American Bonded, a new bar project in RiNo, is sure to be at the top of everyone’s hit list this spring.

Bringing the whiskey-centric bar to fruition has been years in the making. Owned by dream team Sean Kenyon (who is behind Williams & Graham and Occidental), Lisa Vedovelli and Justin Anthony (Matchbox and the Field House), American Bonded sticks to affordable classic cocktails rather than fancy drinks with strange ingredients.

The bar is helmed by Kevin Burke (formerly of Saint Ellie and Colt & Gray) as general manager, who together with Kenyon created the program and menu. Along with American classics like the Old Fashioned, Julep, and Boilermaker, American Bonded will feature comfort food by the team of J Street Food Truck — think mac n’ cheese, fried chicken, and cheeseburgers.

We dug up some tidbits you probably didn’t know about Denver’s hottest new bar.

Kevin Burke started his career as a professional ballet dancer.

Burke studied dance at Rocky Mountain School of Dance in his hometown of Casper, Wyo., before attending the Ailey/Fordham University BFA program in New York City. After college, he accepted a contract with David Taylor Dance Theatre in Denver. He danced while working as the bar manager at Saint Ellie and Colt & Gray, and only retired from dancing professionally two years ago. ”It’s a young man’s game, and I didn’t want to have to have a hip replacement at 43,” he said.

Sean Kenyon’s wife, Bijou Angeli, created all the cocktail-themed artwork at American Bonded.

Kenyon and Angeli met on Myspace 13 years ago, and haven’t been apart since. Angeli was a skater in the pro Roller Derby circuit for 11 years and took charge of the bar’s art and styling along with Anthony’s wife, Karlin. There are 120 copper julep strainers hanging at different heights along the west stairwell, while the east stairwell features a wall sculpture made up of 46 strings roping together five barrel hoops. Each stairwell leads to the rooftop lounge. The main visual attraction is a piece of wall art that is made up of 546 individually painted double-sided bar jiggers. The collection spells out the words “Liquid Sunshine,” in reference to playwright George Bernard Shaw’s quote: “Whiskey is liquid sunshine.”

The talent search to fill American Bonded’s staff positions was nationwide.

Anthony, Kenyon and Kevin Burke looked far beyond Colorado when staffing American Bonded. According to Burke, what they were looking for beyond the ability to make a tasty beverage (and do it consistently) is kindness. Candidates who made them feel engaged, made them laugh, and were interested in the daily experience behind the bar were considered. “You can train someone to make drinks, but you can’t teach them to be caring,” says Burke. Staffers came from as far away as Boston and Cincinnati.

Sean Kenyon’s body is covered in tattoos.

Kenyon has a full bodysuit of tattoos comprised of over 60 pieces of inked art that flow together. His left side is in an old American style with a water-based theme, while his right side is all Japanese style and fire-themed. His favorite, though, is the heart on his left forearm with a banner that says “MOM.” “My mom is the portrait of a strong woman. She’s the person who taught me to be a man,” says Kenyon. “I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by strong women throughout my life.”

Kenyon is part of The Wandering Spirits, a group of bartenders that takes an annual cross-country motorcycle ride for charity.
Founded by bartender Dylan Regan of Jimmy’s in Aspen, The Wandering Spirits is a group of about a dozen bartenders who take an annual ride cross-country, and end up in New Orleans at famed cocktail competition Tales of the Cocktail. Kenyon won Bartender of The Year at The Spirited Awards competition (the Oscars of the bartending world) there in 2014, cementing his place as a cornerstone in the bartending community. Along the way during the ride, the bartenders do pop-ups with their network of bars, then donate the money made at those events to charity. In 2017, they raised some $6,000 for No Kid Hungry.

American Bonded, 2706 Larimer St., 303-942-1201; open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., and noon to 2 a.m. Sat. and Sun.; americanbonded.com