone who has had a chance to snag a seat in this small space can vouch for the fact that every aspect of Suite 6A is cozy. From the intimate service, with bartenders who take the time to explain the history of Death & Co to each guests and chat with them about their specific boozy preferences, to the lush chairs that embrace guests from all sides and the fact that this space is literally surrounded on all sides by thick velvet curtains that block out light, Death & Co Denver’s third and final bar is just about as snug as it gets.
What to order: Clay Pigeons ($14)
Where: 3160 Tejon St, Denver.
The Lowdown: For some, there’s nothing cozier than the rich smell of a room full of leather-bound pages. Bookstores are an age-old representation of comfort and intimacy, bringing a level of coziness that modern bars often fail to provide. There is one thing, however, that the walls of a typical library or bookstore don’t have — booze. Denver’s Williams and Graham is solving this issue by taking everything you love about the bookstore down the street and pairing it with everything you love about craft cocktail bars. Placed in the World’s 50 Best Bars, this LoHi hot spot has been recognized for its unique qualities both in Colorado and internationally and it’s no wonder that it made our 2018 list. The sheer fact that this nook is hidden behind a bookshelf is cozy in and of itself, not to mention the dark wood booth, low desk style lighting and intimate service that any Williams and Graham guest will ultimately receive.
What to order: Bear and Back Again ($15)
Where: 1330 27th St, Denver.
The Lowdown: Imagine this — you’re cozied up next to your honey on a small sectional, sipping a stiff drink as a live jazz band plays cooly in the background. This is Nocturne — arguably Denver’s most intimate Jazz bar. And for this reason, it has made our 2018 list of Denver’s Coziest Cocktail Bars. As the sun sets on the Mile High City, Nocturne transforms into a candlelit oasis of good jazz, great drinks and cozy vibes. They have intimate seating for couples, tables for larger parties and they all have a perfect view of the band. And while the music plays a huge roll in this bars coziness factor, the cocktails add a necessary element. With house-drinks like the Wintered Sazerac, a play on the original, made with Hennessy VSOP Cognac, which lead bartender Topher Hartfield describes as “a beautiful expression with [flavors like] tea, little bits of leather,” and Calvados, a French liquor that adds depth with accents of apple and pear, Nocturne has both the ambiance and the drinks to keep us coming back on cold days.
What to order: Wintered Sazerac ($12)
Where: 3126 Larimer St, Denver.
The Lowdown: If you enter Bar Fausto while the sun is up, you may not understand why we added this RiNo space to our list. During the lighter hours, Bar Fausto is an urban-edgy space full of natural light and good vibes. However, if you return when it’s dark you’ll understand perfectly why this bar made our list. At night it transforms into a warm and welcoming cove. The entire back wall is made up of dark shelves full of unique spirits and the beige canvas lamps suspended from the ceiling give the space a warm glow. In addition, each booth is outfitted with a small light that somewhat resembles something that Thomas Edison would have had in his study. Bar Fausto’s unassuming exterior may not be the first thing you notice while driving down Larimer, but we encourage you to give this urban spot a visit on your next winter-time bar crawl (and try a #21 while you’re there, few things warm the soul like brown butter and whiskey.)
What to order: #21 ($12)
Where: 619 E 13th Ave, Denver.
The Lowdown: Hudson Hill is cozy both night and day. In fact, this Capitol Hill staple caters to those looking to snuggle up with a hot coffee and get some work done as well as those looking for a snug space to get boozy. And while most of our list is made up of small, dimly lit nooks outfitted with dark wood and candlelight, Hudson Hill is a different type of cozy. This space is a home away from home, where guests can grab a couch or a chair, settle in and stay from their morning latte all the way to happy hour. With pillows on nearly every bench and bartenders that cater to your every need, Hudson Hill is a familiar escape for all types of bar-goers and it’s coziness factor transfers brilliantly from day to night.
What to order: City Witch ($12)
(Not all of the cocktails featured in this piece are on the physical menu, but they can all be ordered. Simply say the name of the drink and he or she can replicate the featured drink.)