Bar Talk: Sizing up the new kid |

Bar Talk: Sizing up the new kid

Jimmy's Own at Las Montañas.
Rose Laudicina

Las Montañas is still the new kid in town when it comes to restaurants and bars in downtown Aspen.

Located in the second-floor spot that was once home to the iconic Aspen favorite Jimmy’s, Las Montañas opened in July and is owned and operated by MML Hospitality, the same group behind Clark’s Oyster Bar.

To say that locals were curious when the Tex-Mex restaurant first opened would be putting it lightly. People were not only curious, but they were also cautious, skeptical and hopeful that the group would do right by replacing another favorite local haunt (Clark’s Oyster Bar took over the former location of Little Annie’s Eating House, an Aspen institution that opened in 1972 and closed its doors in 2016).

The first few opening weeks at Las Montañas were a blur, with reviews flying both in the media and through the Aspen grapevine, but now, around two months in, the question is: How has the restaurant — and more importantly for this column, the bar — settled into life in Aspen?

Much like its predecessor, tequila and mezcal are featured heavily on the bar shelves and cocktail menu, which tracks for a Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurant. Nine out of 10 of the drinks on the menu are made with either tequila or mezcal.

The cocktail menu pulls inspiration from both Austin — where MML Hospitality originates — and Aspen, with signature drinks. The two most popular on the menu, according to bartender Kayla Mieth, are the Austin Skinny and Jimmy’s Own.

Jimmy’s Own pays homage to both the spot’s previous tenant and its founder, Jimmy Yeager. It’s a well-rounded, solid margarita, and I’d honestly expect nothing less from something with Yeager’s name on it, with a recipe straight from the Jimmy’s menu: Tapatio Reposado, Grand Marnier, fresh lime and agave; mine was also served with some jalapeno slices, which I appreciated, since I like things a little spicy.

Worth noting though, that to sip on this piece of nostalgia, it’s going to cost you $22, making it the most expensive cocktail on the menu.

Frozen margaritas are another drink with roots in Austin by way of Joe Draker of Maudie’s Tex-Mex, but according to the Las Montañas menu they’re “inspired by Aspen’s own Crazy Ray.”

All the frozen margaritas offered — and there are four varieties — start with the same base of tequila, orange and grapefruit juice, agave nectar and limes, and are $16 a glass if you want the original, which as far as frozen margaritas go — and I am no expert — is solid. It’s thick and creamy (not in taste, but in consistency), not icy and watery and actually tastes like a good marg.

But according to Mieth, where these drinks shine is in the add-ons, and I have to agree after trying one frozen margarita plain and trying one with a tamarind sangrita swirl and house tajin salt rim for an extra $2 at the restaurant’s opening. When jazzed up, the frozen marg went from good to special.

After trying five — well, four if you don’t count the frozen margarita variation — of the cocktails on the Las Montañas menu, my favorite so far, and the one that I happily order time and again, is the Rosado Paloma for $18. It’s a light spin on a traditional Paloma, made with blanco tequila, lime, pink peppercorn sangrita, Fever Tree grapefruit soda and citrus salt.

Sangrita, which most Aspenites might know from the Oxacan stand-offs served at the now defunct Jimmy’s Bodega, is a non-alcoholic chaser for tequila.

The pink peppercorn sangrita used in the Rosado Paloma is what makes the drink unique and balanced, adding a slightly smoky pepper undercurrent that cuts through the acidity and sweetness of the grapefruit soda. The citrus salt rim also elevates the drink and takes it from normal to crave-worthy in my book.

There are a few drinks that I have yet to try, one I know I won’t enjoy due to the addition of Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur and at least one that I am straight up avoiding for now due to the strange list of ingredients that in my head can’t possibly make the drink worth ordering.

Overall though, the list is good, although I’ll be interested to see if and how it might grow as the restaurant settles into its place in Aspen — perhaps another non-agave spirit offering or two?

In terms of the “scene” at the Las Montañas bar, I can only report on what I’ve experienced and heard. When I went on opening weekend, it was as to be expected: packed, loud and raucous, filled with locals and visitors trying to get a table and see what it was all about.

During a late afternoon visit on a Saturday in early September, the bar was ultra-chill — only a few people on the patio and at the bar tables, with my partner and I being the only ones at the actual bar.

Meith said the late-night scene, a time when Jimmy’s notoriously became tightly packed with locals and visitors rolling in for some after-dinner fun, is starting to come into its own.

The Paloma and frozen marg.
Rose Laudicina
The Rosado Paloma.
Rose Laudicina
If you go…
What: Las Montanas
Where: 205 S. Mill St. (second floor of Mill Street Plaza), Aspen
More info:
Worth noting: Las Montanas just announced a reverse happy hour of sorts, from 10 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Saturday; frozen margaritas and Rey Campero Mezcal Copita Boards are $10.

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