Prohibition: your upscale London pub, imported to Colfax

When I first moved to Denver, I abided by the standard rule to avoid Colfax. Thankfully, I made friends who re-educated me about the cooler side of Colfax. Prohibition, located at 504 E. Colfax, is the latest addition to these eclectic bars that offer unpretentious, neighborly places to escape and just have a drink (or many!) with friends.

One of my favorite things about visiting my best friend in London is the concept of “pub.” Friends getting together a few nights a week, with little pre-planning, meeting at the neighborhood drinking hole. Owner Jimmy Callahan (also with Roslyn Grill) has similar aspirations for Prohibition – for it to be a place where anyone feels comfortable and wants to come back frequently.  The location is convenient, and the bar is beautiful, with a new mahogany bar in front with a Chicago drink rail and a bar in the back from a hundred-year-old saloon in Indianapolis.  Judging by the crowd when we were there, he’s on the right track for a good, classic bar. Earlier in the night, the crowd spanned a few elderly couples having dinner and drinks, to both hipsters and young professionals at the bar. As it got later, the crowd only grew, but still maintained the awesome diversity. I’d even venture to guess we could add it as a great date spot – both for it’s comfortable atmosphere and for being off the beaten path.

But on to the important topics – the drinks and the food. Callahan’s home is behind the bar, and he keeps it simple with four specialty cocktails and five classics. We sampled the Liquid Swords and the Dulcet Charm, both of which he imported to Colorado from his bartender friends in California. The Liquid Swords combines Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Cherry Heering, and Drambuie, with an orange twist. It’s strong, but it’s mixed with  the correct proportions in an Old Fashioned glass – and the flavors melded together well. There is some spice from the rye whiskey, a hint of sweet fruitiness from cherries, and a bit of herbal flavor from the Drambuie, all completed by the acid of the orange twist.  As patrons, we noted an interesting exchange: one of our Liquid Swords was delivered without the orange garnish, and the bartender took enough pride in his work to come over and state the cocktail had “gotten away before he was finished.” No throwing the a fellow staffer under the bus, just wanting to deliver the best cocktail to the guest. While mistakes happen, we clearly took note of the grace on handling this one.   As for the Dulcet Charm… it’s composed of Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskey, Fernet Branca, fresh lemon juice, sage syrup and grapefruit peel. The rich woodiness of the Knob Creek is complimented by the herbal nature of Fernet and the sage syrup, but it’s brightened by the lemon juice and grapefruit peel.

We didn’t partake in any beer this time, but Callahan offers up 11 choice on draft, 8 in bottles, and 3 in cans. The selection spans the spectrum from PBR and Coors Light, to Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Ska Decadent Imperial and Delirium Tremens. In true pub style, there is also Magners Irish Cider, Guinness, and Fullers London Pride.

By far the best part of Prohibition is their food.  We started with the elk jalapeno mini sausage sandwiches, then moved onto the braised short ribs and mixed greens salad. In the appetizer, there were three mini sausage sandwiches – each little hot dog bun stuffed with slices of spicy, flavorful sausage, complemented by lightly sauteed bell peppers.  Our next sample was the braised short rib.  The meat simply melted in our mouths, and paired perfectly with the creamy Parmesan polenta and crispy brussel sprouts. Remembering we should offset the rest of the meal with some more vegetables, we partook in the mixed greens salad. It was a nice complement – fresh, crisp greens, dressed lightly in a champagne vinaigrette, with a punch of flavor from the walnuts and blue cheese. A further bonus to these amazing flavors? Local sourcing of their product, including Blue Point Bakery, Ice Cream Alchemy and Continental Sausage.  We left our visit loving the food and curious about the cocktails.

Upon the second visit to Prohibition, we ventured to talk more to with the bartender on a Sunday afternoon.  The services was smooth and not forced.  The cocktail recipes were classic.  The martini was dry.  That said, upon ordering a Sazerac, it was lacking in bitters of any kind (Angostura or Peychauds) and was warm.  The herbaceous essence that I oh-so-love in a Sazerac was void–no mount, no rinse, and without the bitters, no play with the anise flavoring.  The next cocktail was a bartenders choice with an order of scotch.  The scotch flavor delivered itself through an interesting interpretation on the White Lion cocktail.  Instead of using light rum, in came with Laphroaig and played nicely with the lemon’s acidity.  Points to the bartender for using one of my favorite scotches.

As the night continued, our conversation throughout the establishment was very comfortable.  Samples of a scotch flight and of a favorite Midleton Irish Whiskey aided in our merriment.  Up came the next round of cocktails.  My friend ordered another bartender’s choice with the smoky scotch flavor and the bartender asked if a flip would be appropriate.  And do we love flips.  Watching the bartender break the egg, we noticed he only included egg white.  I asked clarification, in knowing that flips were with the whole egg to which he denied and persisted that it’s only with egg whites.  Oh dear.  “A” for effort, I suppose.

All in all, Prohibition is a great neighborhood bar that makes fun cocktails.  Their food is really the winner while they keep the drinks simple.  Is it a bar that has truly artisan cocktails?  Not now.  The bar is gorgeous, the service is friendly, the food is good, and, dammit, the martinis are great.  They have the right philosophy.  But maybe learning a few things about their cocktails (don’t shake a Manhattan, Sazerac needs Peychauds, and a flip is with the whole egg, etc.) could go a long way before they call themselves a cocktail bar.


About Jennifer Fowler

She drinks nothing but the finest of craft spirits. So think twice before you slide that cocktail glass filled with vanilla vodka in front of her. This lady likes her cocktails brown, bitter, and stirred.