A ‘Drunken Inspiration’ found at Aspen’s Meat & Cheese
On a blustery, wintry February afternoon there isn’t a better place to belly up than the warmth of the back bar at Meat & Cheese.
There is something about the atmosphere in that place that compels me to day drink.
If you have read my prose on drinking before, you’ll recall that I like to peruse the cocktail menu and compare notes as I go down the line of offerings.
“We have a small, incredible cocktail program,” said bartender Dan Kiely. “We always try to have something interesting and unique.”
With that, I will start with my favorite, which is timely since we are just coming off national margarita day. But really, margarita day is every day. Who are we kidding?
It turns out that every day is margarita day at Meat & Cheese, too. The jalapeno margarita is a year-round cocktail on the menu.
It has just the right spice and tinge to it, with a jalapeno floater and a chili salt rim.
But the star of this drink is the pineapple, which is freshly squeezed in house. The tequila is infused with the pineapple and lime juice, also squeezed in house.
Served in a martini glass with a bit of triple sec and a little sugar, and it’s the nectar.
Next on the menu worthy of day drinking is the “Little Blue Vespa,” which will send you home sideways if you are not careful.
It’s a play and build off of James Bond’s famous Vesper Martini, combining gin and vodka.
But there is a much more creative twist to Kiely’s creation of pickled blueberry-infused vodka, gin, blueberry juice, Leopold cranberry liquor and blueberry powder.
All that fruit is deceiving, however.
“We try to warn people that it’s not a sweet drink like a patio pounder,” Kiely said. “It’s definitely a martini.”
One of the bigger hits this winter, according to Meat & Cheese owner Wendy Mitchell, has been the “Drunken Inspiration,” which she described as the “yummiest toddy ever.”
It’s made with Diplomatico rum, ginger birch syrup, wild mountain sage bitters, and garnished with a thin lemon wheel and served hot.
It’s the brainchild of bartender Rick Wrench, who happened upon some birch syrup in Alaska, brought it back to Aspen and blended it with fresh-pressed ginger juice in the restaurant, giving it a medicinal quality and flavor.
“It’s a great après drink,” Wrench said, adding that Kiely named it the Drunken Inspiration because of the buzz he had when they concocted it together. “Dan looked at me and said, ‘So this is how you get inspired?’”
I’m just glad to know I’m not alone in falling victim to the pull of day drinking at Meat & Cheese.
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While the rest of the festival’s performance program was announced in the spring, the opening concert by the Festival Orchestra had remained blank.