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A bottle of Highland Park next to a cocktail and a plate of bacon-wrapped blue cheese dates. Vox Creative

13 Denver Bars and Restaurants for Unexpected Flavors

Where to find unmissable cocktails and creative bites.

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The bar scene in Denver has grown over the years, and there are so many elegant, thoughtful, and unique places to get a balanced cocktail. But it’s not just the setting — the magic also happens between food and drink, with bewitching concoctions pairing with flavors that may be new to your “must try” list. Here, you’ll find modern Chinese food served with a side of Scotch, whisky paired with a side of au jus, and 12 Year Old Highland Park with a duck fat wash. There are many wildly harmonious combinations to be tried in the Mile High City if you just know where to look.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here and the state’s progress on combating COVID-19 is here. Dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers, please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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The Arvada Tavern

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Go to Olde Town Arvada and enjoy a drink and bite to eat in one of the city’s most historic watering holes, which looks as classic as the cocktails it serves. Pair a well-crafted drink with the bourbon-glazed pork chop and peach-pecan salad with blue cheese. This spot comes with a shot of history too: It opened in April 1933, the first tavern to be allowed to legally sell liquor in the town of Arvada. While the owners have changed hands over the decades, this venue remains a local favorite for the atmosphere, food, and drinks. And just to shake things up even more, each Tuesday, the old-school tavern specializes in tiki drinks.

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Lady Jane

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At this Highland bar, the owners have curated a detailed Scotch program that focuses on terroir-driven whisky, emphasizing farm distilleries, family-run and independently-owned estates, and locally-driven producers. Highland Park 12 Year Old is just one of the many bottles on the list. Order a charcuterie plate and some olives to nibble on between cocktails. There are no reservations here, so get in early to snag one of the simple cafe tables, counter or bar seating, or a comfy chair reminiscent of a Los Angeles living room. The space has a natural flow and feels airy and bright, perfect for drinking something deep and dark.

Two women sitting at a bar with a bartender serving cocktails. Lady Jane

Williams & Graham

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After 10 years on a busy corner in LoHi, this secret bar located behind a bookshelf isn’t such a secret anymore. But it’s still one of our favorite spots to get a well-crafted cocktail while indulging in a truly lavish dry-aged beef burger. Opened in 2011 by barmen Sean Keyton and Todd Colehour, Williams & Graham was one of the first Denver bars to carry high-end spirits like Highland Park. The quality remains consistent, even as the drinks list tips at over 60 offerings. Order trout lox, deviled eggs, and roasted bone marrow, then ask the bartender for a cocktail pairing.

Occidental

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Next door to its sister bar, Williams & Graham, this LoHi spot brings a bit of dive bar mixed with gastropub into the neighborhood. At Occidental, the rough edges are balanced by the refined, the raw with the hospitable, and visitors can get a high-end cocktail next to a cheap can of beer. On the food menu, the green chili mac and cheese should not be missed, nor should the chicken shwarma tots or Taylor ham sandwich. There’s football on during game season, and a spot waiting at the bar to sit with a glass of whisky in hand.

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Room for Milly

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Visiting this LoHi cocktail bar is an elegant experience for anyone in the Mile High City. The walls are covered in carefully curated art, the seats are plush and stylish, and the bar is stunning. Plus, the drinks will make you feel like royalty. The small bites menu showcases dishes like burrata with fresh plum, nectarine, mint, and basil and chilled prawns with candied lemon. The cocktail and spirits lists remain consistent, save for the daily tiki-inspired concoction. The food offerings change often, though, featuring seasonal fare.

A bottle of Highland Park on a bar table in front of velvet stools. Room For Milly

Tavernetta

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Right next to the tracks in Denver’s Union Station is a sleek Italian restaurant where you can cozy up to a plate of handmade rigatoni with lamb ragu and a glass of a Highland Park 18 Year Old. This downtown spot is part of Frasca Hospitality Group, which handles some of the city’s most sought-after eateries and boasts some of the best service around. As diners nibble on plates of delicate branzino and fennel-rubbed rotisserie chicken, don’t be surprised if water glasses remain silently full and each dirty utensil disappears from the table soon after it’s set down. Whether sitting solo at the bar, in the casual front area, or with a party in the back, there’s a place here for anyone who wants to enjoy a comforting and fine meal in the heart of downtown.

