The Hidden Idol Empress mocktail containing Lyre’s non-alcoholic dark rum, elderflower syrup and Avec Grapefruit Pomelo, seen at Awake on Thursday, May 6. (Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver Post)
Back in 2019, Christy and Billy Wynne of Denver were in France’s wine country where they had escaped to live for a year with their two children. It was in that unlikely place that they decided to stop drinking alcohol.
At first, when they had moved, there was “a constant stream of visitors, and the rosé was flowing,” Christy said. Once the visitations died down and the season changed, though, the couple took a hard look at themselves and their marriage, and they came to similar realizations.
“I was in midlife, feeling like I was going off the rails a little bit, and I knew in the back of my mind that alcohol was the problem,” Christy said.
“I had to be honest with myself about my relationship to alcohol,” said Billy, who owns a consulting business. “There was just no mistaking the fact that it was creating a filter between me and my life.”
Fast-forward to 2021, and the Wynnes are back in Denver, where they are opening a bar together — sober.
Awake is the first of its kind in Denver, bringing a non-alcoholic beer, wine and cocktail destination to a city that prides itself on drinking local booze and living an active, healthy lifestyle altogether.
“It’s really about keeping the sophistication (of bar culture) there,” Christy said of their goal for Awake. “Being able to participate in that (drinking) ritual in a sophisticated way is really important, so, you know, you’re not the person at the kids table.”
Awake is a bright but date-worthy space, with plenty of outdoor seating, a wall of windows that open to the patio, and a pretty bar area for selecting and then sipping on drinks made from around 40 non-alcoholic beverages (and counting).
The Wynnes sell commonly known brands like Seedlip distilled non-alcoholic spirits and Gruvi’s 0% beers and wines. But they also have an entire case of internationally sourced non-alcoholic spirits, beers and wines to discover.
Some of their favorites are the citrus-forward and CBD-infused Aplós; Ghia French-made aperitif; herbaceous and sea-salted Pentire from the Cornwall coast; and Monday Gin, which drinks like a London dry. Giesen’s alcohol-removed white wine from New Zealand smells and tastes just like her favorite Sauvignon Blanc, Christy said.
When they first returned from France and were looking for alternatives to alcohol in the U.S., there were very few options, the Wynnes agreed. But two years later, the couple can be selective in their choices as they stock Awake’s growing bar and bottle shop.
“The competition’s good, because it forces everybody to have the best products,” Christy said.
“It feels like a palpable trend,” Billy added.
Last year, Honey Elixir Bar, which serves just as many non-alcoholic as boozy beverages, opened in the heart of the RiNo arts district. And Longmont’s Bootstrap Brewing recently started making a non-alcoholic IPA in addition to its regular beer lineup.
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While Awake is the first of Denver’s n/a bars to open, it’s likely not the last. But the Wynnes are on a mission that’s larger than just riding the latest drinking — or not — trend.
For her part, Christy has transitioned from a career as a certified physician assistant to sobriety and general coaching for women. And Awake is one outlet to further that work.
“This epidemic of drinking has really impacted women,” Christy said. “(The alcohol industry) made women believe that we need (alcohol) to mother, that we need it to cope, we need it at birthday parties, for any socializing, everything.”
So she educates drinkers, and especially women, about the role that alcohol plays in everything from liver disease to hormone imbalances and cancers, she said: “As a society, it’s going to be hard to ignore at some point.”
But at Awake, the vibe is more upbeat, more inclusive and with a focus on giving back. So if you’re not sober, sober-curious or abstaining for a night, here’s another reason to visit: The bar donates 20% of its profits to a different charity every month.
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