Bar-industry veteran Jocasta Hanson fled Minnesota’s brutal winters back in 2011, searching for sunshine and a healthier lifestyle here in Colorado. “The turning point for me was when I went outside and threw a pot of water up in the air and it immediately turned to vapor. I think it was 60 degrees below zero,” she says. All of which is lucky for Mile High City drinkers, because late last year, Hanson opened Honey Elixir Bar, a gorgeous cafe-meets-cocktail-bar tucked into the RiNo alley behind Denver Central Market.
Honey Elixir’s 1,100-square-foot space is welcoming and warm, with sage green wall paneling, a golden velvet banquette and other plush seating, and exposed brick throughout. As you get comfy in your chosen perch and admire the sparkly rhinoceros mosaic by Boulder artist Arrian Yves Wheeler (whose pieces will rotate every three to four months), you can drink anything from energizing sipping chocolate to house-made potions, teas, and cocktails. “I’m trying to merge the worlds of health and wellness and cocktails,” Hanson says. “I’ve been to elixir bars all over the country and none of them have liquor licenses.”
Honey’s unique drink menu is the result of two and a half years of tweaking, and consists of more than 35 complex concoctions, many of which have more than eight ingredients. A staff herbalist helps craft nonalcoholic “potions,” each with its own wellness-driven purpose and made from a hand-chosen selection of medicinal herbs, mineral powders, and fungi. “[The ingredients] should support the entire concept behind a drink,” Hanson explains.
For example, pineapple, celery, and mint give the mantis-green Lil RnR ($10) a refreshing, earthy flavor, while the addition of nutrient-dense minerals like inflammation-fighting spirulina algae, antioxidant-packed moringa plant, and diamond crystals blessed by “an old hippy man” beneath the moonlight near California’s Mount Shasta—yes, really—support the drink’s restorative and regenerative properties.
Meanwhile, the cotton-candy-blue Unicorn Heart Song ($11) gets its subtly sweet qualities from coconut milk, cherry blossom, and vanilla, but the addition of many other ingredients—butterfly pea flower, pearl powder, linden, larimar—promote stress relief, spiritual healing, and more. Sprinkled with FDA-approved edible glitter and served warm, it’s a well-meaning medley for a chilly day.
If you’re seeking something low-ABV, consider Jun, the three percent or less ABV honey and green tea-based cousin of kombucha that’s made specifically for Honey Elixir through a collaboration with Boulder’s Ling Elixirs and Ish’s Brew. The Jun’s culture (similar to a kombucha’s symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY) breaks down herbs, making their nutrients more bioavailable. For the Honey in the Heart ($10), Jun is mixed with damiana, rose, hibiscus, hawthorn, orange peel, reishi, licorice root, cardamom, angelica, and suma to create an ideal zero-proof refreshment.
Ask Hanson to pick a favorite drink, though, and she’ll choose the Royal Reviver ($12), a sweet and fruity mix of Fort Collins-grown butterfly-pea-flower-infused gin with Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, and absinthe, which changes from royal blue to purple when mixed with a splash of lemon juice.
To go with the potions and cocktails and elixirs, Hanson has created a day-to-night menu of snacks. Order overnight oats with pumpkin, pecans, and maple syrup to accompany your morning Rosy Fog ($9), a frothy delight of earl grey cream, rose honey, beet juice, and coconut milk. During lunch or happy hour, try the seasonal soup or salad; the current salad option is filling and flavorful, combining sweet potato and shiitakes on a bed of sautéed kale and fennel with toasted pumpkin seeds, Haystack Mountain chèvre, and lemon-garlic tahini dressing. You can also build your own cheese board by choosing two, three, or four cheeses, plated alongside house-made rosemary ghee, cranberry chutney, pickled beets, tarragon mustard, and Izzio Bakery’s bread.
Whether you’re a Jun or gin drinker, you can thank Minnesota’s ridiculous winters for sending Hanson—and Honey Elixir Bar—our way.
2636 Walnut St., #104 (in the alley between Walnut and Larimer streets)