For the November/December issue of DiningOut, we asked bartenders how important their barware really is. The answer: Very, especially in a day and age when every drink they pour has the potential to be seen by thousands on social media. Who wants a greasy glass (or cloudy ice or shriveled lemon) popping up on their IG or TikTok feed?
Even worse than going viral for the wrong reasons? Being merely forgettable. So we tracked down three spots killing it with eye-catching vessels that are fun to drink out of and take pics of.
Maria Empanada, Denver and Aurora
When the Argentine bakery opened its South Broadway location in 2014, the penguin-shaped pitchers it served wine and sangria in turned heads. They’re called “pingüinos” in Argentina, where they became popular in homes during the 1950s and eventually made their way onto bar and restaurant tables. They are still a novelty in Colorado—Maria Empanada is the only place in Colorado you can find them—though the empanada emporium will begin selling them in 2022.
We suspected these adorable birds would grow legs and waddle away from the eatery, but it seems Maria Empanada’s guests are a civilized bunch. Marketing director Victor Arango says, “We haven’t had problems with people stealing them. I am frankly surprised it hasn’t happened, they’re that cute and unique! Now that you’re writing about them, we will have to have pingüino police stationed throughout the restaurants.”
Adrift Tiki Bar, Denver
There’s fun, and then there’s fun and one-of-a-kind. Any Tiki bar has elaborate mugs, gussied-up straws, and tiny umbrellas, but this South Broadway getaway had custom mugs made for guests who order a bartender’s choice. Adventurous drinkers will have to trust in the gods (and the barman) to get their hands on the ceramic mug.
Martinez admits the popularity of the Polynesian-inspired barware is a double-edged sword. “We have had a huge problem with theft on all our barware, unfortunately,” he notes. “Our guests love it and come to Adrift to experience something that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a compliment that they want to take it home…but it makes it difficult financially.”
If you find yourself with sticky fingers while at Adrift (and not because you spilled your drink), get a grip. The bar now sells a selection of its glassware, which Martinez says has resulted in about 65 percent less theft.
Birdcall, Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs
Not every outpost of the fried chicken spot offers the same cocktails, so if you’re dead set on drinking out of a bird butt (who wouldn’t be?) check ahead. It’s worth the effort, because the slender, bird-shaped flute is more elegant than you’d expect from a fast-casual restaurant. Order the watermelon cooler (which contains vodka, vermouth and watermelon syrup) to get your hands on the bird and the bird on the ‘Gram.