Cocktails, caviar, decks of cards and consciousness? This weekend, downtown Denver’s Dairy Block is acquiring an intriguing new watering hole with all of those things. Meet Run for the Roses — the brainchild of hospitality mastermind Steven Waters which has been thoughtfully conceptualized and quietly created over the past two years.

Despite the basement-level location, this clever cocktail bar shall not be described as a speakeasy. Taking a closer look at the details will surely prove that comfort surpasses exclusivity. The sexy, Equestrian-themed concept brings something rare and refreshing to Denver’s bar scene. For one, there is a serious focus on sustainability — while cocktail bars may not typically be challenged for their wastefulness, Waters has made a point to utilize entire fruits, maximize the use of compost and go out of the way to create a uniquely sustainable environment. Even the receipt paper is compostable and BPA free. Simple syrup and marmalade are created from leftover fruit bits. Hydroponic plants intended for future use in food and beverage offerings line the hallways leading up to the cozy, Victorian-inspired lounge.

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Speaking of food offerings — the house-made spam and egg breakfast sammy ($10) is encouraged to soak up booze-filled bellies during last call. Yes, this is correct. House-made spam — crafted from flavorful trimmings of Western Daughters’ meat on a potato bun. If this late-night food option doesn’t meet your standards, consider the ($20) caviar service. Or, perhaps an old school banana split ($12) with vanilla ice cream, citrus marmalade, luxardo cherry, chocolate and crunch is more your style.

Cultivating guest loyalty is kind of a big deal at this brand new bar. The members program offers a unique opportunity to obtain a sense of refined inclusion with safety deposit boxes available for $300 a year. A personally provided key may make beverage enthusiasts feel like it’s Christmas morning once a month when they unlock their box to find cocktail kits and other surprising goods. Bonus — these cocktail kits may be enjoyed on site or in the comfort of one’s home. Not only has Run for the Roses partnered with various brands to supply returning imbibers with various delights, but the already conscious-cocktail bar has partnered with several local charities, bringing do-goodery to drinking culture.

Let’s run back to the basics. There are 69 seats, 15 at the bar and 17 in the stylish garland room. There are almost as many cocktails as there are seats — 52, seven of which are seasonal. Surpassing both of those numbers is the wine selection, with 75 options including half bottles, vintage, old world, organic, natural and biodynamic selections. The cocktail menu is printed on a playful (and playable) deck of cards which may be purchased for $11.

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The interior is bold, brutalist and dreamy. Think feminine florals, velvet, blue, green, oxblood, mirrors, exposed brick and steel — all coexisting in an environment which exudes class and casualness. Waters and his team welcome you to curl up in a beautiful vintage loveseat and sip a Shoulda Coulda ($13) with Arette Blanco tequila, Fruition Farms sheepskyre, lime, cucumber and demerara — or pull up a cool blue seat at the bar and enjoy a Coors Banquet.

Other notable cocktails include the National with lemon, pineapple, Giffard Abricot brandy and Plantation Barbados 5 year rum, the Black Russian with Galliano ristretto and Stolichnaya vodka and the Hanky Panky with Fernet-Branca, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Beefeater London dry gin. Guests are encouraged to sign a chic guestbook — which serves as a cocktail-time-capsule of sorts — to keep a personal record of their preferential beverage.

Run for the Roses will be open Thursday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. with event availability Monday through Wednesday.

Check them out after the Derby this weekend — the first 75 Woodford Reserve cocktails are on the house.


All photography by Brittni Bell.