Bar Talk: No expections leads to ‘I have to share!’ |

Bar Talk: No expections leads to ‘I have to share!’

The Black Pearl and the Violet Beauregarde at Monarch, Aspen.
Rose Laudicina/Courtesy Photo

The good thing about having zero expectations is that you know you won’t be disappointed.

But what happens when having zero expectations ends up with you being wildly impressed?

A few nights ago, I wandered into a local restaurant to have a casual drink and a small bite with a friend with no real expectations besides having a nice evening.

Thanks to a midweek lull from the spring-break crowds, we were able to walk in to The Monarch and find empty seats at the bar ready for us to occupy.

The drink menu is well-rounded, lots of spirit variety from the classics to less utilized spirits such as Pisco, Montenegro, and Velvet Falernum, plus a section dedicate to Manhattans.

I wasn’t in the mood for a classic Manhattan or any such riff on it, so I opted to stick with choosing from the 10 Monarch Cocktail options.

I’ll admit that the Corpse Reviver #2 was the first cocktail to catch my eye. However, that classic cocktail has become a common find in my house ever since I was introduced to it by Evan at the Woody Creek Tavern last summer, so I quickly determined I should go with something new to me.

I ended up ordering the Black Pearl, a tequila-based cocktail made with Dobel Maestro tequila, Aperol, grapefruit juice, jalapeno agave, and charcoal.

The Black Pearl is served in a rocks glass with a slice of citrus and a Tajin rim, and on presentation alone, the cocktail scores major points. Thanks to the use of charcoal, the drink is ink black with a pop of fiery red and orange around the rim due to the spiced Tajin.

But presentation alone does not make a cocktail great; the taste should really be doing the bulk of the work. Luckily, the first sip of the Black Pearl was all I needed to be assured that for what it brought in presentation, it matched in taste.

This dark and seductive cocktail is an easy drinker. The flavors are well balanced with no one ingredient overpowering the others. The tequila is super smooth and lends its flavor without the bite while the Aperol gives it a slightly bitter note without being medicinal.

I was surprised with how smooth the libation was overall, both in taste and texture. While I love the use of charcoal in drinks, if not incorporated correctly, it can be somewhat gritty and settle at the bottom of the glass. The bartenders at Monarch clearly have skill because the charcoal left zero grittiness nor did I find myself stirring the cocktail to keep it from sinking.

The Black Pearl is a tequila-based cocktail made at Monarch in Aspen with Dobel Maestro tequila, Aperol, grapefruit juice, jalapeno agave, and charcoal.
Rose Laudicina/Courtesy Photo

Because sharing is caring, I got to have a few sips of my friends cocktail order, the gin-based Violet Beauregarde.

Where the Black Pearl is dark and moody in presentation, the Violet Beauregarde is shockingly bright and equally eye-catching.

It is made with Empress gin — which when mixed with an acid (in this case citric acid and lemon juice), turns from purple to bright fuchsia — St. Germaine, and simple syrup and served in a coupe glass with a twist of lemon over a big square ice cube.

The first words out of my friends mouth when she took a sip were an exclamation of “That’s a really good cocktail!”

The Violet Beaurgarde is light, clean, lemony, and fresh. It is spirit-forward, although just a touch of the St. Germaine flavor comes through, which is really all you need, and it has a bit of tart brightness to it, thanks to the lemon and citric acid.

Again, another cocktail that builds you up with presentation and doesn’t let you down with taste.

The prices for both drinks were very fair both by Aspen standards – $18 and $19, respectively – and for the quality and creativity put into them.

I walked into Monarch with no intention of writing about it, but I left so impressed by their bar program — my friend and I both agreed it was a 10-out-of-10 experience — that I knew I had to share.

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