Rooster’s exclusive guide to Colorado's classiest, most clandestine speakeasy's with world-class cocktails
Speakeasy’s are classy vestige of America’s prohibition era, when bars needed to be hidden behind secret walls or disguised as something else entirely. Such establishments have become an American icon— a nod to our not-so-distant past, when alcohol was illegal and selling it was the largest criminal enterprise in this country.
Colorado has a lot of awesome speakeasies. Many of which actually served as legit illegal drinking dens back in the day and which are still styled as such, hidden behind book cases or pie shops. You get the full prohibition-era experience: from the dim lighting, to the leather barstools and handlebar-moustached bartenders, all minus the risk of getting arrested or tommy-gunned.
And the drinks they serve today, are a far cry chicer than the ones they were slinging back in the 20’s and 30’s. Not only are Colorado’s modern-day speakeasies serving high quality local craft spirits, they’re blending them into cocktails that verge on artistic masterpieces. These are some of the classiest beverages you’ll find anywhere in the state.
So where exactly do you find them?
We’re glad you asked. Below is a guide to Colorado’s classiest speakeasies, courtesy of your friends at Rooster. These are our favorites in the Centennial state, and we’re confident you’ll enjoy them just as much as we do.
Williams & Graham - 3160 Tejon Street, Denver
I’ve got a soft spot for establishments hidden behind secret doors — which probably explains why Williams & Graham is one of my favorite places to drink in the world.
The wait to get in is usually at least an hour (especially with pandemic restrictions) so be sure to get a reservation and budget your time accordingly. No matter what the wait is, though, the experience is totally worth it. The hostess, standing inside a small room, lined with bookshelves, presses on a secret panel and a section of the wall swings inward. You walk through the secret door, down a short and dimly lit hallway lined with red velvet curtains and into the speakeasy beyond.
The wall behind the bar glistens with shelf after shelf of high-quality spirits, while hip bartenders mix fancy drinks below. Just watch them work and you’ll begin to understand what makes this place so special. It isn’t just the atmosphere or the novelty of a secret cocktail bar, it’s also the devotion to excellence that goes into every single drink. Everything on their menu is a knock-out — but my favorite is their Sazerac, a straightforward boozy blend of Rittenhouse Rye whisky, Peychaud’s bitters and a spritz of absinth.
Green Russell - 1422 Larimer Street, Denver
Beneath one of the most historic streets in the city, the Green Russell is a secretive place — and one worth finding. To access it, visitors pass through a pie shop front and a swinging door, into the dimly lit cocktail bar. It’s a quiet place, styled to match its historic ambiance.
Guests are only expected to follow a handful of rules: respect the atmosphere, respect your host and fellow guests, be adventurous in your selection, be patient as they craft your cocktail, and dress “smart.”
It’s a short list of rules, but one that’s preserved the atmosphere of the Green Russell like an emerald. This place is a hidden gem, and the cocktails they serve are world-class. And for patrons who are interested in learning more about their bartending, the Green Russell offers small group private cocktail lab experiences where they’ll give you a p-eek behind the curtain to see how the magic’s made.
The Bookcase and Barber - 601 East Second Avenue, Suite B, Durango
If you’re looking for a neat haircut, and you happen to be in the southwestern part of the state, stop in at The Bookcase and Barber. They do haircuts, dome shaves, beard and moustache trims, the works — everything a person needs from local barbershop.
Oh, when you’re all groomed up, you can step behind the bookcase and into the secret speakeasy that awaits beyond.
That is, if you know the password…
It’s been called one of the best kept secrets in all of Durango and if you can get into it, you’ll understand why it’s so coveted. The atmosphere is utterly nostalgic, reminiscent of another time. And all the drinks are literature themed — like the Thompson (Wild Turkey, Angostura bitters, raw sugar and fresh lemon peel), the Steinbeck (Straight Apple Brandy, fresh lime juice and grenadine), Hemmingway part 1 (white rum and fresh lime juice) or Hemmingway part II (absinthe, agave nectar and prosecco).
The proprietors of this fine establishment are Beau and Jenna Black, a well-groomed local couple, with a classy mountain hipster disposition. They take care of their patrons, so take care of them — stop by for a visit, grab a shave, and enjoy a few finely crafted cocktails when you’re finished.
Golden Moon Speakeasy - 1111 Miner's Alley, Golden
Golden’s infamous speakeasy-styled cocktail bar, offers a truly extensive menu of both classic and modern cocktails, pre-prohibition style punches and long drinks. Fittingly situated in an alleyway just off Washington Avenue in downtown Golden, the Golden Moon Speakeasy is the best place in town to kick it with your friends and enjoy some craft cocktail beverages in the dim light of a unique and stylish bar.
Best of all, their cocktails are all made exclusively with spirits made at the Golden Moon Distillery (the parent company and namesake of the speakeasy). So not only is the atmosphere enticing, not only are the drinks top-notch, but the spirits are all distilled in-house.