The opening of Yacht Club on December 10, 2021, had been a long time coming. For anyone who was lucky enough to visit RiNo Yacht Club — the previous incarnation which closed in what’s now Temaki Den in February 2019 — the day couldn’t have arrived sooner. Owners Mary Alison Wright and McLain Hedges — two of the city’s real wine and spirits dynamos — have been teasing the new location almost since the closure, with other projects — including Door Prize and the now-shuttered bottle shop The Proper Pour — helping to fill the creative gap. Affectionately dubbed the “the ratchet yatchet,” Yacht Club deftly blends an unyielding commitment to refinement with a downright tongue-in-cheek irreverence for the stuffiness that all too often accompanies this level of talent. “It actually feels like a homecoming — after feeling like we were doing a four-year pop-up,” said Wright. “We get to see the limits of what we can do.” That Eric Benny Bloom has been tapped as the venue’s unofficial music director is a good sign that the duo has a high bar.
The food is handled by house “chef de hot dog” John David “Mary Junior” Wright. Serving a small menu under the name Hollywood Frank, the kitchen is open nightly until last call. With slick iconography and a pimp-struttin’ back story, the fact that Frank’s food is actually delightful only adds to the allure. “We own the last remaining Hollywood Frank in the country,” joked Wright. “If we are doing something and it’s not ridiculous, we haven’t thought it out hard enough,” she smiled. The Hollywood Frank ($6) with “glitz, glam and fancy sauce” is the obvious choice for first-time buyers, though the Lorraine ($6) — with cheeseball spread, celery remoulade and pickled peppers — might be the best.
While Hedges handles the bulk of cocktail programming, bar manager Chris Dunsmoor has laced the menu with some excellent creations of his own. There’s a visibly synergistic spirit across the staff — one obviously rooted in friendships formed from years working together. “Nothing is without collaboration I would say,” noted Wright— who largely handles the floor and a rotating selection of wines not likely to be found anywhere else in the city.
This is a warm place to grab a drink, the genial atmosphere as contagious as the beverages are first-rate. No visit is complete without one of the daiquiris ($12), which illustrates the team’s savvy for balancing sweet, spicy, bitter and salty even in what’s usually a relatively garish frozen. For something a little stronger, go with the Lipton Cup ($14) — the signature house drink that blends Elijah Craig, Appleton Signature, Blandy’s Madeira, Gifford Apricot, lemon and mint.
The new Yacht Club space has allowed Hedges and Wright to do what they do best. The duo has always been able to throw a proper party — the bar is seeing to it that those dotted celebrations can morph into and sustain a culture. “It feels like your best friends opened a clubhouse on your front lawn,” added Jon Hartman — who, along with Wunder Werkz partner Bree Corn, is responsible for all of the concept’s graphic design. It would seem people can let their hair down here, with freak flags looking all the brighter when thrown up together and drenched in champagne.
Yacht Club is located at 3701 North Williams St., Denver. It is open every day except Tuesday from 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.