One of the most popular towns to get away to in the United States, Aspen has staked a claim as a simultaneously chic and rustic community which boasts not only stunning natural beauty and top-of-the-line outdoor activities, but an impressive array of restaurants and bars serving delectable dishes and world-famous libations.
Unlike many other mountain towns, Aspen’s food and beverage scene embodies an unparalleled array of delights which range the gamut from decades-old watering holes, acclaimed modern eateries, extremely fancy hideaways, and everything in between. Whether you’re visiting amid the jaw-dropping autumn foliage or its world-famous ski and snowboard scene, these are the best places to drink in Aspen, Colorado.
Your stay in Aspen needs a homebase, and you can’t do much better than the area’s Limelight Hotel. Part of a mini-chain that combines rustic sensibilities with modern amenities (other locations can be found in nearby Denver as well as Sun Valley, Idaho), the Limelight’s central location, smack in the middle of town coupled with full view of the nearby slopes, makes it one of the best in town. Alongside spacious rooms, a heated pool, complimentary transportation around town and a full, daily breakfast included with your stay (lucious self-serve hot chocolate and tasty egg and potato burritos among the delights), it’s the all-day bar in its lodge-like lobby which is the star.
Dubbed the Limelight Lounge, enjoy live music by a roaring fire with a casual, elevated bar featuring classic cocktails with regional twist (Espresso Martini made with nearby Woody Creek Vodka), adventurous concoctions (its namesake Limelight Fizz with cucumber, basil, celery bitters, lemon and your choice of vodka or gin) and mountain-side favorites (Hot Buttered Rum).
Order this: Pisco Sour, a dark horse specialty of bar.
It was a favorite of Hunter S Thompson and is one of the most historic bars in the country. Located inside the iconic Hotel Jerome lies this western-themed bar and restaurant is as authentic as one can get.
Built in the 1880s, its majestic building survived the mutations of the area, from Aspen’s earliest iteration as a sleepy town to its modern-day status as a celebrity hotspot, with everyone from Bill Murray to Jack Nicholson spotted here. Look the part by throwing on a pair of boots and wear a cowboy hat to kick one back.
Order this: Aspen Crud, a boozy milkshake invented during Prohibition.
Meat & Cheese
They’re two of Aspen’s most beloved places for both drinks and grub, and they happen to be connected to each other. When it comes to Meat & Cheese recently under new ownership, it’s part-shop (with local and national specialty items along with a section of cocktail accouterments) and part-restaurant, featuring a range of fan-favorite dishes including famed chicken and steak boards. Considering the entire operation began as a farm in nearby Paonia, the rotating charcuterie board is also a standout.
Meanwhile Hooch, located in the basement in the same building, is known as one of the best cocktail bars in all the land. Each glass is lovingly handcrafted, whether the bar’s longtime staple Last Rose of Oaxaca (Vida Mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse, Habanero Honey, Lemon, Strawberry Preserve), to libations for high rollers (including a $1,500 per-glass concoction dubbed The William Wallace made with Macallan 30-year, Pio Cesare Vermouth and Bitters).
Order this: Meat & Cheese’s Rouge Martini (with blue cheese stuffed olives) and Hooch’s Death by Decaf (their popular Espresso Martini).
Take a short drive out of the bustling center of town and enjoy the peace and quiet of Aspen Meadows Resort. Here you’ll be surrounded by distant mountains and towering trees on a property that has been a staple of the community, from its serene property to an exemplary on-site restaurant in the form of Plato’s.
Serving up American and regional fare which manages to be tasty marvels without a hint of pretentiousness, its expansive window-filled dining room and massive deck surrounded by eye-popping views is the perfect way to enjoy an evening. (Both are undergoing a renovation, but operations will be ongoing). In addition to a popular brunch, Plato’s dinner menu includes everything from Oysters and to Ricotta Gnudi. Enjoy a glass of wine from an extensive list, or peruse their cocktail menu full of classics.
Order this: Peach Street Old Fashioned, made with local Peach Street Bourbon from nearby Palisade.
Plopped on the literal base of Aspen Mountain, Ajax Tavern offers both ideal nature-peeping and people-watching since the mighty mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola is in full view of its indoor and outdoor dining area. And in case you’re wondering, yes there are outdoor heaters when the weathers frosty.
Enjoy a fun menu including Wagyu burgers and massive cones of truffle fries, whether you come in for a hearty lunch, Apres skiing or a late-night dinner. Keep in mind: the kitchen closes at 9pm while their drinks flow until 10.
Order this: Their in-house Ajax Pilsner.
Located in the ultra-chic Little Nell Hotel, The Board Room is a ultra-cool speakeasy known for its stunning array of wines, 20,000 of them in all. While not open to the public, the hideaway is available to rent out for private confabs, from birthdays to engagement parties and everything in between.
Meanwhile, you can get into the property’s Wine Bar where their massive cache of vino shines for a classy yet relaxed night out on the mountain town. ADid we mention that the wine program graduated 11 North American Master Sommeliers, the most on the continent? Naturally, The Little Nell also features a Wine Club, if you have $8,000 per year laying around.
Order this: You’re better off asking one of the sommeliers that question.
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