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History, Shaken Not Stirred

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By Riley Cowing | Contributing Writer

During the Prohibition era, a secret knock gave way to dim lighting, good company, and a taste of something illegal–cocktails. When saloons around the country shut down after the 18th Amendment took effect, speakeasies formed quickly in their stead. Patrons had to whisper, or “speak easy,” in order to stealthily visit these illegal establishments disguised as ordinary buildings, such as apartments, delis, or soda shops. While alcohol is no longer outlawed, to those over the age of 21 of course, modern takes on historic speakeasies are popping up across Colorado. Tucked behind ordinary facades, these modern day speakeasies are fun ways to travel back in time to the ’20s through a cocktail or two.

Golden Moon Speakeasy

Golden Moon Speakeasy

Golden Moon Speakeasy {1111 Miner’s Alley; 720.638.1155} is the tasting room for Golden Moon Distillery, founded in 2008. The distillery produces premium hand-crafted herbal liquors and liqueurs made with the best available herbs, spices, and botanicals using the same type of artisan production processes utilized by distillers in the mid-to-late 1800s. The speakeasy was opened to be both a destination cocktail venue and to serve as a showcase for Golden Moon Distillery’s spirits. As such, it is arguably the most unique distillery tasting room in the country since they offer over 60 cocktails all made solely from spirits produced by the distillery. Along with a lengthy cocktail menu, Golden Moon also offers food, live music, and gallery space to showcase local artwork. Following tradition, many patrons learned about Golden Moon by word-of-mouth rather than ads. Try a “cold, substantial, and enduring” Polar Vortex, Golden Moon Redux absinthe verte, sugar, cream, egg white, and orgeat.

According to Kyle Burke of Colt and Gray {1553 Platte Street; 303.477.1447}, the restaurant’s cocktail bar, Ste. Ellie, follows a tradition of casual elegance. Colt and Gray’s original concept, opened in August 2009, was great food and drinks in a comfortable setting. As pioneers of the Platte Street neighborhood, Colt and Gray watched as their customer base grew from neighborhood locals to destination diners, and the need to develop a larger dining room became clear. Ste. Ellie became the final piece of the puzzle as a natural extension of the brand.

Ste. Ellie

Ste. Ellie

Colt and Gray exudes casual elegance with soft leathers and white tablecloths. They strive for warm and comprehensive service and hope to cater to everyone from business clientele craving dry-aged beef to “foodie” couples looking to nerd out over sweetbreads, foie gras, and seasonal vegetables from the kitchen’s farmer-partners.

“Ste. Ellie is the opposite side of the same coin exhibiting an elegantly casual nature,” says Head Barman Kevin Burke. “At any given time, groups can be found sipping and comparing flights of Pappy Van Winkle bourbons next to a few waiters coming off shift drinking beers and crushing our burgers. The radio may be cranking out a Madonna B-side while bottles of grower Champagne are popped. We really wanted to curate an environment reflective of where we would want to hang out.” Burke shakes up all manner of house and specialty cocktails to tempt you. We’re digging the Comb the Desert with chamomile-infused bourbon, lemon, honey, and egg white.

Williams and Graham

Williams and Graham

Williams and Graham {3160 Tejon Street; 303.997.8886} is a full-service restaurant and bar disguised as a bookstore in LoHi that comes to life just in time for happy hour at 5pm and stays open until 1am. Accolades pile on to the visionary bar-work here: “Cocktail Bar of the Year” by Nightclub and Bar Media Group; Bartender Sean Kenyon won “Bartender of the Year” at the Spirited Awards; and one of the “World’s 50 Best Bars” according to Drinkers International, to name a few. They boast an extensive cocktail menu, as well as a well-rounded food menu including hors d’oeurve, small and large plates, and dessert. Currently, their featured cocktail is the Manhattan, made with Russel’s Reserve 6-year Rye, Carpano Antica vermouth, and Angostura bitters.

License No. 1 {2115 13th Street; 303.443.0486} is the cocktail bar located in the historic Hotel Boulderado. When Hotel Boulderado opened in 1909, the City of Boulder was dry. In 1969, the first legal license to serve hard liquor in a restaurant was issued to the Catacombs Bar and Grill in the basement of the Boulderado. Today, License No. 1 Liquor Bar continues to serve with that same liquor license issued in 1969. Their signature cocktail is the No. 1 Old Fashioned, made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, sugar, luxardo cherry, lemon peel, and bitters. A well-rounded wine and beer list provides something for every type of drinker. A menu of upscale bar food includes Steak Frites and a Maine Lobster Roll, as well as the Boulderado’s legendary Flourless Chocolate Cake.