Denver’s newest crash pad, The Ramble, isn’t just another boutique hotel in another city. Sure, it hews from the current hipster hotel playbook: Set up shop in an emerging, artsy neighborhood (in this case, River North, or "RiNo"), with retro décor (think 17th-century France goes Wild West) and a quirky name (derived, apparently, from Madame Rambouillet, a salonnière of the same era whose gatherings were known as rowdy fun). But the Ramble will change the way you think about a weekend in Denver with its not-so-secret sauce: the anticipated arrival of Death and Company within, the same team behind New York’s award-hogging bar and craft cocktail pioneer. If you’re eating and drinking inside the Ramble—whether you’re sipping a morning espresso or nibbling late-night munchies—it’s all thanks to Death & Co. (The only restaurant that isn’t under their purview? A pan-Latin dim sum spot, Super Mega Bien, from local chef Dana Rodriguez.)
Anyone familiar with the original Death and Co. in Manhattan might wonder how its look and vibe—a jet-black, windowless box aimed squarely at East Village night owls—can translate into 24/7 operations inside a hotel. But according to bar partner David Kaplan, the key quality he wanted to bring to the hotel was “the earned informality of our service style.” Translation: exceptionally well-trained staff (Kaplan puts hires through four weeks of intensive training) who make everything seem effortless, whether making a martini or a macchiato.
The grand, 4,000-square-foot lobby will be home to two interconnected venues: DC/AM, a daytime café, and Death and Co., a 90-seat spot with an entirely new menu, including full dinner service, every evening. There’s no distinction between barkeep and barista, as everyone is cross-trained; the space was cannily configured to Kaplan’s specs. “There are beautiful paned metal and glass sliding doors on the café, which open up during the day, but then at night, we close those down and it turns into a support bar for the rest of the space that’s only accessible to the staff.” Translation: You won’t have to wait long for your next drink, even at peak times. By the end of next month, there will also be a 20-seat salon, 6A, available by reservation for an in-depth craft cocktail experience upstairs, plus The Garden, an al fresco space for small bites and day drinking.
Wyoming native Kaplan is particularly excited about Denver as the first branded outpost for his beloved bar beyond New York. “It ticks all the boxes for us in terms of the energy of the city—it’s exploding right now,” he says (and we’d agree). He raves about the huge rooftop bar at the new American Bonded nearby and Cooper Lounge at Union Station. “You’d never know it’s there, but it overlooks the entire space. Cocktails come out on silver trays, with a little ramekin of warm nuts.” At the Denver Death and Co., Kaplan has upgraded the craft beer on offer in response to local tastes. “The beer scene in Denver is crazy, so the team has visited every brewery under the sun, forging relationships and working closely with them,” Kaplan says; the list includes a pilsner from Fort Collins–based Zwei and an ale by Denver’s TRVE, which brews its beer in a heavy metal-inspired warehouse.
Of course, this project is also a major example of the booming trend in "Bed & Beverage," where hotels are either operated by bar owners, or the cocktail program at a hotel is its signature draw. Experimental Group, the Paris-based company that helped introduce the contemporary cocktail scene to France, owns hotels in Paris and London. The Freehand poshtel chain earned accolades from a temporary pop-up bar at its original Miami site—so much so, that it made the Broken Shaker permanent and included similar spots in sister hostels in Chicago and New York. Kaplan and his team have even partnered with Hilton to design the cocktail program and train staffers at every one of the new sites for its lifestyle brand, Canopy. It’s a trend that the Ramble’s owner, local real estate developer Ryan Diggins, was happy to embrace via his partnership with Death and Co. “A very good cocktail bar is a theatrical experience you can truly get lost in," says Diggins. "Bartenders see the experience through that lens: The curtains are drawn, and we’re putting on a show. Hotels needs that production element, too.”
Certainly, the Ramble wants it guests to remain center stage. Death and Co. will also oversee the in-room minibars, but there won’t be pre-mixed or bottled cocktails to drink alone in your suite. It’s the nightlife equivalent of asking everyone to put their phones down. “We want everyone to come down and experience what we do, and have that social engagement,” says Kaplan. And a few martinis, obviously.
The Ramble hotel soft opens May 1; Death and Co’s bars will officially open May 4.