Best of Boulder 2012: Drink

Boulder Weekly Staff | Boulder Weekly

Beer Selection


1535 Pearl St., 303-546-0886


627 South Broadway, 303-543-0886

Second Place: Backcountry Pizza

Third Place: Oskar Blues Grill & Brew

Fourth Place: Old Chicago

Fifth Place: Walnut Brewery

We’re no strangers to Southern Sun in South Boulder and Mountain Sun on Pearl Street’s east end, where late-night happy hours help connoisseurs and cash-strapped beer lovers alike keep smiles on their faces (and a few bucks in their pockets). There are at least 12 beers on tap at any time, all brewed specifically for these two spots and the Denver-based Vine Street Pub. Our favorite Southern Sun/Mountain Sun libations include the tart-yet-drinkable Raspberry Wheat, the pure hoppy-ness of 2010 GABF silver medal winner Illusion Dweller I.P.A. and — of course — anything on tap during the (in)famous Stout Month (sadly confined to February). Combine this diverse beer selection, which also includes three-time GABF gold medal-winner Hogback Doppel Bock, with chill employees and plenty of extra board games, and you’ve got one of Boulder’s best spots to grab a pint … or five.


Chai Drink


1770 13th St., 303-442-4997

Second Place: The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse

Third Place: Brewing Market

Fourth Place: The Cup

Fifth Place: Pekoe Sip House

Chai seems to be trending in Boulder lately. Every coffee shop has a chai drink on the menu, Boulder is home to two well-known chai producers, and restaurants are serving house-made chai. The Dushanbe Teahouse chai is house-made and is unique from the others found in Boulder, but we’re guessing it won the category because of its peaceful atmosphere that seems to fit perfectly with the act of sipping chai. Sitting in Dushanbe Teahouse feels like sitting in another world surrounded by architecture, gardens and tiles not found anywhere else in Boulder.

While the chai drinks offered at the other coffee houses that won are tasty, the scenery isn’t quite the same.



835 Walnut St., 303-442-3050

Second Place: SALT

Third Place: Oak at 14th

Fourth Place: Centro

Fifth Place: The Med

As tough as it is to choose a cocktail from The Bitter Bar menu, it’s every bit as tough to pick one to highlight in honor of their latest best cocktail win. The Blue Velvet, with its storm-cloud look and it’s nose of lemon and lavender atop 42Below vodka. That Green Drink (no, really, that’s the name) with its Bombay Sapphire gin and … more gin, and then some chartreuse and fresh lime. The patience-demanding Cider Forest, which balances out as its apple cider ice cube melts. The punch of fresh strawberries and blueberries in the Sprig & Berries. It’s all fresh, and all polished up in a bar that feels more like a taste of Manhattan than a dip into a Boulder hangout.

Runner-up SALT has a mix-it-yourself menu that demystifies the cocktail mixology, but their flourish ensures that whatever select items you add to your local vodka or gin will dazzle you off your barstool.



1101 Walnut St., 303-444-3690

Second Place: Efrain’s

Third Place: Tahona Tequila Bistro

Fourth Place: Zolo Grill

Fifth Place: Centro Latin Kitchen

Who else could it be? The Rio seems to take this award every year, and for good reason. By their own admission, they are better known for their margaritas than their food. (They’re trying to change that by improving their vittles.) But we think their enchiladas are pretty darn good too, especially after three margaritas .

These babies are potent. (The margaritas, not the enchiladas.) The sign says “Limit 3,” and they mean it! The last time we had three of these bad boys and then went bar-hopping, we, um, prayed to the porcelain god. So take it easy on the chips and spicy salsa, because that will just make you want to suck the margs down even faster. Pace yourselves, people. Second-place winner Efrain’s makes a fine margarita as well, and there are locations not just in Boulder, but in Longmont and Lafayette.

Happy Hour


1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335

Second Place: Boulder Café

Third Place: Centro Latin Kitchen

Fourth Place: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar

Fifth Place: Mountain Sun/Southern Sun

You work hard. Slaving away all day in an office might not be the most physically demanding task, but it has a certain way of making a person hungry — and thirsty for non-office-friendly beverages, if you catch our drift. So unless you’re one of those health nuts who heads to the gym right after clocking out, a happy hour is a logical place for you to go after work. The Med has the best happy hour in town according to you, dear reader, probably because only with the restaurant’ s extreme discounting can the average shlubb afford such delicacies as bacon-wrapped dates and speck-wrapped asparagus. The Med’s happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., but if you miss it, head over to Boulder Café, where the incredible happy hour happens every day from 3 p.m. to close. Bottoms up. You deserve it.

