Check Out Denver's Not Quite Dive Bar, Occidental

No sneers here

Brought to you by the brilliant folks who opened the super sophisticated Highlands speakeasy Williams & Graham, Occidental is supposed to be the edgy, punk, dingy dive bar next door. Despite the obvious difference in appearances, the drinks and food along with the service here are top quality, just like its older sibling. So if you feel like having good strong drink in an unpretentious atmosphere, enter Occidental.

The old building has a large storefront window that lets in plenty of daylight, even though the décor is mostly the original brick walls and long dark wood bar. When I visited, the backdoor to the outdoor deck was open providing even more light. This is not a dark, spooky place, but a lively and fun bar. During my visit I saw a retired couple looking for a good glass of wine, two women enjoying afternoon cocktails, and friends of the bar staff enjoying either a before shift or after shift happy hour drink. I get the impression this place is well known to the Highlands neighborhood, but maybe not as well known to the rest of the city.

The drink menu has both classic and house cocktails with a large amount of variety. Here you will find old school cocktails not seen on many bar menus like the Singapore Sling, Mai Tai, and Caipirinha. House cocktails are the bartenders’ putting their stamp on tradition with sips like the tequila forward El Jefe and the Scotch-based Lockdown. The Star Destroyer is a borderline run punch with a rum blend, triple sec, passionfruit, lemon, and orange juice.

The Rev is based on the traditional Whiskey Smash and made with bourbon, peach, lemon, honey, and mint. Bar Manager Jesse Bowen says this is the bar’s most popular cocktail because it features bourbon for classic cocktail lovers, but is also light and refreshing for anytime drinking. You can easily enjoy more than one.

The bar also features a variety of beers including 11 taps and the rest in bottles and cans. Beers cover the spectrum from domestic classics and national craft favorites to a few imports including Tecate (Mexico), Estrella Daura Damm (Spain), Heineken (Dutch) and Stiegl Radler (Austria).

The food menu is modest, but satisfying and the kitchen uses organic products, locally sourced whenever possible. Occidental also claims to have the best vegan burger in town. It’s called the Impossible Burger and the menu says “The burger that tastes like beef, but made from plants.” I’ll let you decide for yourself.  The Mediterranean Veg Wrap has olives, feta, hummus, tomato, cucumber, and lemon and diners can add chicken if they like. The Snacks menu features dishes like Deviled Eggs, Kimchi Tots, and Hummus and Veg. Even though you’re drinking in a dive bar, you can still eat healthy.

For those not indulging, the bar has a variety of cane sodas including ginger ale, black cherry and Williams & Graham’s Ginger Beer. There’s a little something for everyone in here.

Besides the food and drink, things to love about this bar are the back deck that gets plenty of late afternoon sun and the ‘cassette wall’ near the rear. Despite the punk vibe (including kung fu movies on the TVs) this place is lively, well lit, and has some of the friendliest, most attentive staff around.

Occidental opens at 4 pm daily and happy hour is from 4 to 6 PM Monday through Friday, 11 AM to 6 PM on Saturday and all day on Sunday.


Tags: Cocktails, Happy Hour
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