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Behind the Bar with Brandon Wise of Departure

Denver's hottest bartenders deliver the season's most seductive sips

In this week’s bartender corner, we stopped by one of Cherry Creek hottest restaurants, Departure. The aviation-themed restaurant has kept us intrigued with its take on modern Asian cuisine offering soul-warming bowls of ramen, fresh slices of sashimi and sushi, and dim sum favorites. The cocktail program truly brings the concept together, as the bar itself serves as a centerpiece to the restaurant. We pulled up a chair around the illuminated bar and learned more about the man behind the bottle, Brandon Wise. 

DiningOut: What drew you to bartending as a career?

Brandon Wise: Working behind a bar has always felt like home. Since my first shift, it has been a creative outlet for me, and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people. When I moved to Portland, Oregon, I decided to get more serious about my long-term career goals and made it my life’s work. The biggest turning point for me was getting involved in the Oregon Bartender’s Guild, now a chapter of the USBG, which really allowed me to connect with the community. During that time, I learned more than I could have imagined about the craft of bartending, and after serving as Vice President and later President of the OBG, about being a leader. I now oversee a beverage program that extends across 75+ hotels—I’m designing bars, building brands, and developing talent across the portfolio. It’s been quite a journey from that first bartending shift all those years ago, but I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding profession.


Photo by Andeck Photography

Cocktail Creation:


Inspiration behind the cocktail:

The Shinobi cocktail is a version of a Whiskey Buck, which is a great platform for any season. I started there and reached for a locally produced Amaro from Leopold Brother’s Distilling, their Highland Fernet. The herbaceous qualities of the Amaro work nicely alongside the botanicals in a really incredible Pacific Northwest vermouth from my old pal Patrick Taylor—the Hammer & Tongs L’Afrique—it works to bridge those nuanced flavors with the spice of the ginger. The title refers to a classic video game of the same name (Shinobi is another word for ninja) and speaks to the contemporary interpretation of Asian food and drink at Departure.

Brandon Wise Departure

Photo by Andeck Photography

Recipe for Shinobi 

In a shaker filled with cubed ice, add 3/4 ounce Knob Creek Bourbon, 3/4 ounce L’Afrique Vermouth, 3/4 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce Leopold Fernet, and 1/2 ounce ginger syrup. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds until chilled and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass. Top with 2 ounces ginger beer and garnish with two blackberries and a sprig of fresh mint.

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