The Spirited Awards, a prestigious bartending conference that took place over the weekend in New Orleans, crowned Denver’s Sean Kenyon as the American Bartender of the Year. Kenyon, barman and co-owner of Williams & Graham, was among four finalists for the award. His LoHi speakeasy was a finalist in two other categories as well: Best American Cocktail Bar and Best American Bar Team.
“Given the way the past few years have gone, I didn’t figure I would win,” says Kenyon. The awards have typically gone to major market bars and bartenders, making Kenyon’s win that much more extraordinary. The other finalists for the award are from New York, San Francisco, and Houston. With Denver and Houston being the only secondary markets represented, Kenyon felt the odds were against him. “I gave myself very little chance, so I was shocked. Then I realized I had to go up and speak in front of 2,000 people.”
As you might guess, Kenyon didn’t have an acceptance speech ready—which, he reasons, brings out the honesty. “If it’s not prepared, then you know it’s from the heart,” Kenyon says. “I didn’t get to thank all the people I wanted to, but my friends and colleagues all know that I love them. It was short but sweet.”
The key to an award-winning bar like Williams & Graham not only has to do with carefully crafted cocktails, but its staff. “From the beginning, we’ve taken hospitality as first stance,” Kenyon says. “Bars are super focused on the product they’re putting across the bar, which is good, but it’s really super important for our bartenders to be naturally hospitable.”
Kenyon’s next step is to open the Occidental Tavern in the space adjacent to Williams & Graham, aiming to open this fall. Expect a neighborhood tavern with quality food and drinks in a cool atmosphere.
Congratulations to Sean Kenyon and the staff at Williams & Graham on their achievements!
3160 Tejon St., 303-997-8886