It’s winter in Boulder. This means we get to run off to our favorite activity (skiing) every weekend, but that leaves our second-favorite (happy hour cocktails on a patio) stranded for a few months.
But don’t think that just because it’s cold out, you can’t go find a good happy hour in Boulder; you just have to go inside some of our favorite spots to find great deals and great times. And Travel Boulder is here to help with a guide to the best spots for a cocktail after work in the colder months.
You might not think of seafood restaurants as a winter destination, but Wild Standard is here to change that. Of course, if you’re a year-round seafood enthusiast, it’s well-known that the restaurant has some of the best oysters in town. But more importantly, it’s got a Winter Warmer cocktail on the happy hour menu that can really fight off the chill. A good hot cocktail is a rare find even at most ski resorts, so when you’re braving icy roads to see friends, you can’t beat it.
The Kitchen Upstairs
Aside from being one of the cozier places to sit in town (we’ll cover a couple others later on the list), Upstairs—as it’s usually referred to—never fails to impress with its cocktail program. For the colder months, it features a delicious concoction called a Cherry Cobbler, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. From an always-reliable bourbon base to a spicy cherry lead note, it’s a slice of warming pie after a long day in the snow.
Thanks to Arcana’s luxurious and inventive bar menu, it often gets overlooked as a happy hour spot, but to be honest, that’s just wrong. Right now, it is featuring a perfect winter drink, too: the Sacred Toddy. Made up of brandy, orange cordial, and bitters, it’s specially designed to warm you right up. Brandy isn’t as common a sight on menus these days as it should be, and Arcana is changing that.
License No. 1
While it may not officially be a winter-specific cocktail, a classic Manhattan is wonderful this time of year. Like a martini that warms you up on the way down, it’s one of the few drinks that has never really gone out of style, and for good reason. Combine that with License No. 1’s delicious brandied cherries—worth getting an extra—and toasty, secluded atmosphere, and you’ve found a great mix for heating up after the chill.
Brasserie Ten Ten
Locals have long known Brasserie Ten Ten to be a great happy hour location—not to mention one of the most beloved brunches in Boulder—but it gets bonus points in the winter for a few reasons. First, it has more than one great drink to offer.
For the purist, it has the wildly underrated Monkey Shoulder Scotch as one of its basic offerings, and if Scotch doesn’t warm you up, nothing will.
Aside from the Scotch, Brasserie Ten Ten has a surprisingly light option for the non-whiskey drinkers out there: the Kir Royale. The crisp, tasty combination of champagne and Chambord can turn an after-work meetup into a New Year’s Day brunch and is not to be overlooked.
Second, in addition to the beverage selections, the snacks at this restaurant are perfect for colder days. Yes, this is a beverage-focused list, but let’s not pretend the snacks aren’t a key part, too.
In all honesty, any happy hour is a good one, but these bars and restaurants deserve special recognition for doing winter right. Boulder never likes moving indoors, no matter what time of year, but with the right drink in hand, it doesn’t seem so bad after all.