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At Magic Rat, expect fun takes on classic cocktails, such as the Free Money (pictured), which combines whiskey, amaro, sweet vermouth, and house bitters. Photo by Adam Larkey

Go Now: Magic Rat

The new Fort Collins bar—which doubles as a live music venue—is stylish and mellow, plus the drinks are all under $10.

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From the jewel-toned sofas to the bright pink coffee table book by Pharrell to the a drink list where everything is $9 or less, it’s clear as soon as you walk into Magic Rat that this isn’t your typical craft cocktail bar. The Fort Collins watering hole opened in the new Elizabeth Hotel in December.

“It’s the halfway point between your neighborhood dive bar and a fancy cocktail bar,” says Brandon Wise, vice president of beverage operations for Sage Restaurant Group, which operates the hotel’s food and beverage offerings. (The Elizabeth was developed, in part, by Denver’s Sage Hospitality.) “Order an old fashioned or a PBR and feel just as comfortable doing both.”

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The menu showcases that range. The 18-beer list is mostly Colorado-sourced, with FoCo’s Horse & Dragon Brewing Company selections served alongside Montucky Cold Snacks. The cocktails are straightforward, well-balanced, and stirred with local spirits; there’s a Mule and a play on a daiquiri and a citrusy gin tipple called God Save The Queen. (Expect some lighter options to hit the menu when summer arrives and the patio opens.) The wine selection is equally low-key: four varietals—Chardonnay, rosé, sparkling rosé, and a red blend—all from House Wine. Whatever drink you opt for, expect it to arrive straw-free. Like many Colorado restaurants, the Elizabeth’s food and booze spots have ditched straws in an effort to reduce waste and other environmental harms caused by the utensil, which never biodegrades.

Food is limited to a serve-yourself popcorn machine, but hungry patrons can head over to the Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market on the other end of the hotel lobby. Stop by the New American restaurant, which also houses a coffee shop and wine market, for classic “moules frites” made with Bangs Island mussels or the hearty bison bourguignon.

Keeping with the site’s music theme (the hotel has a music lending library where guests can check out instruments to use during their stay, for example), Magic Rat doubles as a live music venue. Most of the shows are free, and the lineup is centered around Centennial State musicians. (Follow the bar’s Facebook page for the most up-to-date show details.) The Rider, a shareable $40 drink order—four PBRs, four airplane-size bottles of Jack Daniel’s, snacks (M&M’s, beef jerky), and a couple of kitschy toys—is based on the tour riders musicians request.

The name itself—Magic Rat—is a reference to a character in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland.” (There’s also a rye whiskey cocktail named after the epic song.) But you don’t have to be a music historian, or a hard-core Boss fan, to enjoy Magic Rat. The retro aesthetic, wallet-friendly prices, and sociable staff make the bar a welcome addition to Old Town. The live music is just a bonus.

111 Chestnut St., Fort Collins, 970-493-4120

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