Shift Drinks: Beers and Shots at Highland Tavern with The Block Distilling Co.’s Jessica Elliot

I have never ever fulfilled Jessica Elliot, but we have fulfilled all the identical people, since we are, oddly more than enough, the same man or woman. We’re two Midwesterners staring down the barrel of age forty. We each moved to the substantial plains desert as little ones to chase women of all ages, bail on the careers we wished in university, and then return to the town when we have been reminded of why we still left our hometowns.

In our very first text concept, she asks if I know “Weed Chad” and I deliver back a photo of me officiating his wedding. Now we’re sitting down down for a beer and a shot at Highland Tavern, at 3400 Navajo Street, for the reason that a stranger from Instagram commented on a write-up following Westword posted the very first Shift Drinks previously this month.

“I practically lived at the conclude of the block listed here in one particular of the houses that is been torn down,” Elliot states with a trace of a Chicago accent, gesturing north toward 38th Avenue. “I compensated 350 bucks a month.” I nod. My own apartment and the adjacent karate studio ended up gutted to make Williams & Graham, I notify her — a two-bedroom for $300. “It was remarkable, and now they get nine moments that for a a single-bed room apartment,” Elliot laments.

She’s ingesting a Coors large with a shot of Fernet Branca, and I get started with a PBR and an Espolón just before switching to White Claw. A pair of white individuals who have been gentrified out of a community they loved by richer white people today. Someplace, a real Northsider will get their wings.

This was at the commence of her next stint in Denver. The first chapter was receiving her culinary degree at the now-closed Johnson & Wales, an encounter she describes as alternately great and a squander of time. “I could have performed it just staging, placing my time in,” Elliot suggests with a recognizing sigh. Afterward, she moved back to Schaumburg, Illinois, and found her like of dive bars at the Straightforward Street Pub. “We would go to Cubs games, consider the coach again, go to Effortless Road, get fucked up, drink Previous Design and style,” she says. “It was this old building that was saved by [being] a historical landmark constructing, so they could not tear it down.” Regrettably, the carpeted institution, which had “smell” stated in a third of its Yelp reviews, was another COVID casualty.

click to enlarge Jessica Elliot wants to find a wife, perhaps over a game of foosball. - JAKE BROWNE

Jessica Elliot wishes to find a wife, maybe around a activity of foosball.

Jake Browne

In 2011, Elliot returned to Denver and nabbed a cheap apartment with a mate from college whose spouse and children owned quite a few properties on the block, as properly as the Zitro CityView Tavern. I’ve only ever been there to obtain cigarettes, but if you are hunting for a legitimate dive, it is the kind of joint wherever there are crockpots of meals on Broncos video game times and in which males go to not make a whole lot of eye call. Back then, the “safe” area for services-sector people and neighborhood hipsters was the Highland Tavern.

The structure by itself has been there for 120 many years, but the Tavern has been numerous different issues to a lot of different folks more than the years. It became notable immediately after an April 2013 look on Diners, Travel-Ins, and Dives for, amongst other items, its homemade tots. My halcyon days there had been in my twenties in advance of the kitchen was even designed, when we’d engage in nude photograph hunt at the bar, try not to get caught performing cocaine as we clown-car’d out of a one bathroom stall, and make confident none of our crew ran afoul of the Hells Angels, whose business office was close by, when we’d inevitably black out.

Unnecessary to say, factors have adjusted since Dude Fieri showed up. Elliot and I trade stories about the “cocaine era” of the bar. “It ended about the similar time as my son confirmed up,” jokes the bartender, who overhears us. “Parenting is my new interest. The amount of money of sleepless nights stays about the exact same.”

“A bunch of us worked for a area caterer, and we’d all pile in right here immediately after a shift,” suggests Elliot. At a spot like Highland Tavern, you make friends with the employees immediately, and she grew especially near with then-bartender Leslie Sorum. “When she informed me she was moving away, I preferred to cry,” Elliot remembers.

Sorum and her roommate, also a Jess, would go to Phish demonstrates, appear property trashed, and Elliot would mess with them. “I’d be like, ‘What are you fellas carrying out?’ and they’d have no clue what the fuck they were stating to me,” she recalls. Complete disclosure: I as soon as offered to battle Sorum’s dad on a notably debauched evening. She by no means forgave me, but I continue to believe the entire world of her.

I have also a lot record in this article for us to have a discussion, some thing I apologize to Elliot for as we’re interrupted for the fourth or fifth time. She’s gracious about it in a incredibly Corn Belt way that helps make me sense at home. “That’s the factor below. That is what it is,” she suggests. “You’re going to bump into nineteen folks from 3 distinct eras of your daily life, and it is the best component.”

