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Bar Talk: ‘New energy’ and Old Fashioneds

Limelight Hotel Aspen’s new partnership with Williams & Graham revamps the bar and lounge’s cocktail offerings to compliment the hotel’s top-to-bottom refresh

Rose Laudicina
Bar Talk
The Monarch Old Fashioned, made with Woody Creek bourbon, mountain chai syrup and Strongwater bitters, at the Limelight Lounge in Aspen on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

When the Limelight Hotel Aspen underwent a full remodel prior to the 2021-22 ski season, it wasn’t just the interior that received a makeover. The Limelight Lounge cocktail menu was also refreshed.

With the help of award-winning Denver-based speakeasy Williams & Graham, the libation offerings in the lounge got a complete shake-up: unique flavor combinations, creative twists on the classics, aesthetic-forward glassware and drink names that are a cheeky nod to Aspen culture.

“The elevated aesthetic and remodel to the bar itself presented an opportunity to look closely at the cocktail program and introduce this new partnership bringing clever libations,” a press release from the Limelight Aspen says.



The new cocktail menu is split into three sections: “Monarch St – Originals,” “Main St – Classics” and “Prospector Rd – Margaritas,” along with running list of all the spirits offered behind the bar (Woody Creek Distillers is the only local offering) for those wanting to create their own cocktail or make substitutions.

“Sean Kenyon, the founder of Williams & Graham and a third-generation bartender has a deep-seated passion for hospitality and brings the much-needed ingredients to help enhance the spirit of the Lounge while bringing new energy and excitement to the offerings,” said Henning Rahm, Regional Manager of Limelight Hotel Aspen and Snowmass, in the press release.




After a quick peruse of the cocktail list, it’s apparent that Kenyon and the Limelight have an affinity for bright flavors, either that or they were playing off the citrus in the hotel’s name, with only four out of the 13 drinks not involving some variation of lime or lemon.

One drink with tart citrus as its dominate flavor profile caught my eye right away: the Gonzo Sour. With only four ingredients – Ford’s gin, a jasmine green tea syrup, lemon and yuzu pearls served in coupe glass and garnished with a lime wheel – the Gonzo Sour seems simple on first glance but is more complex on first sip.

There is little to no sweetness in the drink, despite the jasmine green tea syrup. Instead, the syrup seems to cut into the sour and tart flavors making it softer and less mouth-puckering to sip, until you get a yuzu pearl.

The Gonzo Sour, left, and the High Lonesome at the Limelight Lounge in the Limelight Hotel Aspen on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The yuzu pearls add a playful element to an otherwise sophisticated drink. They camouflage into the fresh-squeeze, lemon-lime color of the cocktail, sort of floating around like little popping pearl jellyfish, and provide a burst of Lemonhead (yes, like the candy) sour flavor.

Just about the opposite of the Gonzo Sour in terms of flavor profile and one of the few drinks without lime or lemon on the menu is the Monarch Old Fashioned, also found under the “Monarch St – Originals” section.

It stays the course of a traditional old fashioned with bourbon, bitters, an orange twist and served in a rocks glass (aka an old fashioned glass), but from there it incorporates a highly non-traditional ingredient: mountain chai syrup.

The syrup adds sweetness and warmth to this signature Limelight cocktail, both cutting and complementing the bourbon and it plays well with the Strongwater Aromatic Golden Bitters, which also use chai tea spices such as cardamom and allspice. It’s a healthy pour, which is always appreciated, that is citrus and vanilla forward on the nose and smooth and flavorful on the tongue.

In my visit to the Limelight Lounge with a friend, we also tried the High Lonesome (altos blanco tequila, fresh lime juice, Aperol, blood orange juice and agave nectar) and the High Mountain Tiki (Montanya Oro Rum, passion fruit hibiscus syrup, falernum, fresh lime juice, pineapple angostura bitters).

The High Lonesome was what you’d get if an aperol spritz and a margarita had a baby, sure to please the Aspen après crowd who seems to favor both tequila and aperol. The High Mountain Tiki, my friend’s favorite, tasted like if you took a tropical sorbet, melted it down and added a sneaky amount of rum, although the falernum certainly makes its presence known.

The High Mountain Tiki cocktail at the Limelight Lounge in the Limelight Hotel Aspen on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Each cocktail is relatively affordable at $16 and you can tell great care was taken when creating the recipes to develop fun and flavorful cocktails that reflect Aspen’s culture and utilize intriguing ingredients for a unique and au courant dash in each drink befitting the lounge’s new space.


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