In the early days of COVID-related closures, we instituted a series highlighting the expertise of local bartenders. It ultimately resulted in over 50 contributions from some of the best talent across the front range. We are reviving the series for a special holiday edition, showcasing a span of drinks that innovate on classics, reimagine tried-and-true recipes, highlight local products and explore global flavors.
Andrew Booth – Bar Lead at BRUTØ
Location: BRUTØ is currently serving out of the Free Market alley entrance at 1801 Blake St. It is open Wednesday – Sunday from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Recipe: Rum Spiked Atole
Reason: We’ve been working on bringing a traditional drink from Mexico City called atole that fits in with our grain focused concept for BRUTØ. It’s a hot beverage. The consistency of hot chocolate, but made with Masa Harina — a dehydrated nixtamalized corn. The end result is a silky, lightly sweet beverage that is perfect for the winter months and a fun, if slightly cooking intensive, quarantine project. We have been fortunate enough to mill some blue corn from Te Amo that we then hand sift, but Masa Harina can be picked up at most Mexican markets. As you know, it’s always a priority for us to deliver quality non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic beverages, so the following recipe is for a non-dairy version of atole with an optional alcoholic addition.
Venmo Handle: We encourage people to check out Manos Oaxaca, a female-led nonprofit offering free legal services to refugees, migrants and to families of “disappeared” migrants, as well as the implementation of educational projects that helps civil society understand the migration phenomenon from an informed and humanistic perspective.
Makeda Gebre – Bartender at Pony Up
Location: Pony Up is located at 1808 Blake St., Denver. It is open Tuesday – Sunday from 4 – 9:30 p.m.
Recipe: Gingerbread Reviver #2
Reason: I wanted to created something that gave you the holiday feels without too much effort. My cocktail gives you just that. The gingerbread syrup and absinthe play so well with one another that it will leave you wanting more. And it’s strong enough to get you through any Zoom calls with extended family.
Venmo Handle: @makeda-gebre.
Austin Carson – Beverage Director and Co-owner of Restaurant Olivia
Location: Restaurant Olivia is located at 290 South Downing St., Denver. It is open every day for pick-up from 4 – 9 p.m.
Recipe: Moment of Clarity
Add all ingredients to a sealable container. Shake to combine ingredients and leave, sealed, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Strain through a towel to remove solids. When ready to serve, add to a crockpot and set to high for 30 minutes. Once hot, reduce heat to warm. Ladle into an Irish coffee mug and top with unsweetened whipped cream. Enjoy.
When batching make whatever you can in advance. With the alcohol and sugar in this recipe, you could make the infusion several days, or even weeks ahead of time, and then pop it into the crockpot the day that you plan to host. The same philosophy can be applied to most any batched cocktail.
*Sweetened Earl Grey – Combine 4 cups of water with 1 cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved add a sachet of your favorite Earl Grey tea and let steep for 3-5 minutes. Remove the teabag and set aside for later use.
Reason: Think Irish coffee meets the Manhattan. Or, rather, think about the effect that cream and lemon have on hot tea. Chilled cream atop a hot cocktail is the perfect recipe for a brisk Colorado day.
Venmo Handle: @Austin-Carson-1. All tips will go directly to Restaurant Olivia staff.
Jack Bethel – Bartender at Large
Recipe: Yule Nog
Reason: This recipe uses both rum and cognac to emphasize the baking spices and depth of the eggnog, as well as light tropical fruit notes. The result is a well-balanced cocktail that evokes a Colorado holiday with beachfront memories. The unique richness of the A2 Guernsey milk envelopes your palate in flavor and is a deceptive match to the robust spirits. When shaken, the A2 proteins create a rich head with a dense foam to add another layer to rest garnishes and aromatics on. Feel free to add charred pineapple slices, orange peel or even a spritz of your favorite absinthe on top to make the cocktail your own
Yule Nog is a collaboration between Origin Milk and Jack Bethel. Jack Bethel’s custom cocktails have been served across the country at events including The James Beard House and Aspen Food and Wine. He was previously the bar manager of The Squeaky Bean in Denver.