A plate of bucatini pasta with fish roe. Tavernetta

Run For The Roses

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On Thursdays through Sundays, fortune seekers can head below the Dairy Block complex to find a den of drinks plush with colorful leather chairs, a long bar, and mysterious twists and turns. Getting to the speakeasy is half the fun — and challenge. Head to the alley in the Dairy Block and pass through a nondescript door across from Milk Market’s entrance. Next, ride the elevator down one floor and exit into a long hallway toward a glass door. That’s the stop — mystery solved! Now all that needs to be discovered is the perfect drink. This downtown bar loves Highland Park, and aside from stocking the 12 and 18 Year Old whiskys, it offers ever-changing cocktails such as Winning Colors, a concoction of Highland Park 12 Year Old, Aperol, lemon juice, and two types of sherry.

Shawn Campbell

Pony Up

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What could be a better pairing than a juicy french dip sandwich and a dram of Highland Park 12 Year Old to sip in between bites? Try the vegetarian smoked mushroom version of the classic with porcini broth and put your whisky on the rocks. Or get fancy and have a Manhattan chased with country karaage and side of french onion soup. The bar also offers shots of its au jus to sip or shoot with the whisky. At this LoDo gastropub there aren’t any wrong answers — just delicious, simple, elevated food and a solid bar program. The doors are open every day, and it’s one of Denver’s only late-night food joints.

A neon “Bar Open” sign Shutterstock

Union Lodge No.1

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“Classy” and “classic”: the two words that best describe this pre-prohibition style bar in downtown Denver. Stay for the Wrath of Ragnar, a cocktail by Nicole Laurita that features duck fat-washed Highland Park 12 Year Old with orange liqueur, Manzanilla sherry, and poultry herb-infused Pineau des Charentes, a French aperitif. Those ingredients aren’t commonly combined together, yet here they sing in wild harmony for a smoky, citrus-tinged drink.

Curio Bar

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In all of Denver, this RiNo bar inside the Denver Central Market may have the most iterations of Highland Park, including the Single Cask Series “The Rockies,” which was hand-selected by a group of people in Colorado, one being bar owner Stuart Jensen. There’s true harmony when a foreign product becomes so influenced by its local environment. Try a glass of this special Scotch or get a cocktail made with Highland Park 12 Year Old, such as the Sing Sing, Death House, made by bar manager Zach King. There’s also a full menu of classic cocktails and venue specials, and since Curio is in the market hall, food can be found all around and brought in to enjoy with a drink.

Curio

American Bonded

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Sidle up to the long bar and take a seat. That’s where all the real cocktail magic happens at this RiNo bar. Any drink can be made, but the bar’s specialty is whisky. After all, it was named after the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which helped define American whiskey. Of course, the brown spirits being poured aren’t just local. The bar features Scotch and other whiskys from around the world. Get a pour of Highland Park, and taste it against its American counterpart for a real wild flavor ride. American Bonded serves food too, though the concept changes every few months or so, giving guests reasons to come back and try the drinks all over again.

Hop Alley

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Don’t be surprised if there’s a line at Tommy Lee’s RiNo hot spot. It’s one of the hippest places in Denver to eat and drink, and whether inside or on the patio, reservations are scarce. The reason for this is clear from the natural spirit of the food, which marries Lee’s Chinese heritage with his American upbringing. Try the dan dan mian noodles topped with ground pork and pickled mustard greens, or the cumin lamb buns with local lamb, Uighur spices, and a funky pickle. To heighten the experience, pair these dishes with a dram of Highland Park Single Malt Scotch served neat or on the rocks.

A bowl of Chinese deep-fried chicken with chili peppers and green beans. Hop Alley

Forget Me Not

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The latest in Denver’s bar scene is a darling spot accented with red velvet, purple leather, and gray marble, all waiting for you to sip, nibble, and converse in the most grownup way possible. The menu, too, is a bit wild, and best paired with a cocktail, be that sweet, spicy, or citrusy. On the food side, the choices range from charcuterie to caviar to tinned fish, a house specialty that includes options such as Spanish razor clams, smoked trout, and sardines in olive oil. Nothing about this spot is obvious, but when experienced as a whole, it all comes together wonderfully.

