Denverites are spoiled. Living here means that we rarely have to worry about what to imbibe at a bar or restaurant because having a killer craft beer list or a fine-tuned wine list is almost mandatory. That means we’re a little out of practice when a joint doesn’t deliver on drinks.

On a recent night out, we found ourselves in a dilemma because there wasn’t even a respectable beer or wine—not even a decent boxed wine—in sight. We scanned the bar bottles and settled on our go-to, you-can’t-mess-this-up concoction: a rum and Coke.

Oh, but the bartender did. He delivered a watered-down whiskey and Diet Coke. We sighed. Perhaps our old stand-by drink was just too complicated. To test that theory, we asked 5280 staffers for their “safety drinks.” This list will give you plenty of ideas the next time you’re faced with a lackluster bar list.


“My go-to drink is a whiskey-ginger, but you can’t always count on a place having ginger ale.” —Daliah Singer, assistant editor

Dale’s.” —Geoff Van Dyke, deputy editor

“When in doubt, wine. I always look for Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, or, depending on the list, a rosé. I almost always stay away from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.” —Amanda M. Faison, food editor

Vodka tonic with lime. Not sure why, but it’s my go-to when I don’t know what to order or am feeling rushed. It’s refreshing and really hard to mess up.” —Julie Dugdale, senior editor

“Safe drinks: rum and Coke, mimosa (for brunch), and vodka cranberry. Unsafe drinks: margarita, mojito, and Bloody Mary (this is more of an art form than most people think).” —Lindsey B. Koehler, features editor

“I’ll often order Miller High Life in a bottle, if there aren’t any decent craft brew options. I find it less offensive than pretty much any other cheap yellow beer.” —Chris Outcalt, assistant editor

“Back when I was in this mix, I was partial, when in doubt, to Jack-n-Cokes and 7-n-7s. Do those still exist?” —Luc Hatlestad, articles editor

“I always go with a Crown and coke.” —Lindsey R. McKissick, editorial assistant


Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow senior editor Natasha Gardner on Twitter at @natashajgardner or on Pinterest.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.