At the far end of Justice Snow’s long copper bar, tucked behind a sturdy column and abutting a bustling server alcove, sit two short stools that everyone has agreed are the worst seats in the house. No longer. The splendid isolation is a boon to “liquid chef” Jacob Johnson, who captains the corner as the bartender’s equivalent of a chef’s table. In the intimate experience, made by reservation (970-429-8192) or, most evenings, by chance, the barkeep narrates his way through signature concoctions—originals, remastered classics, the rare experimental riff—as he mixes them for patrons à la minute.
“Instead of building my drinks in a hidden manner, I can bring guests into what goes through my head,” Johnson explains. “A bitter orange and sage old-time gin cocktail could be exotic. When diners understand exactly what is happening, they know the intricacies that make something good, great.”
Picture Johnson pouring a zesty quaff topped with a tuft of foam. “Now, let’s add in allspice and star anise—letting you taste it before and after,” he might offer, nudging forward quarter-ounce pours. “One is super springlike and refreshing, but because of those two ingredients, it becomes a relaxing winter cocktail.”
Imbibers can expect discussions on ice structure, shaking techniques, garnishes, and industry trends, and they may peruse bar books from Johnson’s personal collection based on interests expressed in advance. “Our bar lends itself to a unique experience because of the sheer quantity of things we have,” Johnson says of the 520-bottle liquor collection. For the ultimate adventure, order a petite procession of executive chef Jonathan Leichliter’s decadent farmhouse cuisine.