Liquid porn: Sean Kenyon showcases his new Squeaky Bean cocktails
Sean Kenyon isn't the kind of guy to shy away from the spotlight -- or the liquor cabinet. The Denver-based cocktail kingpin (or bartender, as he prefers) has been slinging drinks for 26 years, and he's incredibly good at it, racking up contest titles and accolades around the world, sitting on the board of the Colorado Bartenders Guild, acting as the brand ambassador for different spirits, opening Williams & Graham, a speakeasy in Highland where he shares ownership, writing an occasional bartending column for Westword, and elevating Denver's drinking scene to new heights.
But when Johnny Ballen and chef Max MacKissock gave Kenyon the opportunity to create the cocktail list at the new Squeaky Bean, which re-sprouted two weeks ago at 1500 Wnkoop Street, Kenyon "freaked."
"I've been doing this for years, I own my own bar and I was working at the old Squeaky Bean, but this cocktail project freaked me out a little bit because Max is just so crazy-talented, but it's also a really cool challenge, and I couldn't miss the opportunity to be a part of such an insanely talented team," he says.
And MacKissock, asserts Kenyon, "has become a monster in the kitchen." Not that he wasn't already -- MacKissock was doing some of the most ingenious food in the city at the former Bean -- but in the year between closing the old Bean and reopening the new one, "Max's creativity has just skyrocketed," says Kenyon.
And it was up to him, he admits, to design a cocktail roster that would do justice to MacKissock's fearlessness in the kitchen.
"I'm a classicist," says Kenyon, "but I look for unique touches, and I love experimenting with new approaches and techniques, just like Max." He adds that when he created the cocktail syllabus at the Bean, he was half "Willy Wonka and half Mr. Potato head -- that's how my mind works," he tells me.
His list, which is divided into 1970s and '80s movie headings -- The Longest Yard (tall drinks); Rocky III (all drinks served on block ice); Up the Academy (drinks that are served up); and Weird Science (crazy-fun experiments) -- is compact and focused but ambitious, especially his smoked cocktails, which fall under the Weird Science heading, a catalog of cocktails that, like the rest of his roster, will change at least four times a year.