The Craft Distiller’s Guide to Drinking in Denver

With the 2024 American Craft Spirits Association convention heading to Denver this month, locally based drinks writer Ryan Pachmayer highlights some of the city’s top-tier destinations for cocktails, spirits, and more.

Ryan Pachmayer Feb 13, 2024 - 10 min read

The Craft Distiller’s Guide to Drinking in Denver Primary Image

Adrift tiki bar in Denver. Photo: Harrison Warters Photography/Courtesy Adrift

Anyone in Denver for this year’s ACSA Convention, scheduled for February 26 to 28, is likely to have a busy itinerary, including conference events, tours at select local distilleries, and friendly meetups with others in the industry. Your time is precious, so it’s best to be choosy about where you spend it.

We’ve curated these spots with an eye toward the knowledgeable industry member and the connoisseur—these are places that offer a range of high-level options, unique selections, or both.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats at The Block. Photo: Melissa Ostrow/Courtesy The Block

The Block Distilling

2990 Larimer Street

The Block is set in one of Denver’s premier neighborhoods, the River North Arts District (RiNo). In a modestly sized space with dramatically high ceilings, its bar is devoted to the house-made spirits, bitters, and liqueurs.


Highballs are a recent addition to the menu, and the Block approaches those with the same passion that the distillery uses in all of its creations. “If you’re down to the [lower part] of the glass forty-five minutes into your drink and it’s not bubbly anymore, then we’ve failed at the highball,” says cofounder and head distiller Kraig Weaver.

To achieve seemingly endless bubbling, Weaver and his team went down a rabbit hole that included purchasing a heat exchanger to help dial in forced carbonation at pressures that exceed 100 psi. Denver’s water is soft—notorious for making great beer—so after removing the chlorine, they leave it alone. The final pieces of the process are serving the alcohol cold, using a longer ice cube for its nucleation points, and training staff to build the cocktail in a way that minimizes carbonation loss.

The Block also offers a compelling range of nonalcoholic drinks. Redacted is an NA version of the house-made amaro and aperitif, force-carbonated. It’s citrus-forward, with the herbal bitterness making a necessary cut into the sweetness, leaving behind a deliciously balanced, flavorful drink.

The Block also offers a specialty cocktail menu, one that Weaver says the entire staff helps create. With backgrounds that span numerous bars and whiskey clubs, the team draws on that deep experience to create new and interesting recipes. A popular cocktail last year contained a touch of chicken broth; the current seasonal menu includes drinks with ingredients such balsamic reduction, apple butter, oat milk, green tomato, smoked paprika, white peppercorn, matcha cream, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and ube.

The Block makes a habit of offering free drinks. On the heels of its Valentine’s Day promotion, where all attendees receive a free cocktail during business hours, Weaver says that anyone with a convention badge will get their first cocktail for free.


Photo: Courtesy Finn’s Manor

Finn’s Manor

2927 Larimer Street

Just a stone’s throw away from The Block is Finn’s Manor, a do-it-all place when it comes to food and drinks. Shortly after opening in 2015, Finn’s made a name for itself with spirits and cocktails galore, along with numerous food trucks (some of which later went on to launch full-scale restaurants).

Finn’s currently boasts more than 800 spirits—this includes 400 whiskies, 150 rums, and 140 agave spirits. It’s set in one of the more attractive front bars in all of Denver. It has a distinctly festive, Old World vibe with a hint of New Orleans, with all those spirits stacked from floor to ceiling.

Finn’s also offers an excellent beer list, perfect for beginning or finishing the night—from one of the best local lagers in Bierstadt Helles to funky imported Belgian lambic beers and some of the best IPAs from Denver and around the country.

Plus, Finn’s current food truck is one of the best in Denver—Twans Burgers has a crispy, lacey, double smash that is damned delicious.


Photo: Courtesy Deviation Distilling

Deviation Distilling

1821 Blake Street

Deviation is in the hip Dairy Block, a 10-minute walk from the Denver Convention Center. A flight of its gins is a must—flavors include the locally foraged Mountain Herb, grapefruit- and tangerine-forward Citrus Rosé, Blood Orange, and Spice Trade—a blend of Szechuan peppercorns, cardamom, Thai basil, and ginger, which is also available in a rye barrel–rested format to complement its 100 percent rye grain bill.

Deviation is also doing interesting things with coffee and whiskey. Its Barista line blends these two components, with the Mocha Whiskey variant adding artisanal roasted chocolate. Deviation works closely with a coffee roaster and chocolatier for the line, making each offering feel distinct and purposeful.

