In a neighborhood that is mostly comprised of office buildings, deluxe shopping centers and expansive developments, the quaint, single-story brick building that now houses Forget Me Not seems to be the one structure that still upholds the past. On Wednesday, March 10 the cozy cocktail bar and lounge from Culinary Creative opened, adding yet another entirely original locale to the restaurant group’s flawless lineup. Paying homage to the former occupant — who vacated the space over a decade ago — the bar is named after the flower associated with memories, “of remembering memories, of making memories and here, coming to forget few of them,” smiled cocktail maestro and founder Nicole Lebedevitch.
Lebedevitch’s gentle attitude and a knack for warm hospitality belie an all-star resume with virtuosic abilities across mediums. Born in Connecticut, she attended the Berklee College of Music for jazz piano. Watching her assemble cocktails, a musician’s dexterity is still evident in the way she makes swizzle sticks, jiggers, garnishes and other bartop miscellanea dance swiftly — the process proving just as elegant as the final product. While living in Boston she developed her career at two of the best-renowned cocktail bars in the city, running the bar program at The Hawthorne and bartending at equally-esteemed Eastern Standard. Directly prior to moving to Colorado — after much convincing by Culinary Creative cofounder and Boston native Juan Padro — she was beverage director and general manager at Yvonne’s Restaurant and Supper Club, yet another one of the city’s most iconic eateries.
The food is handled by Max MacKissock, who unsurprisingly manages to fill the single-page list with enough sophistication to make it a star in its own right. While the chef would be the first to admit that Forget Me Not is by no means a dinner destination, the snack fare alone is reason enough to visit. Smack in the center of many of Cherry Creek’s most notable dining destinations, the bar is nothing less than a crucial stopover. The soft pretzel ($15) — baked by head baker or “beast of the yeast” Natalia Spampinato — comes with gouda fondue and violet mustard, a game-changing condiment that combines mustard, red wine and a dash of creme de violette. The crudite ($14) is all Mackissock, taking what is often the dreariest of vegetable assemblies and reenvisioning it as a bright firework of local and organic produce set atop a bed of ice oft-reserved for oysters. Fava bean hummus and seasoned creme fraiche are there to tie the vivid plate together.
While even a few bites from one of Mackissock’s plates is reason enough to visit, Forget Me Not is very obviously about letting Lebedevitch do what she does best — craft the kind of cocktails that dreams are made of.
“It’s a good opportunity to create a stage for someone like her to perform on,” said Padro. The 3/4 Monty ($14) comes with Rittenhouse Rye, a three-quarter ounce pour of Montenegro amaro, citrus cordial, cinnamon and lemon. The large-format cocktails are some of the most exciting items on the menu, each massive concoction basically demanding that spring arrive in full. The Noon in Veneto ($120) is essentially a giant spritz — Aperol, pineapple, banana, lemon and sparkling wine serving no less than four guests.
Since Lebedevitch arrived in Denver she’s floated across the company, most recently redesigning the drink list at Ash’kara. Each program alluded to her potential. Forget Me Not is a chance to watch the marvel in full swing. While this weekend’s blizzard may encourage folks to stay indoors, Forget Me Not is a light at the end of the tunnel and yet another example of Culinary Creative’s distinct ability to intertwine the elegant and the uproarious.
Forget Me Not is located at 227 Clayton St., Denver. It is currently open Wednesday – Sunday from 3 p.m. until as late as the city will allow, with plans to extend to seven days a week as the scene becomes more viable.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.