In a city that’s synonymous with craft beer (and that’s quickly becoming known for its wine, cider and spirits scenes as well), it might come as a shock to find out that bartenders in Denver are increasingly serving up cocktails with one major ingredient missing: alcohol.
Or maybe it’s not so shocking. According to both "The Wall Street Journal" and recent Nielsen data, alcohol sales in the U.S. are slowing, even as the number of places to purchase alcohol is increasing. At the same time, the market for non-alcoholic beverages is growing. And that includes low- and no-alcohol cocktails.
But these aren’t the syrupy-sweet “mocktails” or lackluster lime-and-sodas you may be used to — they’re craft concoctions that spotlight subtle flavors, make use of unique ingredients, and go way beyond the standard Shirley Temple. Below, find a few locals' favorite Denver spots to imbibe sans alcohol.
Located in LoDo's Dairy Block, Poka Lola Social Club takes you back in time to turn-of-the-century American soda fountain culture. You'll find a handful of mocktail options like the Nogroni featuring Lyre's Aperitif Rosso (a non-alcoholic aromatic vermouth) or the seasonally inspired The Bunny Slope made with pear-cranberry shrub, citrus and soda.
If you’re strolling the 16th Street Mall, cruise over to The Kitchen and ask for a non-alcoholic and not-so-spooky Banshee's Treehouse made with strawberry fresno demerara, lemon and ginger beer, or order up a classic Lyre's Amalfi Spritz or Gin & Tonic. You'll also find NA wine and beer like Lyre's Classico Prosecco and Athletic Brewing Company Lagers and IPAs.
Michelin-starred chef Ludo Lefebvre brings upscale but unconventional French elegance to The Mile High City at Chez Maggy, where he serves up classic French cuisine using elements and ingredients native to Colorado. While you'll find plenty of French vino on the menu, there's also a delectable selection of zero-proof cocktails like the Bonnet de Nuit (Lyre’s American Malt, espresso, demerara and chocolate bitters), the Petite Beet Limonade (Ritual Gin, Lyre’s Triple Sec, lime, beet, lemon and Fever-Tree Lemon) and The Chameleon (Lyre’s Agave, Lyre’s Triple Sec, lime and agave).
Can’t imagine Mexican food without a margarita? You’re in luck! Visitors to Denver’s Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant in Lower Downtown can order one of the restaurant's legendary Strawberry Margaritas without the tequila. Or opt for the Hibiscus Spritz with hibiscus agua fresca, soda and lemon.
River North Art District
New York’s Death & Co is lauded as one of the best cocktail bars in the world and chose Denver for their first foray outside of Manhattan. Located inside The Ramble Hotel, Denver’s Death & Co is one of the best spots in the River North Art District (RiNo) to grab a cocktail, but they’ve also got a few non-alcoholic cocktails in the mix, like the No Fly Zone (Wilderton Apertiivo, Three Spirit Social Elixir, pineapple, molasses, black tea and lime) and the Divine Favor (Three Spirit Nightcap, Seedlip Spice, cinnamon, ginger, sesame orgeat and lemon). They also serve up non-alcoholic wine from Kally and Three Spirit and non-alcoholic beer from Untitled Arts.
Honey Elixir Bar is a standout with its bold and exciting menu. While they offer traditional drinks with alcohol, their “potions” like the Love Spell (a blend of blueberry, raspberry, hawthorn berry, shatavari, hibiscus flower and orange blossom honey) are alcohol-free and pack tons of flavor. They also have some energy-boosting cacao drinks.
Perched high above LoHi, El Five boasts spectacular views of the downtown Denver skyline, a delicious Mediterranean menu featuring bold flavors from Spain, North Africa, the Middle East and beyond...and a selection of "sober curious" cocktails that won't leave you wanting! Try the "Negroni" made with Seedlip, Verjus blanc, aperitif syrup and orange zest; the "Gin" & Tonic made with Seedlip, Fever Tree Tonic, rosemary and lime; or the "Sangria" made with cranberry, pomegranate, cinnamon, lemon and seasonal fruit.
Forget Me Not — located in the heart of Cherry Creek — is a bright and cheery spot to snack on small plates (think: salmon crudo, street corn dip and wagyu steak tartare) while sipping a zero-proof cocktail. Try the refreshing Perfect Vision made with Seedlip Grove, coconut water, verjus and rose water, or the earthy Deep Roots concocted with Seedlip Garden, tarragon, beet, ginger, citrus and Stappi red bitter.
For games galore, head to Punch Bowl Social on South Broadway. And while you’re there, keep your karaoke or bowling game strong by choosing a beverage off their extensive non-alcoholic drinks menu. In addition to fresh juices, shakes, malts, sodas, fizzes and house-made lemonades, Punch Bowl serves up ingenious alcohol-free cocktails like the Chef's Cup (muddled cucumber and lemon, cardamom syrup, currants and sparkling water), the Cilantro Fizz (fresh cilantro, jalapeño and cucumber syrup, fresh lime juice and aquafaba), the Jeannette's (strawberry syrup, fresh lime juice and aloe vera juice) and the Palm Tree Shade (pineapple and tropical spice-infused coconut water, mint syrup, fresh lemon juice and aquafaba).