(Aspen is a wonderland for adventure seekers, but the town’s unique characteristics are not exclusive to outdoor recreation. One of the best ways to experience Aspen’s energy and zest involves a little music, a bartender and a beverage).
There’s something exhilarating in the Aspen air. It carries across outdoor patios and nestles into cozy coffee shops. It pulses through the offbeat bars and dances up to rooftop lounges. Whether you’re strolling the streets with a latte or catching a buzz in a bar, this enticing aura distinguishes the overall drinking experience from anywhere else. From the beverage in your hand to the vibes of each venue, Aspen offers the best spots to live it up or wind it down.
The town is notorious for its wining and dining. Every summer, it hosts the Food & Wine Classic, one of the most prestigious culinary events in the nation. It’s home to world-class restaurants, featuring everything from local bites to international cuisine, and renowned nightclubs that compete with some of the largest metropolitan cities. While you see many restaurant guides and information on general nightlife, you do not receive much insight on solely the drinking experience.
I’m here to present a well-rounded and versatile guide on the Aspen drinking experience. From grabbing a hot cup of coffee to sipping an iced-cold martini, and everything in between, here are some of my favorite places to enjoy a drink during the summer months in Aspen.
Green Juices & Jittery Drinks:
Tucked back on Cooper Ave, this comfy coffee shop serves everything from fresh pastries and cappuccinos to a savory brunch with classic cocktails. They also provide pressed-juices and healthy grab and go bites. Whether you’re looking for a boozy brunch, a quick healthy snack or just a topnotch cup of coffee, Local Coffee House is the place. This is my favorite summer spot to sit and do work. The scene is intimate yet constantly vibrant with upbeat music, fast service and a charming decor. Almost every morning, I order a cold brew and green juice and watch the little shop come to life as locals chat under the interesting art and vacationers wander into the bright room.
Aside from their amazing wraps, salads and sandwiches, this tiny juice bar has every healthy beverage you could think of. From fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and wellness shots to homemade milks, waters and caffeinated drinks, JUS has it all. As a small, counter-serve outlet hidden in the Ute Building on Hyman Ave, it’s definitely a local spot. Whether you just finished a hike, need a break from shopping or want a light and healthy meal, I highly recommend stepping into JUS.
You cannot visit Aspen without a trip to Paradise Bakery. Situated in the center of downtown, the little bakery provides the best pick-me-up sweets and drinks. They have an extensive espresso selection, along with iced teas, flavored mochas and fresh squeezed lemonade. This is the spot to grab a hot coffee or chai on a chilly morning and come back for a refreshing iced beverage as the day heats up.
Lots of visitors stop into this reputable Hillstone restaurant for a delicious, laid-back lunch. Set on the corner of Hopkins Ave, the little white house is intimate, comfortable and rustic. While the food is off the charts, their A-1 cocktails might just be the reason to keep you sitting and sipping on the patio for an entire afternoon. With a short and simple drink menu, you cannot go wrong. I will say, their margarita is one of the best I’ve ever had and that’s coming from a Texan!
This go-to restaurant is another amazing food option and an even better day drinking spot. The outdoor scene is cheerful with yellow umbrellas and blooming flowers, and the indoor bar is bright, white and elegant. From early brunch to late-afternoon happy hour, Clark’s is always happening. Their sweeping bar menu includes everything from spritzers and chilled wines to martinis and customizable cocktails. The bloody marry is unbelievable, as well as the daily Aspen Mule and Stirred Vesper martini.
For a more lax vibe with less glitz and more brew, Aspen Tap is a quaint spot with fun music, great outdoor seating and an abundance of beer. The pub is an affiliate of Aspen Brewing Company and features house craft beers, flights, pints and more. Their happy hour scene is upbeat, oftentimes with live music, and you can expect lots of laughter drifting from the pub’s patio during any time of day.
While many people walk past this red brick building, most vacationers don’t know to stop by and enjoy an afternoon cocktail on the lively patio that stretches along the center of Cooper Ave. The Red Onion has been around since Aspen’s early life, and you can feel both the history within the brick walls and the energy surrounding the outdoor environment. Whether you’re wrapping up your day with an afternoon spritzer or beginning the evening with a classic cocktail, there’s no better place to experience Aspen’s spirit than the oldest restaurant and bar in the town.
Aspen’s hotel lobby bars are some of the best spots to catch an evening buzz. With lots of options and various settings, each one has its own distinct charisma, and the J-Bar at Hotel Jerome is my favorite. The historic decor, plush chairs and dim lights make you feel warm and welcome. It’s as if you’re stepping into an old Western saloon, showered by sophistication and prestige. There’s something alluring about these disparate vibes encircling a single bar. From whiskey sours to smokey margs, their vintage cocktails only enhance the inviting mood.
Similar to J-Bar’s historic style, Aspen Public House is a classic spot to kick off the evening or end the night. Located in the Wheeler Opera House building, this versatile bar is a local favorite with a prime outdoor patio, vibrant late-night scene and a funky, fresh cocktail selection. The bar is beautiful and chic, “with a splash of Great Gatsby.” I highly recommend heating up your chilly Aspen evening with The Public House’s “Boozy Boujee Hot Chocolate.”
As a newer addition to the town, this rooftop bar embodies Aspen’s lively spirit entirely. With a heated pool and hot tub, multiple fire pits and a 360 view of the mountains stretching from Independence Pass to the peaks of Snowmass, the electric lounge is hard to beat for an utmost drinking experience. WET Deck is located on top of the W Hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain, and it’s open to the public. On a cool evening this summer, I ventured to the WET Deck for the first time. While I expected loud music and a posh crowd, my experience was serene and gratifying as I curled up on one of the couches with a glass of wine and watched the sun stain the sky purple.
If you’re looking for top-level swank, snazz and pizzazz, 7908 is the place to go. The upscale spot is Aspen’s exclusive restaurant, bar and nightclub all bundled into one underground aperture of energy and luxury. Wining, dining and dancing in this alpine supper club is expensive, but the entire experience is unforgettable and irreplaceable. 7908 has an unbarred, frisky ambience with exquisite art, mirrors and architecture, authentic music and impeccable service. Their drinks culture is one of the best in town, including a thorough wine selection and an extensive cocktail list that uniquely captures every drinking mood through a range of liquors and eccentric ingredients.
Eric’s Bar is relaxed, loose and lively. This late-night watering hole is another local hangout spot, but visitors from all over find the sleek pool bar to be a great time. With pool tables, shuffleboard, a cigar lounge and a dance floor, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. Whether you want to socialize, sit back and sip or hit the tables, Eric’s environment will keep your spirits high and your buzz afloat.
(Temporarily closed due to coronavirus restrictions)