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Cooper Lounge in Union Station

Bar Speak: Where Top Bartenders Go For a Cold One

Looking for your next favorite watering hole? We asked Denver bartenders where they imbibe.

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This article is part of our Best Bars 2015 feature. Find the official 5280 list of the city’s best watering holes, trending cocktail ingredients, essays on the makings of a good bar, drinking alone, and more at 5280.com/bestbars2015.

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Shelley Armand | General manager, Blake Street Tavern

“I always go to the British Bulldog. Friendly staff, great trivia on Mondays, crazy hot fried jalapenos, and cold Carlsberg. It’s an awesome neighborhood joint with a mountain view. And we’re all fans of IndiCard places, particularly The Retro Room for its cheap pickle shots, The Refinery, and El Charrito. (They have Abita in a bottle and punk karaoke, so what’s not to like?)


Drew Watson | Co-owner, Hops & Pie

“The place I frequent most, out of proximity to where I live, is El Camino. I love the staff there. Sometimes I’ll order a margarita, and in the past year they’ve really got their beer program in a good place.”


John Paul Cook | Bar manager, Dada Art Bar

“I enjoy going to The Meadowlark and El Chapultepec for some live jazz and a drink.”


Luke “HoneyBear” Ramos | Head bartender, Ste. Ellie

“More often than not, all I’m after is a cheap beer and a whiskey when I’m not working. I hang out at Hi-Dive a lot. My buddies own it, so there are always friends around. It’s also one of the best music venues in town. I love going to Steuben’s. It’s the best of both worlds. If I want a Coors beer and a shot, I can have that, but I can also have a great Negroni or Zombie. Oh, and fried chicken. If I’m after a great meal with great cocktails, I love The Squeaky Bean. Those guys are pretty much our siblings. Many a Ste. Ellie bartender can be spotted at Sunday bingo brunch at the Bean. You’d be hard pressed to find two bars in town that share the comraderie we do.”


Kevin Burke | Beverage director, Colt & Gray and Ste. Ellie

“I live on the north side of downtown and the New Welcome Inn is close to my condo and allows me the anonymous experience of a Modelo Especial and an Old Overholt Rye. Lately Mary at the RiNo Yacht Club has had some delicious sherries that were a pleasure to try.”

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Elijah Kerlin | General manager, Z Cuisine and À Côté

Golden Moon Speak is fantastic. Stephen Gould’s spirits are our favorite to work with at Z Cuisine and his bar is of the same high quality. Noah Heaney, the bar manager, does an impressive job guiding the experience and it’s one I always enjoy. I can’t say enough good things about the Cooper Lounge and what Marcel Templet has created there. It’s an absolute gem in Denver. The bar program is solid and well thought out, cocktails well crafted and the perfect setting. Marcel has hired great people and his spirit of hospitality is reflected in them.”


Rob Lawler | Co-owner, Truffle Table

Star Bar. This place is a true bar. Or, I should say it has everything that I like in a bar. There are booths! They mix a tasty cocktail without paying an arm and leg for it. Their spirits selection is very impressive, especially considering the dive bar feel to the place. I’ll usually order a Leopold Bros. absinthe or a Génépy des Alpes without getting an eyebrow raised at me. Plus they don’t have any food for sale, which means not only are there usually dogs wandering around but also you can bring your own food, or have something delivered.

Ste. Ellie. The bartenders here are some of the best I’ve ever seen. I love to ask them to make me something like a Sazerac, but different, and they’ll hit it perfectly. Also, it’s Colt & Gray food, so that’s awesome. And the place is beautiful. I wouldn’t feel out of place in a tuxedo there, if I owned a tuxedo. But the servers are so gracious; they wouldn’t make you feel out of place if you had on stonewashed cut-off jean shorts.”


Michael McGill | Bartender, Old Major

“Since I have two little kids, my time for hanging out in bars is pretty limited. I tend to gravitate toward places with great bartenders and service, and where my industry friends are behind the stick. I love hanging out at the bar with Marcel Templet at Terminal Bar and Cooper Lounge. Jordan, Lydia, and the rest of the crew at Highland Tap and Burger. Nick Touch, Sean, Jason, and the crew at Williams & Graham. And when we are in the neighborhood, my wife and I will always come up with a reason to grab a drink at the Cherry Cricket. My wife used to work there, and we have really fond memories of good times in that bar.

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