Drinks for your senses (and your Instagram feed)
The bartenders at Betula are getting creative. From the glassware to the preparation method to the ingredients, every step that goes into crafting a cocktail is well thought out and meant to elevate a seemingly ordinary drink into something better.
Located at 525 E. Cooper Ave. in the spot that formally housed BB’s Kitchen, Betula has been up and running in Aspen for only one season. But already the French Pan-American restaurant has amassed an enthusiastic following of visitors and locals. And it’s not just the food that has everyone excited — the drinks are show-stoppers on their own.
“I kind of had an epiphany, you know, an ah-ha moment,” bar manager Justin Haas said about his time spent at Betula’s other location in St. Bart’s learning the restaurants extensive cocktail program in preparation for Aspen’s opening. “I’ve never been in charge of a cocktail program like this, so there was a little bit of questioning if I was going to enjoy it … (and then) when I watched a tray of drinks … go out to a table and the first thing that happened was that everybody pulled out their phones to take pictures of them … and it was like, ‘OK, you know what, that’s pretty cool,’ that makes (the early mornings of preparation) worthwhile.”
The prep that Haas is alluding to includes spending time working with the kitchen in the morning to make all the juices, tinctures and garnishes that are necessary for the drinks.
“We try to use stuff that the kitchen uses and vice versa, like a lot of times when I’m making the yellow bell pepper juice, all the pulp that comes out, they’ll try and use it to make a vinegar or something like that,” Haas said.
Additionally, at Betula, they opt for dehydrated fruit as a garnish rather than fresh fruit, that way there is less waste, keeping with the restaurant’s mission to compost and be as green as possible.
The yellow bell pepper juice, which sounds like it might be an obscure ingredient, is actually a key component to the most popular drink at the bar: the Yellow Paloma.
Served in an Instagram-worthy glass shaped like bird, the Yellow Paloma gets its vibrant yellow color from the fresh bell pepper juice, which is combined with Casamigos blanco tequila, house-made grapefruit ginger syrup and fresh lime.
The result is a drink that caters to all the senses: first the unique presentation (garnished with a salt and spice rim, fresh flower and paper straw, it is worth noting that you do end up drinking from the bird’s “tail feather,” but don’t let that discourage you from ordering it), next the enticing fragrance of pepper and fruit and then there is the taste.
The taste is fantastic and a far cry from any paloma I’ve ever experienced. It’s light, extremely flavorful and very easy to drink. It’s safe to say the Yellow Paloma will remain a standout come patio season at Betula, which starts June 6.
But if drinking from a glass bird’s derrière is just too much for you or maybe you’re not into tequila, might we recommend the OC Double G — a gin drink that also makes use of a fresh, house-made vegetable juice.
Made with gin, lemon juice, fresh carrot, house-made grapefruit ginger soda and egg whites, it’s finished with a dehydrated orange garnish, a little cracked pepper and a pinch of smoked sea salt. Once poured and left to settle for 30 seconds, the OC Double G resembles a creamsicle, but tastes nothing like it. It’s light, flavorful, but not overly carroty; overall a real summer sipper.
While the cocktails may seem fancy, the vibe behind the bar is not. Behind the well-crafted cocktails are whole-food ingredients, a perfectly built bar and a no-frills-just-fun attitude.
“We have a lot of fun back here — the music is cranking on a Friday night, the bar is packed, we’re back here dancing; you know, there is no flair, we’re not tossing bottles to other people and stuff like that,” Haas said. “We’ve got an amazing team we’ve put together and we really enjoy what we do, and it comes across.”