Football helmets line the top of the bar; beneath, three screens play different sports channels. Nine taps sit below the largest screen, with bottles of spirits on either side organized by size and color, creating a clean, ordered backdrop for stacks of glasses, wine, and other cups.
At the entrance of Thunder and Buttons II, upbeat pop music invites patrons into the wood-detailed building, which presents a variety of booths and tables spread out in a spacious yet cozy pattern. The walls and décor include neutral neon signs and brewery-sponsored tin signs, as well as curiously exposed brick on the back wall. This is not a bar that strives for uniqueness in presentation. Instead of feeling sterile or boring, Thunder and Buttons II feels clean and organized in a welcoming way. Its neutrality and familiarity makes it different from many of the other “themed” bars in Colorado Springs that get too caught up in gimmicks.
The connective tissue of this establishment, at least the night I visited, was the bartender bouncing between conversations at the bar. Her openness with patrons brought energy and emotion to the otherwise deserted late-night streets of Old Colorado City. Even though I visited after the normal dining hours — Thunder and Buttons II also has an extensive pub-food menu during the day — I could tell service was something that came naturally here. Too often, there is inauthenticity in the food-service industry due to the important role that tips play in paychecks and general cost-of-living stressors. At Thunder and Buttons II, that aura was non-existent. Instead, the point of the night was the conversation and drink, not the bill, which itself was reasonably priced.
Beyond the inviting atmosphere, the late-night drink menu is balanced. It features specialty drinks, staff favorites, shots, martinis, whiskeys, and mules. Monday through Saturday, Thunder and Buttons II holds happy hour from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., all-day happy hour on Sunday, and, on Mondays and Tuesdays, a special late-night happy hour from 9 p.m. to midnight. Each day there is a special, ranging from $3 shots to $5 pitchers, and beers for $2.50.
On the back of the menu, sets of mules are available to order — many more than the common Moscow Mule. Here, you choose a spirit, and the bartender adds ginger beer and lime. The London Mule, for example, is made with Beefeater Gin. It’s served in a cute tin mug with a slice of lime on the rim. While I’ve had gin-based mules before and knew what to expect, I was impressed with the balance of spirit and mixer. Oftentimes, it is either much too strong or not strong enough, but I’d say that their mules are well-balanced and worth a try if you like citrusy carbonated concoctions.
Created with Absolut Citron, Blue Curaçao, sweet and sour mix, and lemonade, this Electric Lemonade is one quite refreshing offer on the “Specialty Drinks” menu. Electric describes not only the taste but the luminous blue color of this cocktail. The vodka and blue curaçao blend perfectly with the lemonade, allowing a tinge of coconut flavor to come through as well. It is smooth, silky, and easily drinkable, as each sip leaves behind a tingling citrus sensation that leaves one wanting more.
The OCC Sunrise was another citrusy drink but had a much more filling quality. Consisting of rum, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice, and grenadine, this drink looks beautiful. It is layered with orange and red belts; a nice blend in the middle creates a warm sunrise gradient. The rum is completely obscured by the other flavors, so the drink mostly tastes like peaches and oranges, with a tingling pineapple in the aftertaste. I was unsure how all of these strong flavors would mix, but the drink felt like it had some substance, some refreshing quality that I’d equate to a screwdriver or a mimosa. For that reason, I would say this is a drink for earlier in the day — there is a reason it isn’t called a sunset.