Bar Talk: The 7908 Experience
A creative Aspen bar team redefines the cocktail
Espresso martinis on nitro tap, a cocktail inspired by the ‘90s classic movie “The Pagemaster” served hidden within the pages of a book, a margarita that is crystal clear like a glass of water.
These drinks (which in reality are more like whole experiences) and many more are being served up nightly by the creative bar team at 7908 Aspen.
Some of their cocktail creations are reminiscent of what Willy Wonka might have dreamt up if he created alcoholic drinks in his factory instead of candy.
“My goal really since day 1 has been to have that connection with the guests, to give them that moment and to transport them somewhere else. These cocktails are designed with references back to our childhood. So the whole idea is to transport you to your childhood because cocktails are supposed to be fun,” 7908’s spirits director Matt Corbin said.
The 7908 Aspen winter cocktail menu is broken down into six categories: Potent Potables, cocktails on draft; Rhythm of the Islands, drinks inspired by Corbin’s time bartending in Hawaii; History of The World: Part II, libations that pay homage to bars around the world; Weird Science, the “instagrammable” drinks; Great Gatsby, fancy and pricey; and Some Like it Hot, which as the name implies are hot drinks.
The menu gets slightly revamped throughout the season with new drinks debuting, others saying adieu and then gets another seasonal refresh for the summer.
“I do get sentimental for my cocktails,” Corbin said, “but you know, sometimes I’ll just wake up one morning and be like, ‘Alright, it’s time (to change things up). I’m sick of that cocktail, I want it off the menu and I want something new and fun.’”
One of the new this season and definitely “fun” cocktails on the 7908 menu, under Weird Science, is the Popcorn Chronicles.
The drink is made with brown butter-washed Redemption Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Licor 43, lemon, pineapple and almond and served in a classic movie popcorn box topped with popcorn that has been sprinkled with rainbow-dyed coconut flakes.
“That’s one we’re pretty proud of.” Corbin said of the Popcorn Chronicles.
Inspired by a rum cocktail he had in Portugal that involved a small bit of popcorn, Corbin brought the idea of doing a popcorn cocktail to Nick Fogel, the assistant spirits director at 7908. The two went through the creative process, with Fogel coming up with the idea to brown butter-wash bourbon to get notes of caramel (think caramel corn) into the drink rather than having all the popcorn taste coming from the snack on top.
“It just came together really quickly,” Fogel said, noting that by the second iteration of the recipe they had nailed the flavors.
The drink is on the savory side taste-wise, with a slight popcorn presence but more of a buttery bourbon flavor.
“All of the flavors really blended together” Corbin said, adding that out of all the complicated drinks on the menu, this one seemed to come together the fastest and most organically. “I feel like both of our brains just started coming together on that one and we really knocked it out of the park, it’s a really fun cocktail.”
Another drink on the menu with a unique flavor combination is the Cafe Klandestino.
Made with Bar Hill Gin, Campari, Aperol, Carpano Antica and white truffle, the drink is a twist on a Negroni and an ode to a cocktail Corbin couldn’t get enough of at Cafe Klandestino in Lisbon, which is co-owned by his bartender friend João Resende.
“It was just so amazing, and I went there every night,” Corbin said. “I don’t like Negronis, but this one, I kept getting drawn back to.”
It has the traditional look of a Negroni, dressed up with edible florals, but the white truffle aroma keeps it interesting and bursting with a great flavor that keeps you coming back for more sips.
“It’s really like all the elevation of a high end cocktail bar, all the technique and method, but just way more fun,” Fogel said of the 7908 bar program.
“That’s the perfect definition of our cocktail program,” Corbin said.