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Getting wild in the West nowadays involves more ski jumps than standoffs with sheriffs. Still, many of the Colorado taverns that once sheltered infamous ruffians from relentless posses are alive and rollicking in mountain towns—even if the only enemy dogging current customers is the December cold. So kick up your (ski) boots and hide out like the gunslingers once did at these long-standing saloons.
Backstory: Oscar Wilde drank here after his 1882 lecture at the Tabor Opera House—and you can too. The fourth-oldest bar in Colorado still bears 100-year-old diamond dust mirrors (made with melted silver) on its walls; they reflect a room in which gunfighter Doc Holliday separated silver miners from their money at the card table. Best seat in the house? The second booth on the left, where Jimmy Buffett wrote “Incommunicado” after John Wayne died—or so the story goes.
Ask The Barkeep For: Sweet and robust Old Elk Bourbon—straight up
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Backstory: This saloon, once a favorite of gold miners, couldn’t be stopped by Prohibition: Thirsty guests traversed a tunnel (now filled) to get their booze. Patrons shared the legend of Sylvia, a ghostly widow in search of her next husband. When those tales grew tiresome, there was always the brothel upstairs (now employee housing). Today, on-site Carboy Winery makes its own vino beneath the saloon.
Ask The Barkeep For: The cavity-inducing Chocolate Colorado Bulldog (a White Russian with a splash of Pepsi)
Backstory: Accessible via Vail Resort’s Minturn Mile backcountry ski run (and also by car), this bar attracted its earliest patrons, zinc and silver miners and railroad workers, with Friday night boxing matches. Owner Jeff Taylor allegedly installed an illegal craps table in the back room, which has since been converted to the main bar. Now, the saloon’s decor harks back to the Wild West, including the original tin ceiling, 1840s backbar, and an old copper still from a former brothel in Leadville.
Ask The Barkeep For: A steaming cup of hot, Boulder-made Decadent Saint sangria