Coffee Roaster


5340 Arapahoe Ave., 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885

Second Place: Boxcar

Third Place: Unseen Bean

Fourth Place: Conscious Coffee

Fifth Place: Silver Canyon

Ozo Coffee Company’s team likes to roll up their sleeves and deliver finely crafted private roasts. Proprietary flavors abound at Ozo, and the variety and foundational flavors have dazzled and possibly befuddled, but nevertheless pleased and impressed. Hardly the organization to leave flavors well enough alone or go stale, count on more developments from Ozo’s lab to build on a smooth, well-roasted brew.

Juice/Smoothie Bar


3053 Arapahoe Ave., 303-247-1170

Second Place: Rush

Third Place: Glacier Homemade Ice Cream

Fourth Place: Maiberry

Fifth Place: Inta Juice

Jamba Juice, with four locations in Boulder, appears to have a hold on people’s hearts and on the smoothie market. Maybe it’s the power boosters that can be added to any smoothie, like the “whey protein boost” or the “weight burner boost.” Or maybe it’s the fact that you can get all your servings of fruit for the week by ordering the “Orange Strawberry Blueberry Raspberry.” Whatever the reason, Jamba Juice and its nice, cool drinks, incessantly cheery colors and army of workers ready to blend has taken the gold in the best smoothie category yet again. Runner-up to Jamba is Rush, whose smoothies and fruit and granola bowls have helped make University of Colorado students healthier since it opened on the Hill in the fall of 2004.



5340 Arapahoe Ave., 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885

Second Place: The Laughing Goat

Third Place: Vic’s

Fourth Place: The Cup

Fifth Place: Amante

Lattes, frothy little cups of espresso and milk, are perfect for those seeking the caffeine high from an espresso shot without the strong and sometimes bitter taste of coffee. In fact, the milk tends to hide the flavor of the coffee, especially if flavoring or sugar is added as well.

But honestly, the best part about lattes has got to be the art, which Ozo Coffee Co. does well. It’s hard not to smile while the barista delicately pours the steaming milk into your espresso, carefully moving the small pitcher to create a design of a heart, leaf or animal. You may think it’s strange, and you may wonder why you would want your latte to have the design of a heart, leaf or animal, but suck it up and enjoy it. This is what you get for ordering a latte instead of a plain cup of coffee or a shot of espresso.

Coffee House

OZO COFFEE CO. 5340 Arapahoe Ave., 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885

Second Place: Laughing Goat

Third Place: Vic’s

Fourth Place: The Cup

Fifth Place: Caffè Sole

Because a gourmet coffee is every bit as meaningful as a fine wine to those who prefer their elite beverages caffeinated rather than alcoholic, Ozo Coffee Co. hosts weekly tastings every Friday starting at 2 p.m. in the Pearl Street location. Ozo Coffee Co. is always busy developing flavors and experimenting with new exotic brews, and customers get a chance to sample one coffee brewed using three different methods.

Empirical evidence suggests that Ozo and its roasts have landed a firm spot as Boulder’s chosen coffee house for 2012.

With two locations serving discerning palates on the west and east ends of town, a commute is bound to pass an Ozo location and permit, if not a swish and swirl kind of tasting, at least a to-go cup of magical brew.



835 Walnut St., 303-442-3050

Second Place: Mountain Sun/ Southern Sun

Third Place: Conor O’Neill’s

Fourth Place: West End Tavern

Fifth Place: Dark Horse Bar and Grill

If anyone thought that the 2011 rebranding of Happy Noodle/Bitter Bar into a single speakeasy was a bad idea, they’re eating their words … and probably washing them down with one of the complex and original cocktails at Big Red F’s newest old sensation, The Bitter Bar. Once a hidden, late-night gem, The Bitter Bar is gaining in popularity without sacrificing the refined sensibilities (and unique cocktails like the Sprig & Berries with barrel-aged tequila and natural fruits or the classic Moscow Mule) that made it Boulder’s favorite bar. With happy hour from 5-7 p.m. and late night food until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, The Bitter Bar satisfies many a palate with items ranging from the highfalutin’ (duck pâté, anyone? Bueller?) to the down-home (pretzels, fries and brussel sprouts).