Venmo Handle: Denver Safe House
Kelsie Berry – Bar Manager at Mythology Distillery
Recipe: The Violet Beauregarde
*Bring one cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and mix in one cup of sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, add 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger to steep. Strain when cool
**Heat two cups of water and add 1/4 cup dried butterfly-pea flowers. Strain once cool and pour into ice cube molds. Freeze.
Reason: This is a customer favorite that highlights the layers of flavor in our gin and is an experiential cocktail. The lemon juice compliments the juniper and citrus of the gin while the ginger syrup balances the subtle star anise and sage notes. As the pea flower ice melts, the color of the cocktail evolves into a rich violet color.
Venmo Handle: @Kelsie–Berry-2
Christopher Stotts – Beverage Director at Avanti
Location: Avanti Denver is located at 3200 North Pecos St., Denver.
Avanti Boulder is located at 1401 Pearl St., Boulder. Both locations are open for pickup Wednesday – Sunday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Recipe: The Tom and Jerry
To make the batter, separate egg whites from yolks into two large bowls. Add butter and sugar to egg yolks, and beat with an electric mixer. The mix will be slightly chunky. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into yolk mixture until color and consistency are the same. Lastly, stir in allspice, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.
To build the Tom and Jerry, gently heat milk in a saucepan over low heat — amount depends on how many drinks you plan to serve.
Add 1 tablespoon of batter to a mug
While constantly stirring batter, add 1 oz brandy and 1 oz rum.
Fill to the top with milk —or hot water, or a 1:1 ratio — and stir until foamy.
Grate fresh nutmeg over top to garnish.
Reason: The drink I chose is a classic that is mostly been forgotten. I chose this drink because I think drinks around the holidays should be decadent and comforting. The Tom and Jerry is just that. Think warm eggnog with rum and brandy. This one makes you tap into your inner chef.
Venmo Handle: @Chris–stotts-2
Kevin Burke – Director of Operations for The Culinary Creative
Location: The Culinary Creative restaurants (Bar Dough, Senor Bear, Ash’Kara, Mr. Oso) all operate Wednesday – Sunday from 12 p.m. – 9 p.m., all of our menus are available to-go/delivery with Tock being our preferred platform or you can call the restaurants directly. If you need to use a third party, we are on DoorDash, but the fees that they are charging guests right now in addition to the commission that we pay makes it hard for this to be a good value for anyone right now so always try to be as direct as possible when interacting with any of your favorite locals.
Recipe: Talent Scout
Reason: This drink or an iteration of it has been on a menu that I was overseeing for probably the past 15 years. It was originally published in 1951 by Ted Saucier in Bottoms Up and came to be an example of simple cocktails, mixed well and efficiently, leaving more room for conversation, connection and hospitality behind the bar. I’ve made it with any number of different bourbons or ryes, but the best versions have always been made with Grand Marnier. The whisky is there to provide length and to stretch out the density of the cognac-based liqueur. If you find that the drink is a little too dry for your taste, pull back on the whisky to 1 3/4 oz or if it’s too sweet give it a bump to 2 1/4. I think it’s possible to make the drink work with whatever American Whiskies you already have on hand, but in my experience, it works best with the classic examples from Kentucky.
Venmo Handle: All of our neighborhood restaurants need support. We’ve been asked by state and local governments to reduce dining capacity and service in order to give our greater community a fighting chance against Covid. When it comes time to reassess our local leadership let’s keep it top of mind who talked the talk and who walked the walk. Until then everyone should check out the work that the Independent Restaurant Coalition is doing, and make a push that our industry comes through this with the goal of making sure that our industry works for everyone involved, and that no one is left behind.
Lucas Townsend – Head Mixologist at The Stranahan’s Distillery Lounge
Recipe: The Highlands
Reason: There are many reasons I fell in love with this cocktail that I named The Highlands. Starting with the rich and mellow Stranahan’s Blue Peak, the notes of cinnamon toast, dried apricots and butterscotch. It truly elevates this cocktail to a higher altitude. Using the grapefruit peel and releasing a sensation of oils from it into your glass brings an exciting energy to your brain forcing you to smile and enjoy the moment. One dash of black walnut bitters adds a bold and towering background vibe of cocoa nibs, nutmeg and allspice. The aroma of the cocktail should set the scene and the taste of the cocktail should be the finale. This is a cocktail I enjoy at home over a big cube or served neat in a chilled tumbler or if I have family over I might even make this into an aperitif taster before a meal for us to toast too. Cheers.
