Bar Talk: Spirit forward at Catch Steak Aspen
Walk in to Catch Steak Aspen, and you’ll instantly feel the vibe the restaurant is going for: a lighter, brighter take on a steakhouse.
Have a drink at Catch Steak Aspen, and you’ll immediately recognize their inventive and spirit-forward take on classic cocktails and prepare to order another round.
The cocktail menu is split into two distinct sections: the Kindred Spirits list, which are the core, Catch Steak house cocktails, many of which are riffs on classic cocktails, such as a martini, negroni, etc.; and then the Reserve Cocktails list, which “are truly just classic cocktails, but we use nicer spirits in those for a more premium offering for our clientele who really just like to drink nice spirits,” explained Catch Steak Aspen Beverage Director Lucas Robinson.
If you’re the type to stick to what you know and love but want to enjoy it in elevated (both taste and price) fashion, the reserve section is for you. However, we like to try the new and unexpected here at Bar Talk, so we’re diving into the first part of the menu to find our kindred spirit in drink form, starting with the Passion Project.
“What I noticed, which I wasn’t super surprised about, is Aspen is quite a heavy tequila drinking town,” Robinson said. “So our No. 1 (selling) drink, which is actually my second-favorite on the list, is called the Passion Project.”
Combining Casamigos Reposado and a yuzu passionfruit house-made Orgeat, served on the rocks and topped with fresh-grated nutmeg and a lime wheel, this drink perfectly balances the sweetness of the passionfruit with the light floral notes of the yuzu and the nuttiness of the Orgeat and the fresh nutmeg. The drink is velvety in texture and light, despite its appearance as a heavier creamy drink.
What really makes this drink special is the homemade Orgeat, or almond syrup, Robinson said.
“Making it homemade is a whole other game,” with the Catch Steak Aspen team going through 20 to 30 pounds of almonds per week to make the Orgeat.
In fact, housemade is the name of the game for the cocktail program at Catch Steak and is something that helps take the drinks from simply flavorful to memorable.
“For every single one of our cocktails besides the ones that are completely spirits, everything is housemade, which I know is very tiresome and very costly for us, … but we’re charging $19 for a cocktail, and I don’t think it’d be fair to give anybody something less than something that’s absolutely perfect for that amount of money,” Robinson said.
One of those all-spirit beverages that Robinson recommends is the Up In Smoke, a blend of Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse, Carpano Dry Vermouth and mole bitters. Once poured into a glass, the drink is then put in a lantern and finished with applewood smoke, so when it’s presented, the customer has to reach into the smokey lantern to retrieve the drink.
“This is kind of our showy, Instagrammable, interactive cocktail,” said Drew Reid, the assistant general manager of Catch Steak Aspen.
All the ingredients, with the exception of the mole bitters, are batched together so the flavors have time to meld and smooth out, and it is stored in the freezer, so it comes out ice cold, but with the added warmth of the smoke.
“It’s all booze, but the combination of everything in there with the mole bitters and the Yellow Chartreuse, it just comes together into this almost tropical drink somehow. I don’t really know how to explain it,” Robinson said. “And then you just get this big waft of smoke in your nose, too. It’s kind of like a sensory overload in a drink.”
The Up In Smoke is one that Reid says he recommends to whiskey lovers, those who are looking for a Manhattan or Old Fashioned alternative.
As for Robinson’s favorite cocktail and one he says “needs to be ordered more, because everyone that orders it loves it,” it’s the Cold Brew Negroni.
This take on a Negroni definitely falls into the spirit-forward category of drinks, and for a more simple, elegant cocktail, it hits it out of the park with flavor.
It’s made with Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, Campari and Green Chartreuse, and is then aged in oak barrels. From there, a liquor of your choice is added, although it’s traditionally served with Bombay Sapphire Gin, another popular choice is mezcal or reposado tequila, and it’s served over one giant ice cube branded with the Catch Steak logo and garnished with a twisted orange rind.
“It’s all booze, and it’s got the Chartreuse in there, so it’s definitely not for the faint of heart when it comes to drinking,” Robinson said.
The Catch Steak cocktail program is a celebration of spirits, housemade extras and a tasty marriage of new and old flavors. From the carefully curated glass selection to the simple cocktail accouterments, the drinks are redefining timeless classics and making them exciting and new again.
“Our big motto for the company is great food, great service, great vibe,” Robinson said.
I’d petition that they add great drinks to that motto.