©2021 Highland Distillers Limited. Highland Park Scotch Whisky. Imported by Edrington Americas, New York, NY. “H” Device ® 

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

The Arvada Tavern

Go to Olde Town Arvada and enjoy a drink and bite to eat in one of the city’s most historic watering holes, which looks as classic as the cocktails it serves. Pair a well-crafted drink with the bourbon-glazed pork chop and peach-pecan salad with blue cheese. This spot comes with a shot of history too: It opened in April 1933, the first tavern to be allowed to legally sell liquor in the town of Arvada. While the owners have changed hands over the decades, this venue remains a local favorite for the atmosphere, food, and drinks. And just to shake things up even more, each Tuesday, the old-school tavern specializes in tiki drinks.

Shutterstock

Lady Jane

At this Highland bar, the owners have curated a detailed Scotch program that focuses on terroir-driven whisky, emphasizing farm distilleries, family-run and independently-owned estates, and locally-driven producers. Highland Park 12 Year Old is just one of the many bottles on the list. Order a charcuterie plate and some olives to nibble on between cocktails. There are no reservations here, so get in early to snag one of the simple cafe tables, counter or bar seating, or a comfy chair reminiscent of a Los Angeles living room. The space has a natural flow and feels airy and bright, perfect for drinking something deep and dark.

Two women sitting at a bar with a bartender serving cocktails. Lady Jane

Williams & Graham

After 10 years on a busy corner in LoHi, this secret bar located behind a bookshelf isn’t such a secret anymore. But it’s still one of our favorite spots to get a well-crafted cocktail while indulging in a truly lavish dry-aged beef burger. Opened in 2011 by barmen Sean Keyton and Todd Colehour, Williams & Graham was one of the first Denver bars to carry high-end spirits like Highland Park. The quality remains consistent, even as the drinks list tips at over 60 offerings. Order trout lox, deviled eggs, and roasted bone marrow, then ask the bartender for a cocktail pairing.

Occidental

Next door to its sister bar, Williams & Graham, this LoHi spot brings a bit of dive bar mixed with gastropub into the neighborhood. At Occidental, the rough edges are balanced by the refined, the raw with the hospitable, and visitors can get a high-end cocktail next to a cheap can of beer. On the food menu, the green chili mac and cheese should not be missed, nor should the chicken shwarma tots or Taylor ham sandwich. There’s football on during game season, and a spot waiting at the bar to sit with a glass of whisky in hand.

Shutterstock

Room for Milly

Visiting this LoHi cocktail bar is an elegant experience for anyone in the Mile High City. The walls are covered in carefully curated art, the seats are plush and stylish, and the bar is stunning. Plus, the drinks will make you feel like royalty. The small bites menu showcases dishes like burrata with fresh plum, nectarine, mint, and basil and chilled prawns with candied lemon. The cocktail and spirits lists remain consistent, save for the daily tiki-inspired concoction. The food offerings change often, though, featuring seasonal fare.

A bottle of Highland Park on a bar table in front of velvet stools. Room For Milly

Tavernetta

Right next to the tracks in Denver’s Union Station is a sleek Italian restaurant where you can cozy up to a plate of handmade rigatoni with lamb ragu and a glass of a Highland Park 18 Year Old. This downtown spot is part of Frasca Hospitality Group, which handles some of the city’s most sought-after eateries and boasts some of the best service around. As diners nibble on plates of delicate branzino and fennel-rubbed rotisserie chicken, don’t be surprised if water glasses remain silently full and each dirty utensil disappears from the table soon after it’s set down. Whether sitting solo at the bar, in the casual front area, or with a party in the back, there’s a place here for anyone who wants to enjoy a comforting and fine meal in the heart of downtown.

