New & Hot Places

Hottest Bars in Denver

If nothing else, 2016 was a good year for drinking — and for discovering the best new watering holes to do it in. We'll be toasting to 2017 at these 10 hot spots for months to come.   

The Thunderbird Imperial Lounge

NewLoHi
Restaurateur Jesse Morreale has turned an old LoHi dive into this cozy, stylishly retro tavern where classic cocktails and craft beers meet American bar food both old-school (sloppy joes, potato skins) and new-school (butifarra dogs, shishito poppers) courtesy of Solera chef-owner Goose Sorensen.

Must-order: With its jukebox, checkerboard floors, Spanish revival chandeliers and all, the successor to Sunnyside’s long-standing Subway Tavern sets the mood to go old school. Start with chipotle-ranch wings and classic potato skins, then move on to the heaping Mexican hamburger platter. Wash it all down with the house's horchata White Russian.

Insider tip: Owner Jesse Morreale was once a concert promoter, so perusing the mounted posters of shows gone by, from Björk to the Misfits, is worth the price of a drink alone. (Not that they’re costly — happy hour here runs from open to close.) 

3759 Lipan St.; 720-255-2485

La Güera Gastro Cantina

NewGastropubLoDo
Globe-trotting restaurateur Richard Sandoval is behind this flashy Mexican spin on a gastropub, turning out tacos, tlayudas, tortas and more in the small LoDo lounge space next door to Zengo. The mural-lined setup is fast-casual for lunch, while dinner brings table service, complete with a bar pouring margaritas, cervezas and other libations.

Must-order: Go for the gusto with a cucumber margarita or whichever exclusive seasonal beer the bar's pouring from collaborative partner Crazy Mountain Brewing Company, plus an order of bacon guac and a spicy shrimp tlayuda topped with chapulines.

Insider tip: Unlike its predecessors, La Güera's actually open by day for over-the-counter lunch service.

10 Barrel Brewing Company Denver

NewRiver North Art District
Set in a cavernous, two-story RiNo space with a mod-industrial look and a sunny deck, this outpost of an Oregon-based brewpub franchise serves an eclectic array of beers on tap to go with elevated bar food like coconut-curried hummus, fried-avocado sandwiches and butternut squash–goat cheese pizzas.

Must-order: This season, it's all about the Pray for Snow winter ale or the Breakfast Coffee stout. Come warmer weather, we have a crush on the Cucumber Crush that began well before this Oregon-based brewery opened a satellite here. Also, the steak nachos are pretty outrageous.

Insider tip: Drink well, do good — on Charity Tuesday Nights, 10 Barrel donates all the proceeds to a good cause.

2620 Walnut St.; 720-573-8992

Voicebox Karaoke Lounge

NewRiver North Art District
Boasting a mod disco vibe up front and a fleet of private suites in back, this RiNo karaoke lounge equips would-be rock stars with many amenities — high-tech sound systems, video screens, liquid courage in the form of a full bar and sustenance from a selection of small plates (think pulled-pork sliders and PB&J; cookies).

Must-order: Loaded fries with a trio of dipping sauces are good, PB&J cookies are better, and sake Jello shots are best of all.

Insider tip: You should always be friendly to your server, of course, but especially here — some of them have got the pipes to turn your so-so solo into a dynamic duet.

2601 Walnut St.; 720-458-7006

Palenque Mezcaleria

MexicanPlatt Park
With a separate entrance (and a patio) in the alley behind sibling Adelitas Cocina y Cantina, this rustic barroom specializes in mezcal (for sampling straight or in cocktails) alongside a small selection of Mexican street food.

Must-order: With 100-plus bottles of mezcal on the shelves on the one hand, and a staff well versed in the spirit on the other, this is a place to ask questions before making decisions — the bartenders will steer you right. But if you’re up for an adventure, try a cocktail that features raicilla, mezcal’s quirky Jaliscan cousin. 

Insider tip: Stopping by for a nightcap? Don’t eat a huge dinner beforehand, because the snack menu, though small, is no afterthought. Think shrimp-mango ceviche and superb carne asada–topped tlayudas.   

1294 S. Broadway; 303-997-5359

Retrograde

Five Points
Five Points cow-to-cone ice cream joint Frozen Matter is also home to this small, quirky speakeasy – accessed through an unmarked freezer door – where groovy 1960s-era decor sets the tone for playful craft cocktails.

Must-order: We'd recommend the tequila- and Chartreuse-based Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist on the name alone, but it's impossible to resist the Obey One — essentially a boozy float with vodka, cola, Galliano and house vanilla ice cream.

Insider tip: "Classic cocktail hour" runs Monday through Friday from 5–7 PM — when every drink's a double, be it a daiquiri or an old fashioned. 

530 E. 19th Ave.; 720-600-6358

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New AmericanLoHi
These artsy hangouts sport a comic book–style menu of New American snacks and shared plates with Asian and Latin influences, backed by a syllabus of equally vibrant cocktails including customized "jam" drinks made using fruit and vegetable spreads. The quirky-cool setups are anchored by long bars and decorated with conversation-piece knickknacks.

Must-order: A jam drink. Pair it with the soft-shell crab steamed buns, salmon-belly tostadas and sizzling patatas bravas. 

Insider tip: Just one? Heck, here are several

3254 Navajo St.; 720-500-3254

Hudson Hill

Capitol Hill
The mood is chill at this airy, artsy Capitol Hill lounge, welcoming its neighbors with a select array of cocktails, boutique wines and craft beers plus an equally simple yet sophisticated smattering of snacks like charcuterie and cheese plates.

Must-order: The bar team puts a lot of thought into the cocktail of the day, so you can always count on something smart and stylish. And owner Jake Soffes shows equal care when making his decadent grilled cheese sandwich.

Insider tip: Hudson Hill doubles as a daytime coffeehouse, and Soffes pulls a mean espresso from his hand-built Bosco lever machine. Tea and pastries are available too.

619 E. 13th Ave.; 303-832-0776 

White Lies

Capitol Hill
Come evening, the Capitol Hill branch of Black Eye Coffee morphs into this vintage-chic cocktail bar serving an extensive list of elaborate craft concoctions, plus wine and beer on tap. A small but elegant menu of whimsical American fare (think foie gras beignets), complete with beverage pairing suggestions, fuels the fun vibe.

Must-order: Pick a sherry cocktail, any sherry cocktail, or a bottle of rosé.

Insider tip: This (or rather its alter ego, Black Eye) just might be our favorite place to day drink, not least because coffee-and-booze pairings get due respect here. 

800 Sherman St.; 303-955-1205

The Way Back

New AmericanDenver
This striking resto/lounge in West Highland delivers a compact menu of seasonal New American plates complemented by innovative cocktails with whimsical names and a robust beer and wine selection. Anchoring the stylish, wood-slatted space is a sleek bar with a backlit mural of a farm scene, with seating at high-top community tables and a long banquette.

Must-order: Both the frozen banana daiquiri and the I'd Buy That Drink a Drink (pictured) have been on the cocktail list since day one, with good reason. By contrast, the menu rarely reads the same twice, but we love what the kitchen does with both pasta and offal, so keep an eye out for them. 

Insider tip: Come on Test Table Tuesdays for a prix fixe menu of dishes the kitchen's working on — for $45, you can give your two cents to the chefs.  

4132 W. 38th Ave.; 720-728-8156

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