The Spirited Traveler: Drinking local in Denver

By Kara Newman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With its sprawling hotels and conference centers, no wonder Denver has become a top destination for business events.

In addition to access to the scenic Rocky Mountains, the Mile High City also offers "a killer cocktail and food scene that's really starting to pick up," says Bryan Dayton, who co-owns and directs the bar at Denver-area restaurant OAK at 14th (http://www.oakatfourteenth.com/).

To many, Denver's iconic tipple is beer, Dayton explains. After all, the state is home to a great number of local breweries and microbreweries, and the city will be host to the Great American Beer Festival from September 29 through October 1.

However, spirited folks are likely to favor local distiller Leopold Brothers, which Denver bartenders praise for their array of luscious liqueurs, and Stranahan's, an unusual 100 percent malted barley whiskey.

For business-related engagements, Dayton recommends downtown steakhouses Elway's (http://www.elways.com/) or Capital Grille (http://www.thecapitalgrille.com/locations/denver/main.asp), or Ocean Prime (http://www.oceanprimedenver.com/) in the upscale Cherry Creek shopping district.

Though all three are chain restaurants, each offers plenty of Colorado beef and a robust selection of drinking options.

But when the workday is done, Dayton advises to head to Linger (http://www.lingerdenver.com/) in the historic Highlands area for cocktails like the Blood Orange & Sand, a riff on the Scotch classic Blood & Sand, but laced with Leopold's American Orange Liqueur. (Sister venue Root Down (http://www.rootdowndenver.com/) also is nearby.)

Other options include the homey Steuben's (http://www.steubens.com/),

the subterranean speakeasy-style Green Russell (http://www.greenrussell.com/),

named for 1850s Colorado gold miner William Green Russell, and cozy gastropub Colt and Gray (http://www.coltandgray.com/).

Yet amid this vibrant cocktail culture, Denver bartenders wonder why they don't have a cocktail to call their own. So a "Colorado Cocktail Contest" was launched in June to establish one. Here it is.

RECIPE: Tree Line

Created by Avenue Grill (http://www.avenuegrill.com/) bar manager Marnie Ward, this was the winning drink in the recent "Colorado Cocktail Contest," made with Leopold's whiskey and muddled Colorado cherries. 2 Bing cherries 0.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice 0.5 oz simple syrup 2 oz. Leopold's Small Batch Whiskey 0.5 oz Leopold's Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur Muddle cherries, lemon juice and simple syrup; add whiskey and Three Pins; add ice and shake. Serve up. Garnish with round slice of lemon peel (to replicate the Colorado sun). (Editing by Peter Myers and Paul Casciato)

Editor's Picks