A plate of bucatini pasta with fish roe. Tavernetta

Run For The Roses

On Thursdays through Sundays, fortune seekers can head below the Dairy Block complex to find a den of drinks plush with colorful leather chairs, a long bar, and mysterious twists and turns. Getting to the speakeasy is half the fun — and challenge. Head to the alley in the Dairy Block and pass through a nondescript door across from Milk Market’s entrance. Next, ride the elevator down one floor and exit into a long hallway toward a glass door. That’s the stop — mystery solved! Now all that needs to be discovered is the perfect drink. This downtown bar loves Highland Park, and aside from stocking the 12 and 18 Year Old whiskys, it offers ever-changing cocktails such as Winning Colors, a concoction of Highland Park 12 Year Old, Aperol, lemon juice, and two types of sherry.

Shawn Campbell

Pony Up

What could be a better pairing than a juicy french dip sandwich and a dram of Highland Park 12 Year Old to sip in between bites? Try the vegetarian smoked mushroom version of the classic with porcini broth and put your whisky on the rocks. Or get fancy and have a Manhattan chased with country karaage and side of french onion soup. The bar also offers shots of its au jus to sip or shoot with the whisky. At this LoDo gastropub there aren’t any wrong answers — just delicious, simple, elevated food and a solid bar program. The doors are open every day, and it’s one of Denver’s only late-night food joints.

A neon “Bar Open” sign Shutterstock

Union Lodge No.1

“Classy” and “classic”: the two words that best describe this pre-prohibition style bar in downtown Denver. Stay for the Wrath of Ragnar, a cocktail by Nicole Laurita that features duck fat-washed Highland Park 12 Year Old with orange liqueur, Manzanilla sherry, and poultry herb-infused Pineau des Charentes, a French aperitif. Those ingredients aren’t commonly combined together, yet here they sing in wild harmony for a smoky, citrus-tinged drink.

Curio Bar

In all of Denver, this RiNo bar inside the Denver Central Market may have the most iterations of Highland Park, including the Single Cask Series “The Rockies,” which was hand-selected by a group of people in Colorado, one being bar owner Stuart Jensen. There’s true harmony when a foreign product becomes so influenced by its local environment. Try a glass of this special Scotch or get a cocktail made with Highland Park 12 Year Old, such as the Sing Sing, Death House, made by bar manager Zach King. There’s also a full menu of classic cocktails and venue specials, and since Curio is in the market hall, food can be found all around and brought in to enjoy with a drink.

Curio

American Bonded

Sidle up to the long bar and take a seat. That’s where all the real cocktail magic happens at this RiNo bar. Any drink can be made, but the bar’s specialty is whisky. After all, it was named after the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which helped define American whiskey. Of course, the brown spirits being poured aren’t just local. The bar features Scotch and other whiskys from around the world. Get a pour of Highland Park, and taste it against its American counterpart for a real wild flavor ride. American Bonded serves food too, though the concept changes every few months or so, giving guests reasons to come back and try the drinks all over again.

Hop Alley

Don’t be surprised if there’s a line at Tommy Lee’s RiNo hot spot. It’s one of the hippest places in Denver to eat and drink, and whether inside or on the patio, reservations are scarce. The reason for this is clear from the natural spirit of the food, which marries Lee’s Chinese heritage with his American upbringing. Try the dan dan mian noodles topped with ground pork and pickled mustard greens, or the cumin lamb buns with local lamb, Uighur spices, and a funky pickle. To heighten the experience, pair these dishes with a dram of Highland Park Single Malt Scotch served neat or on the rocks.

A bowl of Chinese deep-fried chicken with chili peppers and green beans. Hop Alley

Forget Me Not

The latest in Denver’s bar scene is a darling spot accented with red velvet, purple leather, and gray marble, all waiting for you to sip, nibble, and converse in the most grownup way possible. The menu, too, is a bit wild, and best paired with a cocktail, be that sweet, spicy, or citrusy. On the food side, the choices range from charcuterie to caviar to tinned fish, a house specialty that includes options such as Spanish razor clams, smoked trout, and sardines in olive oil. Nothing about this spot is obvious, but when experienced as a whole, it all comes together wonderfully.

©2021 Highland Distillers Limited. Highland Park Scotch Whisky. Imported by Edrington Americas, New York, NY. “H” Device ® 

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