For a nice one-two combo, you could also hit up Run for the Roses (at 1801 Blake Street), just around the corner from Deviation. An underground bar set in the basement of the Dairy Block, RFTR offers cocktails of yesteryear and a selection of hard-to-find vintage spirits. The bar even has a dedicated Reserve menu, featuring various cocktails made from these rare spirits.

Photo: Courtesy Golden Moon Speakeasy

Golden Moon Speakeasy

1111 Miner’s Alley, Golden


About 25 minutes west of downtown Denver, Golden Moon Speakeasy is the cocktail-bar offshoot of Golden Moon Distillery, off an alleyway in the picturesque town of Golden, nestled among various mountains.

Golden Moon Distillery has many unusual products, and its Speakeasy is an ideal place to experience them. Because of the unique nature of the herbed and spiced liqueurs and spirits, it’s best to approach Golden Moon by trying small samples of most of the lineup.

Owner Stephen Gould and team have painstakingly crafted the Amer dit Picon, Crème de Violette, Kümmel, Ex Gratia (a génépi), Apple Jack, and varietal-specific grappas. The REDUX Absinthe is also worthwhile, optionally served via the traditional drip. Golden Moon makes its house gin with locally foraged mint and juniper berries plus locally grown herbs and botanicals—a combination that yields unique aromas and flavors reminiscent of a fine perfume.

Once you’ve picked a few favorites from the spirits and liqueurs, you can try a range of cocktails using those ingredients.

Photo: Courtesy Union Lodge No. 1

Union Lodge No.1

1543 Champa Street


Opened in 2015 and located just a couple blocks from the Convention Center, Union Lodge No.1 is a tribute to American bars and saloons of the 19th century. You can see that inspiration throughout its cozy interior.

Here, it’s all about the bartenders. The knowledge, demeanor, and precision they have exuded consistently over the past nine years has made this a reliable place to host imbibers time and again. You’ll typically find an eclectic mix of guests at Union Lodge—from out-of-town visitors to old friends, cocktail connoisseurs, and after-work public servants.

The drink list keeps with the theme—old-timey drinks aplenty. There are cobblers, punches, tonics, smashes, and more, alongside staple cocktails. The specialty cocktail list allows the bartenders to flex their creativity, and the execution and attention to detail really stand out. This is the type of bar where you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a custom cocktail when it’s slower—always a rewarding experience. Keep in mind that the location and size of the bar mean that it’s rarely dead; your best bet for conversation with a bartender is to visit right as it opens.

With a well-stocked bourbon list and a thoughtfully selected assortment of scotches, Union Lodge also offers plenty of value for the sipper.

Photo: Harrison Warters Photography/Courtesy Adrift


218 South Broadway


Adrift separates itself from the typical tiki bar by putting an emphasis on creative, seasonally inspired cocktails, complemented by a chef-driven food menu. This allows Adrift to avoid the common pitfalls of so many other tiki bars as the niche matures—here, you’ll find more than some simple, thrown-together tiki decor and the same list of a dozen or so drinks.

Seasonal flavors are a focus when designing the ever-changing specialty-drink menu, according to lead bartender Max Goin. Consider the Black Flag, made with a rum blend, black miso–infused Cynar, and a few dashes of mole and umami bitters. “The biggest flavors are the savoriness, the meatiness, where it’s almost warm,” Goin says. “You can enjoy it in the wintertime.”

A unique year-round drink here is the Mistah Bittah Hai, made with mezcal, Batavia arrack, Punt e Mes, crème de Moka, grapefruit, lime, simple syrup, and bitters. Goin says the drink starts smoky, leading into sweet and savory components, followed by a bitter coffee finish. “It’s a wild cocktail, and a great example for somebody who has been to 20 [or] 30 tiki bars [and] is looking for something a little different.”

For fans of straight rum, Adrift has some standouts. Goin highlights single-cask bottles from Holmes Cay: “The 2012 Australia [cask] is a great sipping rum—it has this pepper-esque spice to it—while the 2011 Trinidad is one of the smoothest rums I’ve had in the past year.” Only a few cases of these were released, Goin says, so Adrift was fortunate to nab a few bottles.

Whether it’s classic tiki drinks and Polynesian food, or creative, experimental takes on both, Adrift’s almost dozen years in operation reveals a well-roundedness that is the exception, rather than the rule, in the tiki segment.

Ryan Pachmayer is a writer, brewer, and certified beer judge based in Arvada, Colorado. When not writing for outlets such as Denver Westword and Zymurgy, he is the creative director for New Image Brewing. He previously was head brewer at the Yak & Yeti brewpub in Arvada.