SNOWMASS VILLAGE - When dining out, it's not unusual to choose a combination of dishes and separate them by course: appetizer first, then salad, then entree and dessert. But is it unusual to do the same with your cocktails? According to bartender Ben Seebeck over at the Artisan restaurant, where the extensive, small-batch and infused cocktail list has become quite the complement to chef Randall Baldwin's handcrafted plates, it's the only way to get the most out of your dining experience.
Moving away from the new-age style cocktails, where liquors are paired with artificial mixers and sweeteners, Ben is following the route of many in the area by returning to the "Prohibition-esque" way of craft mixology, where the priority is the taste of the liquor itself as opposed to the "drowning out" way of sugared blenders. The result: traditional taste with modern flair, satisfying the palates of every patron who steps through the door.
To provide a taste of this improved craft of mixing, shaking and serving, Ben whipped me up the latest addition to the winter cocktail menu, the "Peachstreet Crusta."
Snowmass Sun: Can you tell me a little bit about this drink and how it got its name?
Ben Seebeck: The Peachstreet Crusta is a play on a traditional brandy crusta, where I substituted Peach Street's peach-infused brandy from the distillery in Palisade, Colo., as the main base for the drink. It is then shaken with Cointreau Luxardo (a maraschino-flavored liqueur), fresh squeezed lemon juice and peach bitters. It is served up in a martini glass with a sugared rim and lemon twist.
SS: You mentioned the idea of putting a spin on Prohibition cocktails, using all fresh juices and craft and premium liquors. Is this theme persistent in all your specialty drinks?
BS: We have changed up our drink list extensively from the summer, getting rid of the sweeter, lighter drinks and focusing more on heavier cocktails with flavored liqueurs with only a fruit backbone to balance the high alcohol content in the drinks. Most of our cocktails were created under this theme but were not created to pair with menu items. Our new cocktails are meant to be sipped, and will last longer as they have complex flavors and are stronger than most bar offerings here in Snowmass.
SS: So at what point in the meal should the Peachstreet Crusta be enjoyed? Can you recommend a dish to pair with it?
BS: I would say it's meant to be enjoyed before the main course, most likely with an appetizer. The natural sweetness of the brandy would pair very well with the richness of our new menu item, pork cheek mac n' cheese, and also with our housemade gnocchi.
SS: Between the menu and the cocktails, how would you describe the style of the Artisan? Has much changed since the arrival of chef Baldwin?
BS: Aside from the addition of new menu items, and in turn new cocktails, the style of the Artisan remains the same. The Artisan offers a unique experience for guests - we are one of the last restaurants in town that still has the "old Snowmass" vibe, as we always try to cater to locals and love our repeat business. We also offer our full menu at the bar and always have a very nice, relaxed vibe for dinner service.
SS: As a local or guest who wants to stop in and try some of these new cocktails and maybe get a bite to eat, when's the best time to come by?
BS: Probably during happy hour, from 3 to 5:30. We offer 50 percent off all our glass pours on wine and 50 percent off all our craft draft beer and well cocktails. This is a great time to come enjoy some very nice products, especially after just coming off the mountain.