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When Five Nines opened earlier this year, the bar team took a gamble and put a century-old, kitschy cocktail on its menu: the grasshopper. But served in a coupe glass, mixed with oat milk instead of heavy cream, and accompanied by an Andes mint, the modernized mint-chocolate “Jiminy Cricket” has become a surprise hit at one of Cherry Creek’s sexiest bars.
Now, it seems, the grasshopper is poised to make a leap from supper club and soda shop tables onto the well-curated menus of Denver’s craft cocktail bars—a move that could also make it ripe for riffs. Across Denver, bartenders are giving a boozy boost to the grasshopper with everything from aged rums to Japanese rice vodkas.
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Kyle Bobkowski, beverage manager at Five Nines, is doubtful that the minty cocktail will stage a comeback as strong as the espresso martini, which has become a menu staple at Mile High City bars and restaurants. It’s more of a micro-trend, as bartenders take advantage of high-quality liqueurs that are on the market today and challenge themselves to reinvent classics for an American palate that’s “getting dryer and cleaner—and no longer wants those sticky-sweet, scrape-your-tongue flavors,” Bobkowski says.
Like most classic cocktails, the history of the grasshopper’s origin is a little muddled. But cocktail lore has it that a New Orleans bartender by the name of Philibert Guichet created the frothy drink for a 1918 cocktail competition in New York City. His grasshopper took second place in the competition and earned a permanent spot on the menu at his eatery, Tujague’s Restaurant, where it’s still served today with brandy and heavy whipping cream.
Today’s made-over grasshopper is arguably the perfect springtime cocktail for Denver, where the occasional snowstorm and cold snap can still break up our warm-weather streaks. Crème de menthe (barkeeps, including Bobkowski, are especially sweet on a more nuanced one from California distiller Tempus Fugit) is fresh and herbaceous, but the drink also gets a little heft from cream or milk, creating a cocktail that bridges the transition period between seasons.
Intrigued? Here are a half dozen spots where you’ll find a darn good grasshopper in Denver.
You bet this mid-century, Colfax Avenue institution has a traditional grasshopper headlining its after-dinner drinks menu. Made with ice cream and topped with a crown of whipped cream, the creamy pastel green grasshopper at Bastien’s Restaurant is pretty much a spiked mint-chocolate milkshake. It’s joined on the 21-and-up dessert menu by another tried-and-true chocolatey drink, the Brandy Alexander. 503 E Colfax Ave.
Poka Lola Social Club
A Dairy Block bar with a nod to turn-of-the-century soda fountain culture, Poka Lola puts a modern-day spin on the grasshopper, making it with Jamaican rum, cognac, and dark chocolate to cut through the cream. “This is not your grandmother’s after-dinner drink,” says Ryan Williams, Poka Lola’s bar lead and supervisor. 1850 Wazee St.
Traditionally, a grasshopper tends to drink like melted ice cream, Bobkowski says, and his team’s goal was to create a lighter-bodied cocktail. Five Nines’ bartenders did just that by calling for Harku Japanese vodka, as well as Tempus Fugit crème de menthe and crème de cacao. The drink also features oat milk and a splash of Fernet-Branca (an amaro made with herbs and spices). 233 Clayton St.
Roger’s Liquid Oasis
Fitting for the change of seasons, Roger’s Liquid Oasis makes its refreshing grasshopper with gin. But for a plot twist, the bar also uses midori (a retro, melon-flavored liqueur) and green chartreuse in its rendition, which comes garnished with mint and grated nutmeg. “The classics always come back around, and it feels like, following COVID, everyone is craving something new and exciting-yet-familiar,” says Alan Berger, a bartender at Roger’s Liquid Oasis. “This take on the grasshopper has more of a tiki feel with hints of crème de menthe and crème de cacao that bring a brightness to this classic that’s ready for summer.” 5505 W. 20th Ave., Edgewater
Green Russell’s take on the grasshopper, the Moka Loca Chocolate, was featured on its seasonal winter menu, but you can still order a gussied-up grasshopper at this clandestine bar. The skilled bartenders have a knack for making off-menu drinks—and for its grasshopper, the bar uses Santa Teresa 1796, a dark sipping rum aged in bourbon oak barrels, as well as a spoonful of Fernet-Branca and some Angostura bitters. 1422 Larimer St.
Another grasshopper that falls into the boozy dessert category, Steuben’s makes its minty treat with soft-serve ice cream, as well as crème de menthe and crème de cacao. This rendition also gets a generous shake of Oreo cookie crumbs as an indulgent topping. 523 E. 17th Ave.