Her 3rd era is no matter what we’re contacting this collective “living with COVID-19 for the reason that we simply cannot conquer it” time period, where by she’s fought to keep on being in the service sector by having a posture with the Block Distilling Co., a spirits brand she’d formerly introduced into Old Important. “I went in just one working day and purchased a bottle of vodka, and a person of the homeowners, Michelle, was like, ‘Oh, my God, how are you doing?’” Elliot remembers. She was no for a longer period at Old Significant proprietor Justin Brunson marketed the restaurant in June 2020 (it really is now the Fifth String). Elliot relayed that it was challenging, but that she was, befitting her spirit, hanging in there. Two weeks later on, the Block followed up and supplied her a position at its site in RiNo, at 2990 Larimer Avenue.

“Every time I get a new career at a bar or a restaurant, I’m like, ‘This is the last time. I’m gonna get out,’” Elliot states with a laugh. “And then you consider about it, and you are like, ‘No. I cannot fucking do it. I need to have to be kissing somebody’s ass or producing new mates or juicing cucumbers. It’s just what I’m fantastic at, I guess.’” She is, for the record, really superior at it, with the eighteen Yelp opinions that point out her all having five stars (and zero point out of any “smells”).

simply click to enlarge Does orange juice make the beer look fancier? Maybe. - JAKE BROWNE

Does orange juice make the beer glance fancier? Maybe.

Jake Browne

She’s also stepped into a income part, serving as an evangelist for the Block’s numerous choices at bars across the town. “In the past, I did all the things I could quite possibly do as far as beverage,” she notes of the new problem. Now the director of beverage, the self-described lesbian dork is lively in a number of facets of the distillery. “We were conversing about Pleasure and how we do not need to do nearly anything specific since we’re below for most people at all periods,” says Elliot. “We’re not heading to run some shit to make certain all people will come here and spends all their money.”

We’re on our fourth round, and I’m bitching about rainbow capitalism and straight white ladies packing X Bar when Elliot tries to supply me some standpoint. “Pride is going into RiNo,” she claims. “It’s at X Bar, but it’s also at Exdo. Now they’re opening it up to each and every evening, all working day, not just three bars.” She encourages men and women to guidance enterprises that are welcoming 12 months-round, not just throwing up a flag to make revenue — but items are much better than they’ve been. Now, Elliot’s much more worried with discovering a wife.

“I just want her to be the most fantastic, feminine lady that is cute and lovable and fantastic, and I’ll take treatment of her on the other finish,” she says, practically in a daydream. “If she wants me to deal with a tire or adjust a fucking screw on anything? I have obtained it.” I have to admit that if I were speaking to a fellow straight white male, this would be the most problematic and horniest end to an interview I’ve at any time had — like when she jokes about possessing a lesbian night time at the bar so she can “pick and pick.” There is these types of a intimate earnestness to it, although, where you can notify Elliot legitimately wishes an individual to enjoy.

“Let me just take you to a lake and show you your reflection, woman,” she theoretically gives with a sincerity that is equally the sweetest and corniest thing I’ve ever heard an grownup say. It is the genuine vulnerability and humanity that bleeds by means of all the things she does. We may well have achieved a ten years in the past here, slipping down drunk or searching nude shots for quarters, but I really don’t imagine we’d acknowledge who we are now. Cheers to that.

Chaser: Q&A with Jessica Elliot

What helps make a excellent dive bar?

What’s on your jukebox?
A bunch of shit my ex-girlfriend built me participate in mainly because it makes me unfortunate. The Lilac playlist on Spotify.

What is the very best bar activity?


What’s the finest bar snack?

Greatest matter to have on a bar Television?
I like when they play the Ridiculousness-type bullshit in which folks are obtaining fucked up and slipping on stuff.

Very best effectively shot?
Any tequila, I never care what it is.

Ideal domestic beer?
I’m a Midwestern girl, so Miller Lite all working day.

Favourite consume to make?
I like shaking everything with an egg white, so a whiskey sour.

Preferred consuming town that’s not Denver or Chicago?
Portland, Oregon. It is lovely, and I love the rain.

Excellent brunch or late-evening menu?

Late evening, all working day.

Most overrated cocktail craze?
The espresso martini — but if you are at the Block, it’s so good!

What is the very best shot?
The Winnebago

Why do you bartend?
For the reason that I like to flirt with women.

Know a regional bartender who would be up for throwing back again a handful of with Jake Browne for Shift Drinks? E-mail [email protected]