13 Local Bartenders Share Seasonally-Inspired Recipes

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

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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

1/3 cup masa harina or finely milled and sifted corn flour
1 qt almond milk (with extra (1qt) in reserve)
2 sticks cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/3 cup demerara sugar
Combine almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to barely a simmer over low heat. Once up to temperature, add a small amount of hot almond milk mixture to masa harina and whisk vigorously forming a slurry. Add slurry to the simmering almond mixture, stirring until incorporated. Simmer on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and there is no grittiness left from the cornmeal.  Run the mixture through a sieve and add sugar until dissolved. Add reserved almond milk until desired consistency. Ladle into mugs and finish with freshly whipped cream or non-dairy cream substitute. 
For an alcoholic addition, we recommend 1 oz of aged demerara rum (I use Eldorado 12 yr) and 1/2 oz of Licor 43.

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

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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

3/4 oz Sipsmith Gin
3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz Backyard Soda CO. CBD-infused Gingerbread simple syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Absinthe rinse
Method: Shake.
Glassware: Coupe or Martini.

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

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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

1 cup Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
4 cups *sweetened Earl Grey Tea
1/4 cup Bacardi Coconut Rum
1/4 cup Giffard Banana du Bresnil
1 split vanilla bean
The zest of 1 lemon
The zest of a quarter of an orange

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

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Location: Origin Milk is available online and across Colorado

Recipe: Yule Nog

3/4 oz cognac
3/4 oz pineapple rum
1/2 oz overproof traditional dark rum
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 dashes aromatic bitters
Combine ingredients and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain contents into a Nick & Nora or stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg and a charred cinnamon stick. Enjoy on a cold night or in charming company — preferably both.

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

Kelsie Berry. Photo courtesy of Brittni Bell Warshaw.

Location: Mythology Distillery is located at 3622 Tejon St., Denver. Pickups can be scheduled via Toast, while spirits can be found at liquor stores across Colorado.

Recipe: The Violet Beauregarde

2 oz Mythology Gin
1/2 oz ginger simple syrup*
3/4oz lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain over a pea flower ice cube** in a coupe glass

*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: @KelsieBerry-2


Christopher Stotts – Beverage Director at Avanti

The Tom and Jerry. Photo courtesy of Abby Hagstrom.

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

12 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp batter
1 oz brandy (preferably E&J VS)
1 oz rum (preferably Flor de Cana 12yr)
fresh nutmeg

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: @Chrisstotts-2


Kevin Burke – Director of Operations for The Culinary Creative

Talent Scout. Photo courtesy of Kayla Jones.

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

2 oz Bourbon (or Rye)
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
2-3 drops Angostura Bitters
Orange Twist (if you have it)
Pour the ingredients into a rocks glass and add either a big cube or a handful of ice, whatever you have on hand. Give it a quick stir —or if the mood calls — jab your finger in there and give it a quick spin. If you’re using a bourbon that is in the 90 proof range there’s probably enough alcohol to kill even the most resilient cooties.

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

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Location: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is located 200 South Kalamath St., Denver. It is offering to-go cocktails every day from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. 

Recipe: The Highlands

1 1/2 oz Blue Peak
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 dashes black walnut bitters
1 grapefruit zest
Add all ingredients to Yarai, add ice and stir to 20% dilution. Strain over a big cube then accent grapefruit peel over glass.

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

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Location: Run for the Roses is located at 1801 Blake St. #10, Denver. It is currently closed but is still accepting donations and selling a range of updated merch on its online store.

Recipe: I’ll Have Another

1 oz Amarito Amaretto
1 oz Woodinville Rye
1/2 oz Demerara Simple
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Journeyman OCG
1 oz Egg White
Shake with no ice. Pour into coupe.

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

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Location: A Door Prize brick and mortar is planned for spring 2021.

Recipe: Door Prize Julep

1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Calvados
1/2 oz coconut water
1/2 oz fig leaf tea syrup
Build in a glass, add crushed ice and stir. Fill with more crushed ice and garnish with mint and a dusting of powdered sugar.

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

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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

2 oz blackberry infused Barrhill Gin
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1 egg white
Reverse dry shake — with ice first. Double strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with fresh blackberries. 
For the infusion, I recommend roughly 1/2 a clamshell — those little plastic boxes they’re served in — of dehydrated blackberries per each bottle. Blackberries can be dehydrated in a dehydrator or the oven — I’m sure Google can help with temps and timeframes for an oven. Dehydrated blackberries should then be soaked in the gin for about 36 hours. Strain the blackberries out and they’re ready to use.

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.

Blurred Limes. Photo courtesy of Ellie Nonmacher of Macher Studio.

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

1 oz TBDC Vodka
1 oz TBDC Coffee Liqueur
3/4 oz brown sugar vanilla simple syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz lemon juice
Combine all ingredients into a shaker. Add 3 -4 cubes of ice and shake for about 15 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Zest a bit of lime and enjoy. 
Brown sugar vanilla simply syrup recipe — Dissolve 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of water over medium heat. Stirring occasionally. Let cool then add a tablespoon of vanilla extra to the mixture. Keep in the fridge. 

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

Photo courtesy of Virgil Dickerson.

Location: KREAM Kimchi is available online and can be found at a variety of pop-ups including NTMRKT.

Recipe: Gochujang Mezcal Margarita

2 oz Ilegal Mezcal (or whatever mezcal you have at your house)
1 oz Cointreau (or any orange liqueur)
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 – 1 oz Agave Nector (up to you how sweet you want it)
1/2 – 1 tsp Gochujang (up to you how spicy you want it)
optional: lime wedge and salt/Korean chili flake for rimming the glass
Add mezcal, Cointreau, lime juice, agave, ice and gochujang to a cocktail shaker. Shake until the ingredients are combined. Fill glass with ice. Pour the margarita mixture over the rocks. 
If you would like a salt/Korean chili flake rimmed glass, run the lime slice by the top rim of the glass. Fill a shallow bowl with salt and Korean chili flake and dip the rim in the mix until it is covered to your desired amount of mix.

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.