Vodka, the little black dress (or tuxedo) of cocktail making, is known for its versatility. The spirit acts as a canvas for creative flavor infusions, from sweet to spicy. For many years, vodka infusions were a good cover up for mediocre-quality vodka, but those days are over. For instance, Alchemia Infused Chocolate Vodka was awarded a score of 92/100 from a tasting panel, and Wine Enthusiast Magazine endorsed it as a top spirit for 2011. Denverites don’t have to look far, or don a little black dress for that matter, for infused vodka cocktails at these local bars.
Mile High Spirits
2920 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
Hours: Tues to Thurs – 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Fri – 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sat – 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sun – 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
To get up close and personal with your spirit of choice, head to Mile High Spirits. The newly opened tasting room, housed inside the distillery, is a vast space that allows for small talk with the makers of Elevate Vodka, Pegleg Rum, Denver Dry Gin and a weekly menu of infused spirits. Mile High Spirits currently has five infusing vessels and plans to expand to ten. The menu changes with the whim of the distilling team, but past vodka flavors include Orange Vanilla, Cucumber, Mango Habanera, Pineapple, Mixed Berry and Citrus. Mile High is known for real fruit infusions and glass distilling, which means a cleaner taste profile and a higher quality spirit. Mile High has invited various food trucks to participate in the evening’s offerings, so food is available onsite. Call ahead when visiting the tasting room – hours tend to vary.
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Red Square Euro Bistro
1512 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80202
Hours: Wed to Mon – 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tues – 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Red Square Euro Bistro is a beguiling, sexy drink destination. The red and black décor says hot, hot, hot, but the housemade vodka infusion menu says cool, cool, cool. The infusions include every fruit imaginable, including various berries like cranberry, strawberry, black currant and black cherry. Citrus and tropical infusions from warmer climates are also available, like pineapple, grapefruit, orange and lemon. Honey and fig flavors are available if you are in a Toga-wearing mood. For spicy or savory cocktails, look for beet, anise, black pepper, red pepper, dill, garlic and even horseradish infusions. The lengthy list lends itself to hundreds of flavor concoctions. Vodka infusions are available in $4.50 shots and $30 carafes. For purists, Red Square’s global vodka menu spans the world with selections from Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Central American and domestic brands.
Related: Best Margaritas In The Denver Area
1501 Lawrence St
Denver, CO 80202
Hours: Mon to Fri – 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sat to Sun – 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Polished Tavern, is a well-polished bar (pun intended) of stainless steel and white and purple lighting. Given the bar’s Polish roots, it’s no surprise that vodka infusions are the go-to drink of choice. The bar boasts as many as 25 infused vodkas and three nine-foot ice bars to keep the drinks in the perfect chill zone. Wednesday night is ladies night, with free vodka infusions from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. – yes free. Luckily, a hefty Polish food menu is available to soak up some of the alcohol. This tavern is known for pierogies, those lovely little dumplings filled with potato and cheese, meats, sauerkraut and mushrooms, and a daily chef’s choice menu item.
1509 Marion St
Denver, CO 80218
(303) 830-6922 or (720) 251-3219 (for Polish speakers)
Hours: Mon to Fri – 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sat to Sun – 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Rule number 56 at Kinga’s Lounge says, “Don’t try to impress anyone by drinking cheap warm vodka.” Luckily you won’t have to at Kinga’s Lounge. Kinga’s is best described as comfortable and friendly. The cozy leather chairs and wood paneling are a far cry from other Denver sleek vodka bars. It’s a place to meet friends and have fun without worrying about impressing anyone. The lounge is known for a long list of Polish vodkas, straight from the motherland. Vodka infusions include sweet options like strawberry, cherry, blueberry, watermelon and mango, and spicy and savory options like dill, mint, cucumber, jalapeño, habanera and garlic, as well as a dessert caramel-vodka infusion. The food is pure Polish with options like made-from-scratch croquettes, stuffed cabbage and kielbasa. For beer lovers, check out the Polish beer menu.
The Thin Man Tavern
2015 E 17th Ave
Denver, CO 80206
Hours: Sun to Thurs – 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Fri and Sun – 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.
If you are the film noir type, intrigued by the fine line that separates small-bar friendly from mysterious and sultry, The Thin Man Tavern has your ticket. The bar’s decor looks pulled from the set of the movie and television series, ”The Thin Man,” based on a book by Dashiell Hammett. It’s a little old-school dark and eclectic, but warm and inviting all the same – just like Hammett’s characters. Look over the bar and you will see mason jars filled with vodka infusions including mixed berry, cinnamon, pineapple and lemon. Pull up a barstool or follow the tiled floor to a table and watch locals stop in for a chat and a drink. The drinks are on the affordable side, so the crowd is made up of regulars just looking for a local spot to take the edge off.
Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist contributing to CBS Denver, an Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.