Drink a Death-Themed Cocktail in a Former Mortuary - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Drink a Death-Themed Cocktail in a Former Mortuary

Drink a Death-Themed Cocktail in a Former Mortuary

By Allison Yates


Because face it: You want to try the Corpse Reviver.

By Allison Yates

What first strikes you about Linger is the neon-lit sign, which emits an eerie glow not unlike a lone motel on a deserted highway. The rooftop bar is dark. But make your way to the grandiose archway and elegant curved staircase at the edge of the main dining room below and you’ll sense a darker feeling reminiscent of American Horror Story season two. 

You might spot some guests, lit by retro hanging lamps, in rows of tables under the steel beams and near industrial garage doors and ventilators. And then you might see something weirder — formaldehyde bottle water pitchers — a hint at the bar’s macabre past life.

The basement — which connects to the stairwell through the vent — was the embalming area and essentially, a giant freezer of bodies.

Because this Denver bar was once something decidedly more creepy: a mortuary that housed thousands — perhaps as many as 45,000 — of bodies from 1908-1999. In 2011, it was transformed into Linger Eatuary. “Little vignettes in and of themselves” like these all factored into opening Linger, explains owner executive chef Justin Cucci. “Ultimately, I was trying to create an experience as much as a restaurant.”

He did. The basement — which connects to the stairwell through the vent — was the embalming area and essentially, a giant freezer of bodies. Now, it happens to be a knife shop but will soon be part of another restaurant. The main dining room? Used to be the hearse garage.

Today, the closest you’ll get to frolicking with the dead is sipping the Corpse Reviver, a swirling black mixture of gin, ginger liqueur, Lillet Blanc, lemon, absinthe and activated charcoal. The other cocktails on offer — favorites include the New Saigon and 5 Spice Old Fashioned — are more designed to complement the “global street food” menu, which fuses favorites with unlikely twists, like the Reuben bao buns or homemade peanut butter candy bar with strawberry jam. But the Corpse Reviver “is the thing that says Linger to me,” says Ky Belk, bar manager.

The decor is inspired by director Hal Ashby’s 1971 comedy Harold and Maude, the story of a death-obsessed teen who falls in love with a joyful 79-year-old woman. Linger’s main dining room is “cold and very Harold,” says Cucci, while the bar is purposefully Maude-like, with whimsical colors and wallpaper.

So can guests expect to have some kind of paranormal experience? One day, general manager Shannon Jones says she was walking down the stairs and suddenly got a “superweird feeling.” Then, “the whole stairway got really, really cold,” she tells me. She nearly “lost her mind” when she went closer to the grate and saw the image of a person inside. Terrified, she had to leave the building. The more energy-sensitive might simply consider taking the elevator instead. Staff members also say they’ve witnessed plates and silverware flying off tables, lights switching on and off and the hot water tap unexplainably running in the bathrooms and fogging up mirrors. One employee says he felt a cool hand slither over his hand as he prepared silverware bundles. And no, he wasn’t just hallucinating from all that THC wafting around Denver.

Still, Cucci wants guests to remember to not take death so seriously. “Obviously it’s [death], a terrible thing, but we’re all going there,” he says. We shouldn’t “get hung up on it as this icky, weird thing.”

Words to live by. So drink up! 

Go There: Linger

  • Address: 2030 W. 30th Ave. Denver, Colorado 80211
  • Hours: Mondays – Thursdays, Sundays 5:30 p.m – 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Prices: Drinks range from $7-$14. Happy Hour happens Monday-Friday 4 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Pro tip: Try the Sweet and Sour Crickets, a glorious mixture of rice and tofu — complete with black ants. Then grab a drink on the rooftop, where drinks are served from a vintage RV.

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