Gunner’s Libations: Mezcal on my mind

by Jeanne McGovern
Jimmy Yeager
Leigh Vogel/The Aspen Times

Agave Goodness

"Intrinsically, agave has tremendous flavor. Like wine, the flavor of the actual agave is influenced by the terroir. The top producers are tasked with bringing out these flavors inherent to the plant. That I find very attractive, very complex." - Jimmy Yeager, owner of Jimmy's: An American Restaurant, and Aspen's mezcal man, who once told The Aspen Times that approximately 85 percent of his personal drinking involves tequila and mezcal. (For the record: 50 percent mezcal, 35 percent tequila, 10 percent gin, five percent other.)

“The magic here is the red wine float on top,” says mixologist Kyle Sawtelle as he swirls and then gently pours a deep red cabernet atop the concoction before us.

Sawtelle serves as front of the house manager at Aspen’s Public House, which has easily taken over from the previous tenant (Justice Snow’s) in providing one of town’s best cocktail menus. On this Friday afternoon, Sawtelle is manning the bar — and he’s clearly the man to ensure sure week one of the new Gunner’s Libation is top-notch.

Little does Sawtelle know that I have a soft spot in my palate for mezcal, especially when it’s poured in a creative, smooth and rich cocktail.

And the J.B.W. is just that. Named after Jerome B. Wheeler — the Public House is located next to the Wheeler Opera House — this is a mezcal drink that even non-mezcal lovers can enjoy. Sawtelle says the combination of Benedictine, amaretto and lemon juice softens the smoky mezcal flavor without overpowering, while the wine topper works to blend the diverse mix of flavors.

We agree. And we’re happy to learn the J.B.W. will remain on the Public House’s cocktail menu as it changes to winter-centric libations in the coming weeks.

Libations was created by beloved Aspen Times publisher Gunilla Asher, who died June 2, 2014, after a brave battle with cancer. Cheers — to Gunner!