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The hottest cocktail bar in teetotaling Salt Lake City

Published: 01/01/2016
By Hana R. Alberts, New York Post — A top-shelf cocktail bar in Utah — a state full of stern alcohol restrictions? It would appear to be a contradiction in terms.

True, it was initially hard for Copper Common, a new bar in Salt Lake City that serves a full menu of homey-yet-chic American food, to open its doors — because it took two full years for its owners to procure a liquor license.

In a city where the average January temperature is 30 degrees and the main draw for visitors is skiing, the eatery’s winning combination of stellar drinks, delicious bites and hip, cozy decor form a welcome trio of warming opportunities.

The chef: Copper Common’s reputation proceeded its March 2014 opening. Six-year-old sister restaurant Copper Onion is about 50 feet away, and husband-and-wife owners Ryan and Colleen Lowder (Ryan is the chef; Colleen the manager) saw the need for a bar that also served good eats made with fresh ingredients and sourced from area farms and ranches. Bread, pasta and ice cream are all made in-house.

The food: This isn’t your typical bar fare. Copper Common’s full kitchen churns out hearty grub for windswept skiers. Bacon-wrapped dates, tater tots with garlic aioli, roasted beet salad with feta and pumpkin seeds, avocado toast, pork belly steamed buns … and yes, we’re in Utah, not Brooklyn.

The state mineral also recently lent its name to a third restaurant in the consortium, Copper Kitchen, which opened late last year south of downtown. All three restaurants plate up a signature burger with caramelized onions.

The drinks: The cocktail list changes about four times per year, according to manager Clint Hollingsworth, so you never know what you’re going to get. Current offerings are anything but conservative: they include a “Juan Claude Van Damme” with mezcal and alpine herbal liqueur, and a “Copper Bulleit” of bourbon, rhubarb tea liqueur and orange cream bitters; meanwhile, “The Valentino” — tequila with grapefruit and jalapeño, with a name that pokes fun at local legislator John Valentine and his notoriously conservative stance on liquor laws — is one long-standing favorite.

The skip: While Copper Common has a selection of local beers, and a nice wine list to boot, the cocktails hog center stage. Go get a $5 Salt Lake City-brewed Cutthroat Pale Ale somewhere else.

The service: They do things right out West. It’s warm, friendly and efficient.

The look: Not coincidentally, Copper Common is dotted with metallic touches, like exposed pipes, as well as woodsy accents and atmospherically dim lighting that make the barstools and booths a pleasant place to hunker down après-ski. Or before skiing … or instead of it. No judgment.

Details: Cocktails from $9, snacks from $4. No reservations.

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