Denver and Cocktails: Cure for the Homesick Plague

Given my consistently hectic and perpetually awful work travel, my feelings of homesickness are never far.  However, after spending a month in Washington watching my favorite aunt die, my dad fall apart and a community come together to grieve, homesickness was a plague I could not shake.  As soon as I was wheels down at DIA, I knew the only thing I wanted was to surround myself with the people and places that make Denver my home. And of course cocktails and snacks.  Behold the spontaneously created Fuck Cancer/Dying is Stupid Cocktail and Appetizer Crawl!

Grabbing my BFF and fellow Wagonista Jim, our first stop was the Happy Hour at Euclid Hall. A few Tank 7’s from Boulevard Brewing Co and an order of the Roasted Duck Poutine – hand-cut fries smothered in duck gravy, WITH CHEESE CURDS and I could feel the stress start to melt away.

After the gravy settled, we scooted on over to Le Grande Bistro.  This was my first time and immediately I was in love with the décor and atmosphere.  Designed to evoke feelings of an intimate brasserie in Paris, Le Grande pulls it off quite well.  We saddled up to the bar and was made welcome by bartender Steven.  Ordering off the menu for our first round, Jim had a hot chocolate (adorable,  I know) and I tried the French Daisy.  The cocoa was yummy: made with dark chocolate, vanilla rum, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Absinthe and salted caramel. The French Daisy was also fantastic, albeit a bit too sweet for me. It had Vodka, Domaine de Canton ginger Liqueur, St. Germaine Elderflower, Chambord, and a touch of lemon.

Our first appetizer was the escargots.  Served in a shell vs. wrapped in puff pastry and drowned in butter (not that there is anything wrong with that) they were tender and delicious. Next up on the bar was a classic Old Fashioned.  I tend to use this as a litmus test for new bars, much like the chili relleno is my Mexican restaurant test.  Leopold whiskey, house-made orange bitters, a splash of water and just a hint (per my request) of sugar, Le Grande and Steven most definitely passed the test.  Jim had the Le Grand Carre, another delicious concoction (are you sensing the theme here?) whiskey, Hardy VS cognac, bitters and absinthe.  I could probably live here.

Second appetizer was the Tartare de Boeuf.  Let me just preface this with saying that steak tartare is one of my Most Favorite Things Ever and you cannot find this in Mayberry, WA.  I was a tad excited. Incredibly rich pieces of beef tenderloin, diced pickles and capers and topped with a sunny-side-up quail egg (quail people…not chicken).  But wait… here is where it got better:  My cocktail pairing was a bartender’s choice that he called the “Scotch Drink”.  18 year old Yamazaki Single Malt, Boulard Calvados (an apple based liqueur), Chartreuse, and Punt e Mes Italian vermouth.  Holy.  Crap.  This is quite possibly the best cocktail to have crossed these cocktail loving lips.  After a futile attempt to have the drink official named after me, Steven promised that anyone coming in and ordering the “Scotch Drink” would receive the same.  But bring your emergency credit card, it does not come cheap.  I believe Jim had a nondescript glass of wine. I did not care.  I was in cocktail heaven.

Now listing slightly, we headed on over to Row 14.  Another first for me.  Allie was our bartender and fixed us right up.  An Old Fashioned for me, Bullet Whiskey, Leopold Orange Liqueur, bitters and vermouth.  It was excellent.  This was about the time I lost track of what Jim was drinking.  For our appetizer round we had the Philly Cheesesteak Empanadas, Mac N Cheese, and the Sliders.  Yes, to all of those things.  The sliders were probably my favorite with the house ground beef and bacon but all was delicious.  The Mac N Cheese has short-ribs on top. Yep.  And not huge chunks of breadcrumbs that slice up the roof of your mouth, but toasted bread crumb foam. *squee!*

My follow-up cocktail was another bartender’s choice. An Allie Goes to Brooklyn, her own personal spin. I do love my whiskey drinks!  Unfortunately I can not recall what was in this liquid heaven.  That’s the bitch about these crawls, at a certain point in the evening your memory goes.  As a side note, I have been back to Row 14 twice for dinner and was impressed both times.  This is definitely one of my new favorites.

Now where?  Where-oh-where does one end up when mostly drunk, suppressing mourning crying fits and desperate to connect with friends and home.  STAR BAR!  As I knew it would be, Star Bar was chock full of friendly faces and cold beer.  This has definitely become my go-to bar for all my go-to bar needs.  The laughter won over any thought of tears and while I could have stayed all night, there were pancakes on the agenda.  We gathered more in the posse and headed over to the Pancakes & Booze Art Show. It was Pancakes.  And booze.  And art.  What’s there not to like?  <aww, sad face>  While it had a concept that I was positively giddy about, the execution sucked.  It was over-priced, over-hipstered (yes, I did expect that) and marginally full of marginal art.  The group was disappointed but I had the perfect cure.  Find the Gay Boyfriends and head to Boyz Town.  Denver’s own male strip joint.  Four finger drinks on the cheap and man-candy in hoisted banana hammocks!  Sticking to vodka sodas, which amount to a glass of vodka and a splash of soda, I am not sure the cherry on top of my welcome home sunday could have gotten any more sweet.  Also, there is nothing quite like watching straight men put dollar bills in another man’s cookie jar.

Denver, I love you.  Holy shit, it is good to be home.

About Michelle Simons

Michelle likes beer, booze, bands, beards and boys. And alliteration.