While contemplating the focus for this week’s Bar Talk, I ended up at Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop in downtown Aspen for dinner, where inspiration struck.
It struck in the form of a purple cocktail that seems made for the transition of the seasons.
The Dusty Berries, found on the curated, six-drink Meat & Cheese cocktail menu, is made with Peach Street Distillers bourbon, Mata vermouth blanco, lemon, blackberry syrup, thyme and bitters.
It would seem that I’m on a berries in cocktails kick, as last week’s drink featured blueberries.
It’s served in a rocks glass with a fragrant sprig of thyme and is a pretty berry purple color, like what you might imagine a grape Popsicle would look like in cocktail form — perfect for the October season.
Much like a blackberry, it’s a burst of a lot of flavor at first, and then it mellows out, leaving you with no residual aftertaste.
My first sip or two, I likened it to an herbaceous or medicinal Jolly Rancher, as the drink is very tart and juicy, thanks to the lemon, blackberry syrup and the vermouth. But, the addition of thyme and the botanicals from the vermouth help smooth the tartness and add another layer of flavor and feel to the drink.
The Dusty Berries is a clever take on a whiskey or bourbon smash, but, if you dislike the texture of fruit muddled in your glass, you’ll appreciate this since the blueberry syrup gives the cocktail the strong flavor and color of the fruit plus the sweetness of a simple syrup without the mushy or seedy texture.
It seems that earlier in the season, at least according to older Meat & Cheese menus posted online, the cocktail was made with a rye, but now it is being made with bourbon, specifically Peach Street Distillery bourbon.
Of course, I don’t know what the drink would taste like when made with rye, but, when made with Peach Street bourbon, which has as mellow spice, it has no after bite, or, as my dinner companion said, “It’s smooth as hell.”
Located in Palisade, just two hours from downtown Aspen, Peach Street Distillers is a Western Slope distillery that makes a little bit of everything; it is the sister company to Durango’s Ska Brewing.
Peach Street makes bourbon, whiskey, gin, vodka and d’agave, which is essentially tequila; but, since it is not distilled in Jalisco, it has to be called something different. The distillery also plays with Palisade-grown fruits to make brandy, grappa, eau de vie and amaro.
I was first introduced to Peach Street Distillery at a distillers’ dinner hosted at Carbondale Beer Works, pre-pandemic. Beerworks is bringing back their distillers dinners this winter, and I’ll definitely be writing about that experience in a future Bar Talk column.
The pairing dinner was a great introduction that got me excited about the distillery and wanting to make the journey to Palisade to see where the goods were made and try some other offerings.
It wasn’t until October 2020 that I finally made it to Peach Street, and it was well worth the journey.
I ended up in Palisade after a jaunt to Grand Junction, more specifically Studt’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze, a classic and sprawling pumpkin patch with corn mazes and lots of other fall-themed activities.
On the way back to Aspen, I stopped off in Palisade for a quick peak at Peach Street and a drink and late lunch at the restaurant attached to the distillery.
This October getaway is perhaps why, when I see a liquor from the distillery on the menu, my mind instantly turns to fall feelings.
The Dusty Berries cocktail from Meat & Cheese perfectly fits the fall vibes as a good transitional cocktail, appropriate for enjoying on a warm fall day or sipping on a chilly fall evening.
What: Dusty Berries cocktail; get it while it lasts because the menu changes seasonally
Where: Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop
More info: meatcheese.avalancheaspen.com