Bar Talk: PARC Aspen off to tasty start
Just over a year after beloved local gathering spot L’Hosteria closed in Aspen, another restaurant that wants to be the hub of the local dining scene has opened in its place.
PARC Aspen officially opened Dec. 16 but enjoyed a soft opening on Dec. 13.
The below-street level eatery has been fully-renovated in a farmhouse style, the walls whitewashed, and the space heavily brightened. Gone are the days of dark corners and the dim lighting of PARC’s predecessor.
According to the PARC Aspen website, the new restaurant is “focused on revitalizing the local dining scene” in Aspen with a menu of “locally-sourced, seasonally-curated dishes.”
The idea of locally-sourced and seasonal — or as our server put it, “Aspen seasonal” — also extends to the cocktail menu, which highlights a few Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado-based distilleries, plus a section dedicated to winter flavors.
The selection of cocktails is broken down into five sections, starting with PARC Aspen specialties. Just about every mainstream spirit option is represented in the specialties section, and the liquor is paired with some more unique ingredients, such as a tequila drink called the Spiral Incline that has tomatillo in it, and the Newbury Park, which is the drink that caught my eye first because of its flavors.
The Newbury Park is made with Roaring Fork Vodka, raspberry, beet, Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur and topped with Fever Tree. The result is a beautiful and bright raspberry-colored drink that you might be able to trick your mind into thinking is just a healthy juice, thanks to the beets. The taste is slightly beet-forward on the first sip, but the finish is all tart raspberry. The warming and spicy presence of the ginger is there but not overwhelming, and I believe the presence of the bubbles from the Fever Tree helps dilute the ginger flavor — a contribution to keeping the drink light. Vodka, although not my preferred liquor by any means, was definitely the correct spirit choice for the cocktail because it’s easily hidden and doesn’t take away from the fresh, fun flavor of the drink. I would honestly rate this a 10 out of 10 and can see this being an easy go-to drink.
Next up on the PARC Aspen cocktail list is a short section of zero-proof cocktails, two options to be exact, followed by two hot alcoholic drinks (620 Toddy and Mulled Wine), and then a nice selection of classic cocktails, including an Old Fashioned, Jimmy’s style, and the spirit-forward Vesper.
My next, and final, cocktail of the evening came from the seasonal Winter Specialties section.
Two of the drinks in this section sound like good, creamy, dessert cocktails, while the other two seem more appropriate for sipping with your meal.
I chose the A White Winter cocktail, made again with Roaring Fork Vodka, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, white cranberry and egg white.
This drink appeared and was totally different than my expectations — but not in a bad way.
It’s served in a martini glass and is indeed the color of a white winter with a nice amount of foam from the egg whites and garnished with a dash of bright-blue sugar crystals. It tastes like you’re drinking a cloud, both in texture and flavor. Somehow all the ingredients, when mixed together, seem to cancel each other out. There are floral notes of the St-Germain on the nose, but the first flavor on the tongue is somehow cotton candy-esque. Although the drink starts off white, like a wintery day in Aspen, by the end, it turns an icy blue, thanks to the sugar crystals on top.
I won’t go into discussing the food because this is a drink column, after all, but, safe to say, it did not disappoint, and it was full of flavor.
I already have my eyes on some other cocktails I want to try from the menu — such as the Blueberry Glacier found on the Winter Specialties section — and look forward to seeing how the restaurant changes with the seasons, as it finds its foothold in Aspen.
Cheers, PARC Aspen, you’re off to a great start!