Bar Talk: A hotel bar far from ho-hum
Another day, another hotel bar in Aspen — although this hotel bar is unlike others and comes with a notable and storied history.
It’s the J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome.
When I first moved to Aspen, the J-Bar was in my regular rotation of hangouts. I got to know the bartenders, they had trivia nights, there seemed to be more locals than visitors enjoying a libation or two, and there wasn’t an automatic 22% gratuity.
Eventually as the dynamic in town shifted — as it’s been doing long before I came along — bartenders moved on, things changed, and so did my hangout spots. I stopped going to the J-Bar with the same frequency, and when I found myself meeting up with some friends there after work on Tuesday, I realized it had probably been over six months since I had enjoyed a drink there.
For my first drink back at J-Bar, I went the whiskey route — it only seemed right — and ordered a Main Street.
The Main Street is made up of Stranahan’s Bad Harriet American single malt whiskey, Peach Street amaro, spiced apple cider, and bitters.
I imagine the Bad Harriet piece of the Stranahan’s whiskey is just a cheeky nod to the next door subterranean speakeasy Bad Harriet, and it is the classic single malt from the Denver-based whiskey company named after former Woody Creek resident George Stranahan.
Stranahan’s happens to be one of my favorite whiskey makers on the market, so I knew to expect a tasty, lightly sweet, and smooth base to the cocktail, and it did not disappoint.
The apple flavor of the cocktail is amplified, thanks to the spiced apple cider and fresh apple slices on top. The apple also gives a natural crisp sweetness to the drink without it being overly sugary.
But what really comes through is the spices, both from the cider and the whiskey, which make the drink feel warming even though the drink is served on ice in a rocks glass and not hot in a mug. I believe the addition of amaro, from another Colorado distillery Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, and its bitter and botanical flavor also adds to the warming aspect of the drink.
Overall, the Main Street is a flavorful, spiced, enjoyable sipper, and drinking whiskey while at the J-Bar just seems to fit.
I did get to have a few sips of my drinking buddies cocktail, the Sol Mate, which our bartender said was one of the most popular drinks on the menu. It’s made from Casa Del Sol blanco, salted grapefruit, aronia berry, and lime — and wow, the menu wasn’t kidding when it said salted grapefruit. The cocktail was citrus forward and indeed rather salty, but not in a bad way. Kind of like in an electrolyte replenishing drink kind of way.
There were a few other drinks on the cocktail menu that caught my eye, notably the Smuggler’s Punch, which sounds like it could pack a punch as it is made with clarified Woody Creek vodka and gin, guava, pomegranate, hibiscus, lemon, and soda. Plus two spirit-free mocktails that I’m happy to see included, with the one I most want to try being the Gimless, which features Seedlip grove, kiwi, and lime cordial.
With at least those two cocktails on my “Want to Try” list, it seems like I will be journeying back to the J-Bar sometime soon.