1770 13th St., 303-442-4993

Second Place: Pekoe Sip House

Third Place: Celestial Seasonings

Fourth Place: Ku Cha House of Tea

Fifth Place: Atlas Purveyors

Another no-brainer here. This is a Boulder jewel, one of those places you have to take Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Reginald when they come to town for a long weekend. And you may not be aware that, despite the amazingly carved, painted and decorated building, the real star here is the tea. At Dushanbe, they carry teas by artisans using the “orthodox” method of tea manufacturing, unlike the mechanized CTC (cut, tear, curl) method, which is reserved for mass-produced Lipton. In the orthodox method, tea is picked by hand, and the whole process is carefully overseen by an actual human being. What a concept. Oh, and they do a dang good job with their food, too. Celestial Seasonings and its famous “mint room” (if you haven’t done so already, take the tour) took third place this year, even though it’s not a house.


THE KITCHEN 1039 Pearl St., 303-544-5973

Second Place: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar

Third Place: Bacaro Venetian Taverna

Fourth Place: The Corner Bar

Fifth Place: Restaurant 4580

Yeah, yeah, we know that Boulder loves all things local, and so does The Kitchen.

Hence, the restaurant’s brand new “Grain to Glass Cocktails,” each of which features at least one locally sourced ingredient. Moreover, the restaurant makes all bitters in-house, candies its own ginger and handcrafts its classic honey-lavender syrup. Their rotating menus feature a number of food and drink staples, including grilled lacinato kale, hand-rolled gnocchi and a delightfully delectable lychee martini. For the Kitchen Upstairs, the restaurant’s bar, the lychee martini is a modernized classic. Made with Tito’s Vodka, a dash of simple syrup and pure lychee juice, the drink is refreshingly smooth. People are leery of the lychee, but we say fear not! The Asian fruit, a sort of raspberrypear crossbreed, is a bit meaty, a bit sweet and totally delicious.


1535 Pearl St., 303-546-0886 627 South Broadway, 303-543-0886

Second Place: Avery Brewing Company

Third Place: Oskar Blues Brewery
Fourth Place: Left Hand Brewing Company
Fifth Place: Boulder Beer Company

Living in the Napa Valley of microbrews, it’s not tough to find a place to drink great beer. It’s tough to pick any one place to fill your pint glass over another. But once again this year, readers have spoken (as if the persistent hour-long wait to get a table even on a Tuesday night didn’t tell you): The Suns win it. (Well, of course, voting is done right after Stout Month.) The field is a fiercely competitive one, and our runner-ups, Avery Brewing, Oskar Blues, Lefthand and Boulder Beer deserve a glass raised in their honor, too. But the Mountain Sun/Southern Sun duo’s balance of steady homebrews, which includes a glass-toppling array of stouts during Stout Month, the knock-your-helmet-off Java Porter, the fair and balanced Annapurna Amber and the hopped-to-the max Illusion Dweller I.P.A., keeps us coming back for more. Oh, and did we mention Stout Month? A whole month devoted to a rotating tap list of stouts brewed with everything from bonus hops to chai to chocolate and mint. Come February 2013, we’re moving in.



5340 Arapahoe Ave., #F, 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885

Second Place: Laughing Goat Coffeehouse

Third Place: Vic’s Espresso

Fourth Place: The Cup Espresso Cafe

Fifth Place: Trident Bookstore and Cafe/ Starbucks (tie)

Yes, you are reading that correctly. The line-up for best latte and best mocha are pretty much identical. Yes, there is a difference between lattes and mochas. A mocha has chocolate and usually tastes more like dessert than coffee. Oh, wait. The winners aren’t exactly the same. What is going on with fifth place? Seriously, what is going on? People of Boulder, every town with a population of more than 100 non-related people has a Starbucks within driving distance. In fact, most towns in America have multiple Starbucks. Boulder has about 10 Starbucks, all of which likely get their mocha mix from the same warehouse as every other Starbucks in the country. Boulder also has a ton of local coffee shops that roast their own coffee and have great-tasting mochas. Congratulations to Ozo Coffee Co. for having the best mocha in town, for roasting their own, being locally owned and making coffee by doing more than pressing a button.

Wine Selection


1738 Pearl St., 303-442-6966

Second Place: Flagstaff House

Third Place: Boulder Cork

Fourth Place: The Kitchen

Fifth Place: The Mediterranean Restaurant

For those of you who like to swirl, take a sniff and float away on the complex bouquet of a fine wine, Frasca is the place for you. Wine lovers will enjoy a large and eclectic selection of vintages, some familiar, others awaiting that first introduction. If you’re not quite sure exactly which of the more than 200 wines that comprise Frasca’s list would best accompany your meal selection, don’t despair. One of the restaurant’s sommeliers is always standing by to offer “unpretentious guidance” for just such occasions. Putting your evening and taste buds into the hands of one of these knowledgeable folks is a great way to enhance your wine-drinking experience at one of the finest restaurants in the state.