This Week’s Local Bartenders Share Their Favorite Drink Recipes to Make at Home

Last week we introduced five local bartenders who shared their favorite drinks to make at home. As COVID-19 has necessitated a more restrictive lockdown, we are expanding the piece into an ongoing series highlighting some of the region’s best and brightest. While an allowance for to-go cocktails has helped an industry in need, it’s understandable that many people are wanting to make drinks from the comfort of their own home. Below is a range of cocktails that have graced menus, highlight local spirits and inspire comfort and ease.

As service industry workers struggle to get a foothold in these uncertain times, various services have popped up to assist those who are struggling. This website allows people to tip a randomized staff member when they have a drink. We will also be including Venmo handles of the involved bartenders below if anyone wants to tip them personally. 

Sean Kenyon – Owner of Williams and Graham, Occidental and American Bonded

Blackberry Sage Smash. Photo by Joshua Lohmer.

Location: Williams and Graham is located at 3160 Tejon St., Denver. It is currently closed. Occidental is located at 1950 W 32nd Ave., Denver. It is currently closed. American Bonded is located at 2706 Larimer St., Denver. It is currently closed.

Recipe: The Blackberry Sage Smash

2 oz Woody Creek Rye Whiskey (works with whatever bourbon or rye you have)
1/2 oz 1:1 simple syrup (1:1 by volume)
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
4 medium-sized blackberries 
4 medium-sized sage  leaves
In a mixing glass or tin, muddle blackberries and sage with simple syrup and lemon juice. Add whiskey and ice. Shake. Strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a blackberry and sage leaf. 

Reason: Actually, a drink that I created 15 years ago and has been on the menus at Steuben’s, The Squeaky Bean and Williams and Graham. It is perfect and easy to make at home.

Nick Touch – Brand Ambassador for The Family Jones

Tom Collins. Photo by Nick Touch.

Location: The Family Jones Spirit House is located at 3245 Osage St., Denver. It is currently open every day 3 – 6 p.m.

Recipe: Tom Collins

2 oz Juniper Jones Gin
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
5 oz Sparkling water

Reason: The Tom Collins was memorialized in writing in 1876 by Jerry Thomas, the Father of American Mixology. I love this drink because it is easy to make, very refreshing and can be enjoyed at any time of day. This simple, sour style classic cocktail is versatile, and at-home-bartenders can add various ingredients to make it their own. Some suggestions would be fruit purees, liqueurs, honey syrup in place of the simple syrup, or herbs such as mint or basil. Cheers from The Family Jones.

Kevin Galaba – Bartender at Bread Bar and Executive Director at Friends and Family.

Kevin Galaba. Photo by Kevin Galaba.

Location: Bread Bar is located at 1010 Main St., Silver Plume. It is currently closed. More info about Friends and Family can be found here.

Recipe: Winter Old Fashioned

2 oz bourbon
1/4 oz brown sugar-cinnamon simple syrup
2 dashes Fee Brother’s Black Walnut Bitters
garnish with orange peel.
To make the syrup — boil 12 oz of water and bring down to a simmer. Crack a few whole cinnamon sticks and steep them in the simmering water for 15 mins. Add brown sugar to the hot water — sugar volume should equal water volume — and when the sugar dissolves, remove from heat, strain and bottle. If you want to keep it for a while in the fridge, leave in the cinnamon sticks and let it continue to infuse over time. Cheers.

Reason: The Winter Old Fashioned is my go-to cold-weather cocktail. I love an Old Fashioned for its simplicity, and for this version, a few tweaks to the classic recipe really dial in the seasonal flavor. The brown sugar-cinnamon syrup adds a bit of earthiness and a thicker mouthfeel, while the black walnut bitters add a magical warmth and sweetness that really evokes Christmas or Apres-Ski.

Venmo Handle: @kevingalaba

Scott Ruggiero – Bar Manager at OAK

Scott Ruggiero. Photo by Alden Bonecutter.

Location: OAK is located at 1400 Pearl St., Boulder. It is currently open for takeout Tuesday-Sunday  11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Recipe: Toddys for Days

1 1/2 oz Redemption High Rye Bourbon
1/2 oz Real McCoy 5yr Rum
1/2 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
1/2 oz Honey
1 oz lemon juice
3 oz Tension Tamer tea from Celestial Seasonings (or any of your favorite herbal teas)
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Reason: When I am at home I like to make simple drinks, typically stirred and boozy like a Manhattan or Negroni. Lately, though, I have been on a Toddy or Hot Toddy kick depending on the weather. They are fun, simple and can allow for a lot of creativity depending on what is in the pantry. This recipe can be modified in many ways depending on what the home bartender likes. You can substitute Bourbon for Rye, Rum or Tequila. The ginger liqueur can be modified with Allspice Dram, herbal liqueurs — such as Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, Licor43 and St. Germain. The tea can be as simple as a lemon tea or complex as any herbal tea one would like. You can use honey syrup, agave, ginger syrup or any type of sugar you have laying around the house.

Venmo Handle: Ruggiero asked that if anyone would like to support, the best way is by ordering takeout food and cocktails, or buying a gift card from OAK.

Evren Bora – Bartender at Room for Milly and Quality Italian

Brown Derby. Photo By Evren Bora.

Location: Room for Milly is located at 1615 Platte St. Suite 145, Denver. It is currently closed. Quality Italian is located at 241 Columbine St., Denver.

Recipe: Brown Derby

2 oz Laws Bourbon (love my local whiskey, but please use whatever bourbon you’re comfortable with)
1 oz Grapefruit Juice (fresh is best, but any will do)
1/2 oz Honey Syrup (2:1) (two parts honey to one part water: boil the water and mix in the honey, let chill)
Combine and shake ingredients for 10-12 seconds and strain the cocktail into your desired glass. Honestly, just put it in whatever cup you want.  I like serving mine up, but it’s a quarantine, so put it in a mug if you want. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.  The peel adds a great aromatic and it’s pretty sexy.

Reason: I chose the Brown Derby because it’s one of the first cocktails I taught my mom to make at home. She asked me for something without a lot of sugar but still had a ton of flavor, and this cocktail is just that. Everything in this cocktail should be easy to find and the clean-up is a breeze — no need to make a dozen crazy syrups to achieve a delicious flavor.  Feel free and adjust the honey syrup to however sweet you’d like it, 2:1 is just my personal preference. I love bourbon, and this Derby Day classic is consistent, easy to make, and it packs a punch.

Venmo Handle: Bora asked that anyone hoping to tip to donate to the Quality Italian Denver Employee Relief Fund

1 comment
  1. I especially appreciate the recipes that don’t use simple syrup. Thanks for all the ideas! Need them right now.

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