The Best Bars in Denver

From swanky lounges to boozy bars, we round up more than 40 of the city's best places to imbibe. Plus, the nondrinker's journal, bartenders' tips, and debunking the alcohol-altitude myth.

February 2008


Bull and Bush Brewery

4700 Cherry Creek South Drive, 303-759-0333
You're drinking: Man Beer and whiskey
You're listening to: Widespread Panic, Bruce Springsteen
When the heavy, Tudor-style pub door whoomps closed behind you, Glendale's piercing sunshine is shut out and your eyes dim to the level of the frosted lanterns and giant TVs faintly illuminating the worn carpet and rustic wooden beams. Tip back a hearty, house-brewed beer, or, if you're a whiskey drinker, one of the 200-plus bourbons and single-malts served. Go ahead and order a side of cholesterol—the prime rib or maybe the fish 'n' chips—and unbuckle the belt a notch. Too dark in here for anyone to notice—or care.—KB

The Cherry Cricket

2641 E. Second Ave., 303-322-7666
You're drinking: Stone IPA, by the pitcher
You're listening to: Classic rock
A laid-back, great-beer oasis (Stone IPA, 90 Shilling, and Smithwicks on draft) in the vast cocktail wasteland of Cherry Creek North.

The Village Cork

1300 S. Pearl St., 303-282-8399
You're drinking: A glass of Italian wine
Overheard: "This place is the closest thing you'll find to Paris in Colorado."
The cork-laden bar top is your first indicator of how much vino flows from bottle to glass at this intimate South Pearl Street wine bar. The wooden furniture, exposed-brick walls, mismatched china, and a couple of dozen choices on the black chalkboard menu give the bar a casual, flirty ambience that—after a few glasses of the good stuff—feels very sexy.—Lindsey Koehler

Skylark Lounge

140 S. Broadway, 303-722-7844
You're drinking: A martini
You're listening to: '50s rock 'n' roll
Sometimes a girl needs to escape the emo pants and sleeve tattoos of South Broadway, and one way to do that is to duck into the dark, unpretentious Skylark and saddle up to its large horseshoe bar. With stimuli at a minimum—no TVs hanging, no trivia, no kitschy bar games—you can actually talk with the horned-rimmed-glasses-wearing bartenders. Just don't expect it to be a one-on-one conversation; the whole bar, even those three drunk hippies, is going to want to play free-association theater games or critique your choice of vodka.—Jennie Dorris

Great Northern Tavern

8101 E. Belleview Ave., Suite E, 303-770-4741
You're drinking: Odell's Cutthroat Porter
You're listening to: You're way too sophisticated for a jukebox, right?
More for the casual drinker, this highbrow bar and restaurant in the heart of the DTC is perfect for the after-work crowd or those looking for a low-key date. Note: The sweater-vest appears to be required attire. The wood-paneled ceiling and dim lights add to the classy, upscale vibe. There are 16 beers on tap, and none are named Budweiser, Coors or Miller. —Robert Sanchez

Pearl Street Grill

1477 S. Pearl St., 303-778-6475
You're drinking: Denver Pale Ale and a shot of Jack
You're listening to: Classic rock
At its heart, the Pearl Street Grill is a locals' joint, where Platt Park neighbors come to fill the spaces in life: after the nine-hour shift at the office, before heading to a show downtown, for a nightcap after a Rockies game, or whenever they need more contact with society than The Biggest Loser. Avoid it at dusk, when well-coiffed men and women waiting for their tables at Sushi Den order drinks with more than two ingredients and talk too loudly. Late night is best, between 11 and midnight, when you can sit at the bar between a grandfather nursing a Drambuie and a butterscotch sundae and a Sushi Den server trying to forget his well-coiffed clientele with equal amounts of tequila and PBR. They may have little in common, but they know where to go for a pick-me-up—or a knock-you-down. —PD

Squealing Pig

2700 E. Third Ave., 303-388-4440
You're drinking: Tullamore Dew whiskey, neat
You're listening to: The Pogues; Irish classics
The owners of the Squealing Pig have turned one of the least-likely places—a basement spot below two hair salons in Cherry Creek North—into one of the best Irish pubs in Denver. It has the compact, homey, organic feel of a bar you'd find in a small Gaelic town—a hodgepodge of old tables, mismatched chairs, booth seats covered with old fabric from the curtains, and most important of all: whiskey, and lots of it.—PD