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Behind the Bar: Shawn Williams of Bar Dough

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

Behind the doors of Bar Dough {2227 West 32nd Avenue, Denver; 720.668.8506} lies a powerhouse of talent. Dreamt up by Juan and Katie Padro—owners of Highland Tap & Burger and Sloan’s Tap and Burger—and the acclaimed chef Max MacKissock, Bar Dough has been serving up a bevy comfortable Italian eats right in the heart of the Highlands. Guests can peruse the flavors of Italy ranging from housemade pasta creations to blistered, wood-fired pizzas, charred to perfection. Most recently, the Italian joint has dished out a fantastic brunch program, making us happily trade in our breakfast burritos for drool-worthy dishes like the Cacio e Pepe. The impressive beverage program only adds to the elevated eatery, offering specialty cocktails, spritzers, and an all-Italian wine list. For a refreshing sipper, we sidled up to the exquisite marble bar and had a chat with Bartender Shawn Williams. 

DiningOut: What drew you to bartending as a career?

Shawn Williams: My father was in the healthcare industry, but I knew I needed to find my own way of being a part of touching people’s lives. In my early years, I worked in corporate and local establishments, but I missed my roots as a bartender and working with a diverse array of people. Welcoming your guest into your “home,” (your bar) is the top priority. It’s about hospitality and the type of experience they want to have, and the cocktail is second in the grand scheme of things. Settling into this role has been one of the most fulfilling experiences and being able to work with some heavy-hitter chefs in the industry has been rewarding. I try to translate their creativity in the kitchen into what I do behind the bar. I have always taken pride in the experience that I have given to guests and not really seen myself as an expert or professional at what I do. Enjoying the feeling of how what I do impacts other people is what it is all about. With as much talent as Denver has to offer, I’m a very lucky man to be looking in and to be able to see the industry grow, learn from this pool of phenomenal bartenders, and hopefully—once in a while—be able to impact this profession in some way.


Bar Dough

Cocktail creation:


Inspiration behind the cocktail?:

The inspiration comes from my love of this spirit and having the opportunity to work with it for many years! There is something very alluring about how tequila is created. From the multiple years it takes for the beautiful agave plant to grow, the old school process that most tequila distilleries still use, and the deep roots that it has with its community. We are just touching the surface of where this spirit will go! The slight hints of vanilla of Espolón reposado, the slight hint of fresh lemon juice, and the sweetness of the apple-basil agave give this cocktail the balance and flavor profile that is perfect for, not only the winter months, but year-round!

Bar Dough


Recipe for Seductor

In a shaker, combine 1 egg white, 1-1/2 ounces Espolón reposado, 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice, and 3/4 ounce apple-basil agave syrup*. Shake for 1 minute. Add ice and shake for an additional 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and drizzle with Lambrusco.

*To make apple-basil agave syrup: peel and de-seed four red apples. Slice them and put them in a bowl with 10 leaves of fresh basil. Add 1/2 quart agave nectar and allow to sit overnight. Transfer contents to a pot and add 3/4 quart of water. Bring to a very slow boil on low heat. Strain and let cool.

The latest issue of DiningOut Denver/Boulder features the hottest news and food trends throughout the region. Pick up an issue at your local Barnes & Nobles and Tattered Cover. Read Winter/Spring 2017 issue here!

All photography by Andeck Photo