Jocasta Hanson, owner of Honey Elixir Bar, shakes edible glitter over a Unicorn Heart Song — coconut mylk, vanilla butterfly pea flower and pearl powder, with flower and crystal essences. (Josie Sexton, The Denver Post)
Sure, there are the sober-curious trends, the Dryuary resolutions, the “new year new you” mantras and many, many other marketing ploys at the start of every January.
But for one new Denver bar owner, the reason to include healthful, non-alcoholic, maybe even healing beverages so prominently on her menu goes much deeper.
In 2017, longtime bartender and restaurant industry worker Jocasta Hanson was applying to graduate schools to study clinical therapy while at the same time helping her best friend, Boulder chef Matt Lackey, open his first restaurant.
That spring, while the friends were on a weekend camping trip, Lackey died in a climbing accident.
Nearly three years later, and after connecting with Lackey’s business investor, Hanson has been given a rare opportunity. She’s continuing “this beautiful community building and healing we did after Matt died” by opening Honey Elixir Bar.
Just down the block from where Lackey had planned to open CANDR, a chicken and rosé spot in the River North Art District, Hanson has combined her own passions of hospitality and counseling in an alleyway bar oozing with jewel tones and draped in velvety fabrics.
“I want somewhere where everyone can come and have a drink and it’s not stigmatized,” she said. “If someone wants alcohol, low alcohol, or no alcohol, there’s no stigma between any of that.”
RELATED: “Sober curious” trend hits Colorado, with zero-proof cocktail menus and plans for a new “dry bar”
What could pass as the next hip RiNo bar (see leafy plants and saturated social media colors) is actually, upon closer inspection, seeped in intangibles like astrology — make sure to ask to see the “Birthday Book” — and “healing” crystals.
“It is a little cutting edge, and it’s a little fringe … and to be in an arts district, I feel like that’s where we belong,” Hanson said of playing with crystal and flower essences while pushing an idea of “conscious consumption.”
Take the Unicorn Heart Song, for example. It’s a drinking “potion,” and, yes, it could just be a warming coconut and vanilla-floral sipper. Or it could be a glittery and opalescent post for your Instagram followers.
RELATED: What to drink when you’re not drinking: 12 zero-proof cocktails at Colorado bars and restaurants
Third option: The butterfly pea flower and pearl powder mixed inside could support dopamine production in your brain and create a youthful glow inside your skin cells, should you believe in these trending ingredients.
At this bar, you choose your own adventure.
As Hanson describes the “energetic or vibrational qualities” and “metaphysical properties” in Honey’s elixirs, she pauses and starts to laugh.
“Man, how do you even talk about this stuff? It’s so out there, and it is, it is,” she says.
But once Honey gets its footing amid the more mainstream RiNo bars and breweries, Hanson hopes to start hosting support groups, writing workshops and meetups of various kinds.
For now, you can taste Honey’s naturally derived beverages, like cacao (a coffee alternative, $3.50-$12) and jun (a relative of kombucha, $10). More potions like that Unicorn, made of vegan milks, herbs, fruits, vegetables and flower essences, are available for $9-$11.
There are also teas, spirits and even cocktails served alongside a small food menu that starts with overnight oats ($8) and ends with local honey and cheese boards ($12-$21).
“Never have I felt so aligned with why I’m here,” Hanson said of opening the business. “Yes, it’s a bar, but more importantly, it’s a space where people can come to be safe and heard and supported.”
2636 Walnut St., Denver, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, closed Tuesday, 10 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, 720-328-5992, honeyelixirbar.com
Other bars where non-alcoholic isn’t an afterthought
If you’re in the mood for a drink but don’t want to consume alcohol, there’s a growing crop of Denver-area bars where you’ll find more than soda water with a lime thrown on top.
The star restaurant at The Source Market Hall offers four refreshing booze-free beverages to go with your first-rate meal — Northwest Visions, Tea Time, Rehydrator and a house ginger beer. 3350 Brighton Blvd., Denver, denveracorn.com
This national brand has local outposts on East and West Colfax Avenue. Like other kava purveyors, it specializes in drink preparations made with the root of the kava plant. At Kavasutra, it’s sourced from Vanuatu, in the South Pacific. Results are said to be similar to alcohol, in terms of relaxation, but without some of the negative side effects. 1232 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, and 9797 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, kavasutra.com
The Root Kava Co.
Boulder’s specialty kava and kratom bar prepares these island plant extracts in a variety of drinks. Traditional kava preparation here comes in a stainless steel shell, served with a pineapple slice or heavy cream, to cut the bitterness. Kratom is brewed like a tea, and said to have energizing effects. At The Root, see also tonics, teas and health shots available. 1641 28th St., Boulder, therootkavabar.com
Shine Restaurant & Potion Bar
Similar to Honey Elixir Bar, Shine in Boulder creates “energetically charged” herbal tonics featuring juices and herbs, flower and gemstone essences and even sound frequencies; see “OM,” “belly laughter” and “wind in the trees” vibes ascribed to various drinks. Bonus: You can add B12 or CBD to your potions for additional effects. 2480 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, shineboulder.com
Carbon Cafe & Bar
Carbon is first and foremost a coffee shop and bar but the business is the type of place where you can sit any time of day relaxing with a beverage, non-alcoholic or otherwise. It has also been at the forefront of CBD service in Denver. You’ll find a whole lineup of CBD-infused cold brew, lemonade, kombucha and water here, plus bitters and tinctures. 1553 Platte St. and 2200 California St., Denver, carbondenver.com
For a selection of juices, nut milks, smoothies, broths and creative coffee drinks, Boulder’s Wonder bar is an excellent all-day option. Even the coffee bar creates atypical options like reishi cacao, butter mate and golden lattes. 946 Pearl St., Boulder, wonderpress.co
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