Warm up from the inside out with these tongue-burning tastes that will expand your knowledge of Denver’s dining scene—and the Scoville scale.

Little Chengdu/Blue Ocean’s Hot Pot
Ask for the separate hot pot menu at this popular DTC eatery, then pick from a list of more than 30 meat and vegetable ingredients. You’ll cook whatever you choose in an incendiary broth packed with whole chiles. (A tip: Opt for the half-and-half broth to give your mouth a break.)

Spicy 9 Thai’s Khao Mun Kai
Like traditional restaurants in Thailand, this Aurora spot serves the chicken dish’s spiciest component, a fermented bean and chile dipping sauce, on the side so you can control the heat factor. Warning: The difference between tasty and taste-bud-obliterating is mere drops, so use it sparingly.

Efrain’s Efrain Big Burrito
The kitchen staffs at both the Boulder and original Lafayette Efrain’s locations decide what goes into the signature burrito, so you might get chicken one day, beef the next. The constant? A smothering of sweat-inducing pork green chile.

Axum’s Kitfo
“Kitfo,” aka minced beef marinated in fiery “mitmita”—a blend of bird’s eye chile peppers (between a jalapeño and a habanero), cardamom seeds, and cloves—can be cooked, but the Ethiopian delicacy is best ordered raw, like steak tartare, at South Park Hill’s Axum.

Smith & Canon Ice Cream Co.’s Strawbeñero Ice Cream. Photo by Sarah Boyum

Smith & Canon Ice Cream Co.’s StrawbeÑero Ice Cream
Curt Peterson, founder of Cheesman Park’s Smith & Canon, began making ice cream from scratch just three years ago but quickly graduated from vanilla and chocolate to funkier flavors like “strawbeñero,” in which sweet strawberry tempers habanero pepper.

Mythology Distillery’s Global Warming Marg
This LoHi distillery’s signature drink rewards patience: If the burn of the rum and mezcal doesn’t get you, just wait for the jalapeño-infused ice ball to
melt a bit.

Cherry Cricket’s Atomic Wings
“Atomic” may be an overstatement: These wings are mildly zingy and available at both the Cherry Creek and Ballpark locations. Still, the crispy skin and fall-off-the-bone meat make them well worth lacing up your snow boots for—and that’s no exaggeration.

May We Propose A Toast?

When 5280 approached five-month-old American Elm’s bar manager, Jesse Torres, to create a winter drink, we had two criteria: It should taste as delicious as the cocktails he serves at the West Highland neighborhood restaurant, and it needed to be simple enough for amateurs to make at home. The result? A hot buttered rum anchored by a Colorado spirit.

Photo courtesy of American Elm

The Rockies Rumble*

4 oz. boiling water, plus extra to preheat your mug
1 tsp. Demerara sugar
2 oz. Montanya Rum Exclusiva
1½ tsp. unsalted butter
1 cinnamon stick

1. Fill a mug with boiling water and let it rest for one minute; warming the glass keeps the drink toasty longer. Empty the mug.
2. Stir an ounce of boiling water with the Demerara sugar in the mug until the sugar dissolves.
3. Add the rum. Fill the mug with the remaining hot water.
4. Float the butter on top and stir it into the drink using a cinnamon stick.

*Named by 5280 Instagram contest winner Lori Jones of Colorado Springs

Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.