Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got a bar known for its deliciously simple margaritas…in the Rockies.
LOCATION: Aspen, Colorado
ON THE JUKEBOX: Alt-J, Journey, Taylor Swift
WHAT TO ORDER (NEWBIES): Puerto de Aspen (inspired by a drink at The Dead Rabbit in New York): Tapatio blanco tequila, Solerno blood orange liqueur, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, watermelon juice and lime juice
WHAT TO ORDER (REGULARS): Jimmy’s Margarita: Tapatio reposado tequila, Grand Marnier and lime juice
WHY WE LOVE IT: If you go out in Aspen, you end up at Jimmy’s. That’s just the rule.
“We’ve always been known as the local’s choice,” says Jimmy’s beverage director, Greg Van Wagner. “We’re one of the highest energy bars in town. That appeals to so many groups of people. You’ll see the jet-set crew over here, chefs over there, sommeliers over here…”
Jimmy’s restaurant and bar has been bringing the energy to this Colorado city for decades. Owned by local Jimmy Yeager, the lively joint feels like a late-night refuge in a place that associates more with fur coats than Fernet shots. But high rollers aren’t the only people in town. There are also the locals, who spend the winters ski bumming, summers mountain biking and year-round evenings drinking margaritas at Jimmy’s.
“Aspen attracts people from all walks of life from all over the country and all over the world,” Van Wagner says. “One of the benefits of working with such a varied clientele is that you’re constantly learning what people are drinking elsewhere.” Most people come to Aspen to drink wine, so Jimmy’s keeps a massive, 600-bottle list at the ready. And Yaegar loves agave spirits, so he stocks more than 100 bottles of tequila and mezcal behind the bar.
Earlier this month Jimmy’s was awarded one of the first-ever Sustainability Spirit Awards from Tales of the Cocktail. The restaurant was acknowledged for its composting efforts (which have reduced waste by 95 percent), its use of energy-efficient lighting and how its gotten rid of cloth tablecloths (which require lots of washing), plastic straws, paper towels and multiple printed receipts.
While Jimmy’s takes those things seriously, it also has an irreverent streak. One section of the drink menu is labeled “For Women Only (and a few strong men…)” and contains the bar’s most spirit-forward, boozy drinks; those that stereotypes suggest women don’t like to drink. The bar cuts its own ice and refers to each as a “BFIC” (Big F-ing Ice Cube). “Just because you have hand-cut ice doesn’t mean you have to meditate on it,” Van Wagner says. “Going out to bars is supposed to be a social and fun experience.”
And every year during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the famous New York bar PDT takes over Jimmy’s coat check room, turning it into a tiny, four-seat speakeasy for V.I.P.s. But don’t ask Van Wagner who was there—or who was sitting at the bar next to you any given night at Jimmy’s. “I never ask,” he says. “I prefer not to know. Aspen is a place to relax; anonymity is always appreciated.”
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. Find her on Twitter: @amshep