In the corner of a parking lot, string lights beam against a shadowed neighborhood backdrop. When I get closer, an open patio and garage-style doors appear, and music seeps through the walls. It’s straight out of a dream, perhaps one of a small town in the mountains with a magic bartender.
STIR sits just north of the Colorado College campus, a café that screams intimacy with several two-person and four-person tables tucked against the walls. Mounted bookcases filled with miscellaneous novels cling to the walls. A vine wraps around a beam for decoration. There is a DIY feel to it all. In short, STIR is the perfect place to hide from a thunderstorm.
In addition to the friendly and safe atmosphere, there are designated non-smoking and smoking patios, stools set around the classic wrap-around bar, a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and to some of the best service I’ve ever received. STIR has something for everyone. I didn’t get a chance to try their coffee, but the place is perfumed with it, along with savory foods.
Besides coffee and cocktails, the specialties of STIR include house-made pies, quiches, and seasonally inspired small plates and soups made with locally sourced food. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, there is a happy hour for Colorado beers, wines, and well drinks. While the prices are pretty good, spending a bit more and trying something new is worth it here because of the real winning trait of STIR: the bartender, Fernando.
After looking over the menu for some time, I went to Fernando for recommendations, in which he is an expert. Rather than suggest popular items like most bartenders do, he asked for my spirit of choice, other cocktails I’ve enjoyed, and suggested something I’d never heard of that wasn’t even on the menu. He was well-versed in the flavors of all cocktails and took liberties to change classic recipes based on preferences, which was all accompanied by a playful and kind personality that let me choose songs to play when last call was being made and the other customers had left.
There is a huge selection of beers and wines at STIR as well as cocktails, but for any lover of literature, the cocktails will be what draw you here. Each cocktail on the menu is a play on a book title. Some examples include “The Lion, The Witch, and the Vodka,” “Pride and Paloma,” and “The Great Gimlet.” Besides having intriguing ingredients, the cocktails are simply fun and enjoyable, much like the other aspects of STIR’s atmosphere.
I had my eye on their drink “A Wrinkle in Thyme,” which is a floral gin-based cocktail, but Fernando recommended a somewhat common cocktail I hadn’t tried before — “The Stewart.” It’s a variation of a gin gimlet where orange bitters and other ingredients are added. Gin gimlets are usually boozy drinks, and “The Stewart” has a history of being far too bitter, so Fernando changed it up a bit and it came out perfectly. It’s a smooth drink, well-balanced between sweet and dry, and the orange flavors and peel for topping add a nice fruitiness to it. It isn’t too complex despite the extra ingredients, and for a palette still searching for the flavors in cocktails to like, it was something new yet familiar to enjoy.
“The Life of Rye”:
This is STIR’s take on the classic Manhattan, made with rye whiskey, house-sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier, and bitters. I haven’t had a Manhattan in a while, and this was a wonderful reintroduction to the cocktail. It’s like a sweetened whiskey; most of the flavors are a bit smoky and oaky, and the sweetness comes through in the aftertaste. This drink is perfect for sipping slowly and enjoying the fairly contained strength of the rye whiskey. When you finish the drink, there is even a little cherry at the bottom: a booze-soaked treat to let you reminisce in this classic drink.