Koan Goedman could do without the emergency milk texts. He could also do without some days opening like a barista and closing like a bartender, but time slows down for no one, and neither does Denver’s thirst for coffee and cocktails.
Goedman has been co-owner of Huckleberry Roasters since 2010, and in 2015 became co-owner of the cocktail bar Bar Fausto. Like the relationship between coffee and cocktails, his shops are about collaboration: friends creatively combining what is already loved.
“For one, these cultures or parts of the service industry are so close already,” says Goedman. “It’s a growing city, but most everyone knows one another—lots of familiar faces in this industry. On a more functional level, we (coffee people) wake them up in the morning, and they (cocktail people) settle us down in the evening. It’s a pretty symbiotic relationship and it only makes sense there is crossover, mixing, and collaboration!”
“Secondly, Denver, Colorado, is a drinker’s city. In a mostly healthy way, Denver has a strong drinking culture where lots of our social activities involve meeting at cafes, breweries, or bars and going from there. Furthermore, thanks largely to the micro-brew scene here, it’s a drinking culture that is familiar with and appreciates the small, the different, the unique that specialty coffee and craft cocktail bars love.”
It is still unclear why exactly a coffee and cocktails merger has taken off in Denver. Standing out in a playing field of less creative coffee shops and roasters might be a taller task than it was. It may have to do with the city appreciating coffee beers, whiskey cold brew, and other middle-ground beverages already. It might simply be that, now more than ever, the coffee and cocktails in Denver are good.
“Mostly though, I think coffee is just a much more interesting ingredient to use now,” says Goedman. “Rather than just adding chocolaty and nutty flavors, and a heavy body component to a drink, there’s now much more subtlety, nuance, and complexity that coffee can bring to a cocktail. It took some time for bar culture to recognize that, but once they did, I think they’ve been huge proponents of specialty coffee’s passions: the flavor potential different coffees and different brews can have.”
Goedman’s bar may serve as a nice measurement of where coffee cocktails are now, and where they might be going. The rotating specialty cocktail menu acts not only as a guide for customers but also as a catalog of all offerings: any past or present cocktail can be ordered at any time, including the first coffee cocktail, the #14.
“It featured a bit of Huckleberry Roasters iced coffee, alongside Ramazzotti, Fernet Branca Menta, simple syrup, and an egg white,” says Goedman. “It is a beautiful cocktail; delicious, sweet, and balanced without being overly decadent.”
A noteworthy characteristic of Goedman’s involvement is devotion to hospitality and customer service. At Huckleberry, he can be found sipping on a cortado and visiting with a regular, and at Fausto he might walk over with a glass of water and thank a customer visiting for the first time.
“My own life has made me a huge believer in the ‘coffee shop experience,’ and the power of the interactions that happen in cafes,” says Goedman. “Both of the companies I’m fortunate to be a part of are rooted in coffee. I met Mark Mann, co-founder of Huckleberry Roasters, in a coffee shop. He was a customer, and I was a barista and we talked about The Shins and Sigur Ros.
“I met Jonathan Power, owner of Bar Fausto, when he came on board as a chef at another coffee shop I worked at called Crema Coffeehouse. We became friends, our families became friends, he officiated my wedding, and then some years later we had an opportunity to open something together.”
Goedman’s days are filled to the brim. He is the rare person that is heavily involved in serving drinks at all hours of the day, but his place isn’t necessarily always behind the bar.
“My roles at the two businesses are vastly different,” says Goedman. “But the main challenge has been just the logistical hurdle of there only being so many hours in the day. Huckleberry Roasters usually gets going around 7 a.m. and begins to wind down around 5 p.m., which is right when Bar Fausto begins its evening. I also strive to be a good family man and have zero interest in missing family time, so I try to be around for breakfast, dinner, and bedtime as much as I possibly can.”
The coffee culture in Denver is changing, and cocktails look more like a permanent feature than a pit stop. If passing through Denver, do stop in to grab a drink from Goedman—whatever time of day or night it may be.
Ben Wiese is a freelance journalist based in Denver. This is Ben Wiese’s first feature for Sprudge.com.
Photos by Macy McArthur.