By Deborah Flomberg
Whether you’re searching for a new neighborhood drinking joint, or you’re hoping to get a taste of Denver’s historic cocktail culture, there are several watering holes you simply must take some time to visit. From the first bars to open in Denver to the first bars to receive liquor licenses once prohibition was repealed, there is no shortage of historic and fascinating places to take in a cocktail or two. When you’re looking for a new spot to stop for a drink this weekend, here are five iconic bars that are truly a part of Denver’s historic past.
My Brother’s Bar
2376 15th St
Denver, CO 80202
You won’t find a big fancy sign out front. You won’t even find much of a website. But there’s a reason My Brother’s Bar is one of the most iconic bars in Colorado. As the oldest still-operating bar in Denver, it was also a hangout for names like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, and you can still find a hand-written letter from the famous writers hanging by the bathroom. The bar may have recently changed ownership, but one thing won’t change – the history of this purely Colorado and totally iconic bar. With some of the best burgers in the city, stiff drinks, a spacious patio and plenty of seating room inside, it’s totally worth hunting down this famous location.
The Cruise Room
1600 17th St
Denver, CO 80202
The Cruise Room is located inside the lobby of Denver’s Oxford Hotel. It also happens to be the first bar in Denver that was opened post-prohibition in 1933, the day after prohibition was repealed. Inside the long, narrow and bright pink bar, you’ll still find the beautiful Art Deco style filling the small space, which was originally modeled after an observation lounge aboard the Queen Mary. Plus, it helps to know that the bartenders here know how to make the best martinis you’ve ever tasted. Visit on an off-night to find the bar less crowded, but it’s even worth a visit on a weekend evening, just so you can check out this historic and beautiful Deco bar.
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1000 Osage Street
Denver, CO 80204
As the story goes, the owner of the Buckhorn Exchange was the first in line to get a liquor license the day after Prohibition was repealed. As the proud owner of Colorado’s Liquor License #1, the Buckhorn Exchange is certainly another of the most popular iconic bars in town. You’ll find tons of delectable food filling the menu here, but the bar itself is also worth a visit. It’s a museum filled with beer steins and shotguns and stands today as a tribute to Colorado’s Old West history. Stop by for the occasional music act and dress in your favorite western gear to fit in at this local hot spot.
1962 Market St.
Denver, CO 80202
Just about every famous jazz musician that has ever come through Colorado has played at El Chapultepec, or ‘The Pec” as it’s most commonly known around those who frequent the popular music venue. Since 1933 this small bar has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz history. Count Basie, Wynton Marsalis, Doc Severinsen and even Frank Sinatra have all played on the postage-stamp-sized stage at The Pec. Today those in the jazz scene still know The Pec, and even the biggest national acts like to swing by this iconic location for a set or two following bigger shows at venues like Red Rocks and The Pepsi Center. So you never know who might walk through the doors.
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3503 E. Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80206
If you’ve ever driven along East Colfax Avenue, then you’ve seen the familiar sign shouting “home of the sugar steak.” Bastien’s is known as one of the best steak houses in Denver, but it’s also home to a preserved moment in bar history. The small sunken bar at Bastien’s is a tribute to the cocktail culture of the past, where you can sip on stiff drink while you talk up the bartender or simply absorb the culture and history surrounding you. The building itself is even on the National Register of Historic Places, and they simply don’t make restaurants or bars like this anymore. Even if you’re not stopping by for one of the tasty steaks (seriously, try the sugar steak) it’s always worth a trip to Bastien’s for a cocktail or three.