Back in March, after EDB sent Christy to the Boulder’s Best Mixology Contest, she came back with such an enticing report from the Boulder drink scene that I’ve been hoping for another chance to review cocktails for this publication. So when we were invited last month to join Local Table Tours‘ excursion through three downtown drinking holes, I jumped at the assignment, ignoring the clamor of our other writers who would have gladly cleared their schedules for it. Sorry guys. Editors get thirsty too.
I’ll get to the drinks in a second, but I want to say straight off that what’s great about Local Table Tours is the personal touch you get from founder Megan Bucholz and her guides. She’s only a seven-year Boulder resident, but is one of the first Colorado food bloggers and plays with lots of the local restaurant industry pros — front of house, back office and in the trenches — who keep this Boulder food movement humming along. Whether you are an out-of-towner looking for a time-efficient sampler or a local looking for a good time, Megan’s spirited and unpretentious guidance ensures that you will enjoy yourself, even in the highly unlikely event that the drinks, food, or company are somehow sub-par (which, given the state of Boulder’s bar and restaurant scene, is inconceivable).
On our tour, we started at the new Beehive Restaurant downtown on tenth. As an old regular at Saxy’s (the space’s former resident), I had to get over the new, sleeker digs, but once situated at the comfortable bar, we were warmly welcomed by our approachable bartender Philip and Manager Shannon. Philip’s concoction combined Matusalem Rum with Sombra Mezcal (a creation of Boulder-based wine impresario Richard Betts). With honey juice and muddled mint with lemon, it was powerfully refreshing. An afternoon espresso might be your ticket if you are looking to power through another another couple hours of work, but if your evening leanings are pulling you to people watch or party, you should give one of these critters a try. It will put you in a great mood for slumming, socializing or stumbling.
At least it did us. Checking her watch and smiling, Megan moved us along to our second stop, around the corner at Salt, where Bar Manager Ryan Arndt creates signature cocktails from locally-foraged herbs and unique spirits. For us, barman Conor made us a version of their signature Peach Fuzz (our crew called it a “Hemingway”) with bourbon from Loveland-based Dancing Pines Distillery, peach puree, lemon juice, agave, and ginger liqueur. After this little shot of love, our tour group was smiling and chatting with abandon, Megan was high-fiving Conor, and for the first time I forgave Salt for replacing legendary Tom’s Tavern — the last bastion of cheap, dirty eats on west Pearl — with a place that is tasteful, fun, unpretentious, and metallurgically sound.
At this point in our tour, Megan could have shepherded us to the parking lot of Liquor Mart and passed around a pint of Jim Beam, and we would have called her a genius, but the best was yet to come. Allan wrote earlier about our fine stop at Oak at Fourteenth, so I won’t overgild that lily, but I will say honestly that Bryan Dayton’s George Dickel Whisky-based drink was my favorite, and not least because Bryan was so effectively able to take us to the distillery’s home of Tullahoma, Tennessee in our imagination. As our tour wound down, we continued chatting happily with our tourmates about their travels and tastes, and with the Bryan and Megan about their lives and professions.
And this was a big takeaway for me from our tour: that something akin to vinicultural terroir was operating with spirits as well, and you can find it in many of our top new bar spots. Whether it was the Betts Mezcal, the Dancing Pines Bourbon, or the Dickel Whisky, when a drink’s connections to people and place are clear and present, then the joy of the spirit becomes manifest.
This is what makes Local Table Tours such a winning experience, that it brings strangers together and in a very short time gives them a personal connection to each other and to accomplished local artisans. Megan deserves a lot of credit for coming up with the idea and giving it life. You can register for the next Cocktail Tour on November 15th and here’s some info on other Boulder Tours (also see below).
I’m saying, next time 3:30 comes around, and you don’t feel like a coffee, a beer or a chocolate…. you should give it a go. You’ll enjoy it.
Here’s Megan’s Press Release about the Cocktail Tours in full……..
Local Table Tours, a top-rated Denver and Boulder culinary walking tour operator, offers dining, coffee and pastry, farm-to-table, cheese and farmer’s market dining tours, all in the company of expert local guides. Now, just in time for the upcoming holiday season, Local Table Tours has announced holiday cocktail tours; tours will take place in November and December, in both Boulder and Denver.
Typically 1.5 hours in length, cocktail walking tours offer participants an in-depth look at some of the cities’ top-rated bars. Denver tour stops include Euclid Hall, Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge, Row 14, Green Russell, TAG and TAG RAW BAR. Boulder stops include West End Tavern, Salt, Oak at Fourteenth and The Kitchen. These tours are private cocktail classes; at each stop participants will have an opportunity to taste professional creations, as well as speak one-on-one with the area’s premier mixologists, and learn how to make their favorite holiday drinks. Holiday cocktail tours are offered throughout the season in Boulder on Thursdays at 3:30 p.m., and in Denver on Saturdays at 4 p.m., and cost $40 per person.