J-Bar: A local’s retreat
In terms of the places to be and things to accomplish in Aspen to be considered a local, someone needs to make a list. Otherwise, I’ll never know where I stand.
It’s been a little over a year since I moved here, and I had yet to go into the Hotel Jerome, or more specifically the J-Bar, which seems like an important spot on the nonexistent list. Turns out, I was missing a lovely and friendly experience.
The space itself, all woods and memorabilia, provided a comforting ambience. I took a seat at the last open seat at the corner of the bar, hoping to be my usual fly on the wall. However, it was quickly established this wasn’t a place where one could simply fade into the background.
Led by the Sunday night tag-team bartending duo of Ben and Ryan, J-Bar quickly presented itself as a center of conversation in town. The two moved between customers, shaking hands with any returning faces, sharing conversation like old friends and making sure everyone knew they were welcome, me included despite my newcomer status.
As part of my usual attempt to understand an establishment, I asked about any emblematic drinks or stand-out cocktails that might be available. Ryan quickly eschewed the spotlight, asserting the focus of their menu wasn’t to be ostentatious or require 20 minutes to prepare each drink, but instead stick to quality libations that were easy to understand but a cut above the rest.
This led him to prepare a new-fashioned old fashioned, a twist on the perpetually served cocktail. Considering this has become my adopted mission, that of trying a variety of old fashioneds in order to expand my Wisconsin drink mindset, I was excited to add another to the repertoire.
The drink was one of my favorites I’ve had in town, having all the requisite flavors but lacking the burn usually found in the mostly-alcohol family of cocktails. Along with Woody Creek Distillers spirits, the old fashioned had a large peel of orange which provided a lovely citrus smell, and a single, almost candied cherry that brought me back to childhood memories where I stole the fruit from my father’s cocktails at Friday fish fry.
Without prior knowledge or expectations, the pleasant atmosphere showed itself as one of the friendliest rooms in town along with some of the best drinks I’d had, all within 45 minutes. The rules for being a local in Aspen might not be spelled out, but spending time at J-Bar will certainly make you feel like the in-crowd, with quality cocktails to boot.
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