Bar Buzz: The Season's Hottest New Bars

Highland and RiNo have gained a couple of new standout sipping spots. Here's why you should check them out. 

December 10 2015, 10:30 AM

Finn's Manor's cozy interior

So many bars, so little time. We checked out the Mile High City’s newest watering holes to tell you where to plan your next night out.  

Occidental

We waited a long time for the sibling of one of the world’s best bars (an official title) to open—like since we first mentioned it was coming back in April 2014. And when Occidental finally rolled up its garage door in September, the newest offering from renowned bar owner Sean Kenyon did not disappoint. Pegged as a less upscale cousin of Williams & Graham (think less leather, lower prices, and a fraction of the wait time), Occidental neatly lands somewhere between a sports bar and punk hangout. Five TVs play everything from the Broncos to movies while punk rock gets a nod in the mosaic of mixed tapes, murals of Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry, and even drinks named after ’80s bands. You’ll also find more beer taps (10) than house drinks, and food trucks instead of four courses. Of course, this more casual younger brother still bears the hallmarks of Kenyon’s behind-the-stick attention to detail: The bar is always wiped down and uncluttered, never sticky nor slovenly; bartenders greet you with a handshake and their names—and remember yours, too. And the house drinks—while generally poured with more mid-range liquors (think Wild Turkey versus Eagle Rare 10 year)—are thoughtfully considered and well made. Pair them with funky comfort food from State Fare, then sit back and stay for another. 1950 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-997-8886


Finn’s Manor

One of the newest additions to RiNo’s non-brewery bar scene, Finn’s Manor doesn’t just channel New Orleans in its colorful décor and drinks—it lives up to The Big Easy’s reputation for hospitality, too. Say you show up outside the colorful fence 20 minutes before the three-month-old bar opens (at 5 p.m.). Say there’s a staff meeting happening on the food-truck-lined patio. Say it’s a little windy. Instead of shooing you out, Noah Price (of the Populist and Crema Coffee House) might instead invite you into the covered area to hang out until the wood floors that are being cleaned inside dry. Then he might set you up at the warmest seat in the house while Finn’s talented bartender Robert Sickler further mixes up a couple of creative—and potent—cocktails. Such above-and-beyond service can be rare in Denver, so it’s especially appreciated in a new spot. Debuting in September as a joint effort between Price, Sicker, and Thomas Taylor, who owns the building, Finn’s Manor blends the best of NOLA, Austin, and Denver into a funky little sipping spot with a cozy wood-and-brick-dressed interior, and expansive exterior that’s prime perching territory in warmer days. (The pod of food trucks—among them Owlbear Barbecue, A Taste of the Philippines, Tigermonkey, and Night Shift—sure doesn’t hurt, either.) This laid-back bar boasts a rotating menu of creative cocktails—with heavy emphasis on whiskey- and rum-backed drinks that can sometimes be too sweet—but also delivers balanced and expertly executed classics. We’ve already been back. A lot. And we’re betting you will be, too. 2927 Larimer St.


Bar Fausto

Just a few paces up the street from Finn’s Manor sits another excellent option for cocktails: Bar Fausto. The Populist chef Jonathon Power partnered with Huckleberry Roasters’ Koan Goedman on the project, which opened in August. There’s nothing overly fussy or precious about this place: You’ll find your standard cement floors, roll-up garage door, wood bar and booths, and funky RiNo art (in this case a rainbow stripe painted along the back wall). But you won’t find gimmicks. There’s no need. Not when you’re crafting classic cocktails with as much care as Fausto’s bartenders demonstrate. Labeled simply with numbers, Fausto’s cocktails come out smooth and subtle, no one ingredient overpowering another—precisely what you’d expect from Populist beverage director Rob Corbari, who created Fausto’s cocktail menu. And you’ll know just what you’re getting thanks to the generous and clearly written descriptions on the menu (no stuffy, bloated verbiage here). This is the kind of joint where your tattooed, mustachioed bartender delivers your place setting with a smile as you eyeball the charcuterie selection, asks if you like the music (you do; who doesn’t like a little folk?), makes sure your olives are all pitted before setting the plate down (they are), and has the bill ready for you within moments of your final bite. In other words: a simple, elegant, quality sipping spot. 3126 Larimer St.; 720-445-9691


Bar Dough

Bar Dough’s beautifully tiled wood oven might steal the show inside the two-month-old Highland addition, but its bar co-star is not to be overlooked either. The long-anticipated offering from Max MacKissock, formerly of Squeaky Bean, opened in October with pizza-and-pasta-focused menu and a wine list, delineated by price, to match it. A helpful “wine regions of Italy” accompanies your menu, and you’ll find a full roster of refreshing spritzers, too. But don’t shy away from ordering a cocktail here. Bar manager Alex Glueck’s Italian-inspired libations are prefaced with a handshake and an introduction from your bartender. Carefully concocted in beakers and beautiful glassware—at least 30 seconds of stirring for cocktails meant to be served coldfor instance—and anchored by largely Colorado spirits, Gluek’s simply constructed classics are not only a great deal at $10, but they’re also great drinks. 2227 W. 32nd Ave.; 720-668-8506

(Check out 5280's picks for Denver's Best Bars 2015)