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RiNo has plenty of, well, everything these days, from hot new restaurants to cool bars, brewhouses, and distilleries. But today’s debut of the long-awaited American Bonded has Denver drinkers particularly excited. Three years in the making, the new watering hole is a collaboration between award-winning barman Sean Kenyon (Williams & Graham and the Occidental) and hospitality pros Justin Anthony and Lisa Vedovelli (co-owners of Matchbox bar). The trio bonded over their shared belief that great service matters most, and that a good cocktail need not break the bank.
Kevin Burke, the veteran bartender who spent the last eight-and-a-half years as the bar manager at Colt & Gray and Ste. Ellie, was tapped to be general manager. Along with Kenyon, he created a drink menu separated into classics and house cocktails. “The classics,” Burke says, “are basically B-side drinks; they’re not the regular stars you have been ordering, but great cocktails worthy of the spotlight. Two of my favorites are the Casino Cocktail (gin, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, lemon, orange bitters), which looks like an Aviation and drinks like a Daiquiri, and the La Louisiane, a rye drink that predates the Vieux Carre. The goal is to show guests that we’re not reinventing the wheel.”
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Kenyon and Burke went for diversity and accessibility with American Bonded’s house cocktails. “We both have an idea about beauty and simplicity,” says Kenyon, “and we also like to challenge each other on how to edit and get to that simplicity.” Many of their concoctions contain just three or four ingredients—all cost $9. “In today’s cocktail world, it is almost impossible to find single digit prices for crafted drinks. Kevin and I took the challenge of making everything affordable head-on,” Kenyon explains.
Inside the new space, J Street Food Truck is getting its first brick and mortar kitchen. Executive chef Jason Bray will serve his own spin on low-country Americana cuisine until 1 a.m. nightly. Guests will find everything from over-sized tater tots and chicken and waffles to jalapeño-pimento cheese and grits with chorizo. Mac and cheese comes in a sauce pan, topped with a cheesy potato chip crust, and there’s also an entire section on the menu devoted to fries loaded up like nachos.
The casual eats and crafted drinks feel right in the polished neighborhood bar, which was designed through collaborations with Anthony’s wife, Karlin Vaessen, and Kenyon’s wife, Bijou Angeli. Booze-inspired art installations, all created in-house, are a highlight of the space. The “Liquid Sunshine” piece on the wall facing the bar, an homage to playwright George Bernard Shaw’s famous “Whiskey is liquid sunshine” mantra, is made from more than 500 copper-colored jiggers. The “Strings” installation in the back staircase features string-bound antique whiskey barrel hoops and copper shakers on floating shelves to mesmerizing visual effect. Although not necessarily considered art, the shuffle board table is a particular point of pride for Kenyon: “I always wanted one of those at the Occidental, but there wasn’t enough room.”
To (literally) top it all off, there’s also a rooftop deck, with a separate bar, for RiNo drinkers looking to imbibe al fresco. The deck won’t open until Friday, April 5, but after three years of waiting, that sounds good to us.
If you go: American Bonded will be open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends. 2706 Larimer St., 303-997-8886