Venmo Handle: Stranahan’s is encouraging donations to the Colorado State Firefighters Foundation to help the community affected by the Colorado wildfires. The distillery just donated all the funds — and matched the proceeds — from its first-ever Snowflake Vault Auction, where it auctioned off rare past Snowflake expressions.
Steven Waters – Owner of Run for the Roses
Recipe: I’ll Have Another
Reason: I personally love amaretto sours, and there’s nothing quite like them during the holidays. I think they get a bad rep because they can be sweet and not easy to have more than one, but the addition of whiskey — especially overproof and/or corn whiskey like Mellow Corn — really takes it up a notch. Mix that with the apple cidery deliciousness from Journeyman O.C.G and it makes a cocktail that you can be happy over-serving yourself with.
Venmo Handle: Donations can be made at the online store. Proceeds will go to helping to keep Run for the Roses alive during the mandatory shutdown.
McLain Hedges – Co-owner of Door Prize
Location: A Door Prize brick and mortar is planned for spring 2021.
Recipe: Door Prize Julep
Reason: The drinks at Door Prize have been a collaboration between myself and one of our partners Sara Bennett and we always love a good julep. This one breaks down the seasonal barriers and allows for year-round drinking — but something about it reminds me of the holidays. It has tons of spice and depth from the spirits and the fig leaf tea. The coconut water adds weight and the mint adds a bright lift but also a slight alpine, wintery reminder. It’s boozy and warming. I also think this drink is great as an Old Fashioned — no need for the mint or powdered sugar garnish if you go that route. Just build it in a mixing glass and stir for 8-10 seconds and pour over a large rock or whatever you have in the freezer.
Venmo Handle: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation
Evren Bora – Bartender at Room for Milly
Location: Room for Milly is located at 1615 Platte St. Suite 145, Denver. It is currently closed, but virtual cocktail classes are accessible in the meanwhile. The Happy Hour Handbook is also available for pickup on site.
Recipe: Classic Blackberry Sour
Reason: I absolutely love this fun twist on a simple classic. The freshness of the blackberries paired with the light honey flavor found in Barrhill Gin is an absolutely beautiful combination. I recommend enjoying this cocktail in any weather as it will always brighten your mood.
Venmo Handle: Instead of a tip for me, please go dine out at one locally owned business. I know it’s cold, but every penny helps keep these businesses afloat.
Kraig Weaver – Co-owner of The Block Distilling Co.
Location: The Block Distilling Co. is located at 2990 Larimer St., Denver. It is open Monday – Thursday from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m., and Friday – Sunday from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Recipe: Blurred Limes
Reason: This is a throwback cocktail from our Coffee Liqueur release. It has a beautiful balance of sweetness from the liqueur mixed with the tartness of the lemon and lime. It is definitely an unusual twist to add citrus to something so chocolatey and Ellie pulled it off perfectly.
Venmo Handle: The Marigold Project
Virgil Dickerson – Owner of KREAM Kimchi
Recipe: Gochujang Mezcal Margarita
Reason: Years ago, I was invited to go to the Patron Hacienda on a bartender trip. I was never a legitimate bartender so when I was asked to submit a recipe, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I had this idea to do a gochujang margarita and I thought it turned out great. I never got a call from Patron or anyone else to say that this cocktail was genius so I put this recipe in my memory box. Since starting KREAM, I’ve seen interesting cocktails with kimchi and various agave spirits. Seeing this gave me some ideas to revisit the gochujang margarita, but this time I wanted to add mezcal because I love it. I hope you enjoy.
Venmo Handle: I would love to see people support the Angel Relief Fund that Colorado Restaurant Association runs. They provide financial safety nets for industry staff who are experiencing hardships.