After years of self-styled speakeasies and boozy libations, low-ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails are finding their way onto menus nationwide, including Aspen. Jimmy Yeager, proprietor of Jimmy’s and Jimmy’s Bodega, is one of several local restaurateurs and bartenders embracing the concept, adding low-ABV options at both places.
“Cocktails that utilize wine, sparkling wine, fortified wines such as sherry, aromatized wines, and amari [Italian bitter digestifs distilled with various botanicals] as their base ingredients are delicious additions to any bar menu,” says Yeager. “Not only are they lower alcohol by volume, but they’re perfectly suited to alfresco dining.”
Even those who appreciate a stiff drink know that it can sometimes obliterate the subtle nuances of summer dishes like seafood, which is one reason the new low-ABV cocktail menu at Jimmy’s Bodega is designed to enhance raw-bar offerings like oysters and Alaskan king crab legs. Yeager’s version of the northern Italian spritz—in which still or sparkling wines are diluted with soda water or water to lower the alcohol level—uses Prosecco with a choice of Campari, Aperol, Cappelletti, or Contratto Bitter. Or try an Americano, which substitutes sweet vermouth for Prosecco.
At Justice Snow’s, owner Michele Kiley has also introduced new low-alcohol options. “Aspen is a very healthy place, but we enjoy being social,” she notes.
Some of bar manager Jacob Johnson’s less-lethal creations include the Patio Pounder (juniper berry syrup, lemon and lime juice, tonic syrup, and a scant half-ounce of Woody Creek Distillers gin) and the Pain(less) Thriller (mango puree, pineapple juice, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, and a half-ounce of Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum).
At Chefs Club by Food & Wine, low-ABV cocktails have always been on the menu, says beverage director Mattias Horseman, but they’re winning over more fans. “They’re great, especially for summer, as they’re essentially coolers,” he says. Moreover, the lower-octane drinks get just as much respect from Horseman and his fellow Chefs Club barkeeps as traditional cocktails.
“It’s where the real skill comes out,” he asserts, explaining that the complex flavors of the ingredients take center stage when they are used not just to modify a high-alcohol base. Case in point: the Lady Marmalade, a potential addition to the summer cocktail list; it contains Becherovka herbal bitters, Zwack Unicum plum liqueur, and lemon juice, with a dash of orange marmalade and vanilla syrup.
Here’s to hangover-free imbibing!