In an almost laughable case of bad timing, we opened three new food and beverage businesses in the months leading up to the March 2020 COVID shut down. They’d all been years in the concepting, planning and building so who could have known, clearly not us! Our jewel, the vibrantly designed cocktail bar Room for Milly (on which we have lavished an exorbitant amount of money building out) literally had its grand opening less than 3 weeks before the shutdown. Like I said, almost laughable if we hadn’t been freaking out and crying in our cocktails in our closed bar.
By the fall of 2020 we had been in survival mode for most of the year, having, along with every other bar, café and restaurant around the world, pivoted, flexed, re-evaluated and tried every remotely helpful idea. We really needed a fun, creative and positive project.
Happy Hour Handbook
The idea of the Happy Hour Handbook came loosely from some of the individual restaurant books being published and sold to help raise supporting funds to keep them alive during the year of COVID shutdowns and restrictions. I started thinking about a book that would be a “best of the best” compilation of recipes from a selection of cocktail bars in Denver. It seemed that would be more compelling and could benefit a wider group of businesses by distributing all the book sale profits. I floated the idea to my business partner Jeffrey Knott, food editor at 5280 Denise Mickelson and writer and food critic Scott Mowbray who all thought it was a good idea.
Together we built an incredible team to handle every different aspect of the book, including writers, recipe testers and editors, photography, social media, copy editors, PR and a team to work on book design, branding, and a website. They all contributed their time and expertise to help our beloved industry. In one insane month we invited bars and restaurants to participate, vetted and selected recipes, tested, edited and photographed the appetizer and cocktail recipes, branded, designed the book, found a printer, set up an ordering website… all at breathtaking speed so that we could do a big push for holiday/year-end sales and get the money into the hands of the participating bars and restaurants.
It had been such a brutal year and we wanted to provide a little joy, celebration, and hopefully some funds, to the incredible entrepreneurs in the independent bar and restaurant space. Our goal was to sell enough books to raise 1,000 dollars for each contributing venue. We have been blown away by the response and have already sold over 1,700 books, with the independent bookstore Tattered Cover now carrying it and Denver Public Library even purchased 3 copies!
I’m really proud of the book and so thankful for the dedicated selflessness of the entire team who worked on it. The Happy Hour Handbook is a gorgeous compendium containing recipes from both local and world class ranked bars and bartenders and a love letter to Denver’s craft cocktail industry.