Speakin' Easy: Wake Wins Coin Flip, Wanders Underground

When we went over to the Front Porch in downtown Denver to see if our first names were written on the calendar (which means we would drink for free), we found they were running another special: A coin toss for the tab.

We ordered a couple whiskey sodas and my friend won the toss – our round was on the house – but the crowd was large and pushy due to the deal and we decided to quit while we were ahead, move on to somewhere we could hear each other talk.

It was my last night in Denver and I was fully aware of it, going through the typical emotions that always seem to come my way at the end of an adventure: Gratefulness for its occurrence,  frustration for its inevitable conclusion. Despite arriving in the Mile High City alone, I had made some great friends and felt more like a local than a visitor. I told them I wanted to go somewhere a bit underground, somewhere we could have both a theoretical and actual nightcap.

The Green Russell is a place you will not stumble upon – they pride themselves on maintaining that speakeasy vibe, that forbidden feeling. Their website does not even provide the address, but you can find the location here (it is not hard to find when you’re looking for it).

When you walk down the steps you enter a pie shop (seriously), which is designed like an old-school diner with an aluminum kitchen door, a checkered floor and red-padded stools.  The small window in the door will tempt you to tippy-toe and peek in, yet it isn’t until you pass through that the place reveals itself.

As you enter the decor explodes: Dim lighting with a long wooden bar, horseshoe booths, leather bar stools, stone walls. The whole place oozes 1920s – very much designed with conversation amongst groups of friends in mind. The place looks good, but the bartenders will steal your attention.

Manhattan cocktail.

Terrible decision makers rejoice: All you have to do at the Green Russell is tell the bartender your mood and choice of booze – the rest is up to him. From a Gin Fizz with egg whites to tequila and mint combos, this is the place to experiment and sip cocktails, relax. I told the bartender my situation – that it was my last night in town. I wanted something to remember the night by, and he made me a drink with gin, champagne and lemon. My friend was served a Manhattan with a deep cherry taste – this was no maraschino cherry flavoring.

He didn’t know it at the time, but my memory depended very little upon what was placed in the glass.  The drink was delicious, however it was all the other details that stole the show: The fun of walking through that kitchen door, the prohibition feel and the manner in which the drinks are constructed and served. It feels very classy and proper – definitely reinforcing that 1920s vibe – and watching the bartenders meticulously mix the drinks with the fresh ingredients is something I really enjoyed (make sure you sit at the bar for a bit if you can).

The Green Russell tends to get very busy during the dinner hours – be sure to get a reservation if you intend on eating or have a large party. Otherwise, throw on some khakis, tell the girls to dress up, and enjoy a couple cocktails and a change of pace. You’ll pay to play (drinks are in the teens), so sip slow, and plan on staying a while to take it all in.

Photos by Ryan Dearth of Dearth Photography unless otherwise noted.

Photo by Lori Midson.
Our bartender at the Green Russell (Photo by Ryan Dearth)
Our drinks at the Green Russell (Photo by Ryan Dearth)
Green Russell (Photo by Ryan Dearth)

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