by ERIN LENTZ | December 17, 2013 | Food & Drink
Chefs Club Executive Beverage Director Anthony Bohlinger often brûlées cherries with a blowtorch to create his signature cocktails.
With the cocktail recipes created by Anthony Bohlinger, executive beverage director at the Chefs Club by Food & Wine at the St. Regis Aspen, nothing straddles the norm. Aspen’s newest sculptor of “craft” cocktails brandishes a torch to brûlée cherries and sprays Angostura Bitters with sugar to concoct a “West Side Highway,” his take on the classic boulevardier, employing Aperol, Carpano Antica, and High West Son of Bourye whiskey. He tops his Highway with a sprig of torched rosemary. “We start with the cheapest ingredient, then move to the most expensive, in case we mess up,” he says. “It’s easy to modify a classic cocktail, but to make it your own is difficult. To add something that makes it balanced is the true sign of authenticity.”
Amid a display of elegant, apothecary-style barware, Bohlinger is akin to a mad scientist. He nods to 27 housemade syrups derived from ingredients such as organic bee pollen (from the Aspen Saturday Market). The Chefs Club touts seasonal ingredients, talent, and a revolving menu of celebrity chefs. New Jersey native Bohlinger landed in Aspen via Miami, where he worked with the esteemed chef Didier Elena (now executive chef at Chefs Club). Bohlinger was invited this past summer to the Food & Wine Classic as a guest bartender, and his skill gained notice, earning him a full-time position. This upcoming May, the Chefs Club hits the Big Apple, and Bohlinger, as part of the executive team, will help position the outpost in New York City’s competitive cocktail landscape.
“The American palate is moving away from sweet and sour to more bitter, aperitif cocktails—fewer ingredients, high proof, but simpler, which is more challenging,” he explains of the trend toward herbs, earthy ingredients, and medicinal-based recipes. “And the gap is shrinking between the bar and kitchen—60 percent of the time I’m with our pastry chef, Katherine Thrope, chef Chris Szyjka, and chef Didier. I get a Michelin-starred chef’s take on flavor.”
Bohlinger has also resurrected a new Aspen tradition with the Aspen Cocktail Club. Held Thursday evenings, an educational barhop begins at Chefs Club, where a specific spirit or region is celebrated. After sampling cocktails and learning of its sources, members walk to Justice Snow’s Restaurant and Bar for further concoctions and serving tips from Joshua Peter Smith, culminating with same-spirited nightcaps with Jimmy Yeager at Jimmy’s An American Restaurant and Bar.
Certainly the new Cocktail Club is worth toasting, however, don’t miss an opportunity to cozy up to Bohlinger’s bar as he attempts what he considers to be the perfect drink, which may involve a house-made, bacon-fat-washed bourbon. “It’s bacon,” he winks. “What can’t be good about it?” 315 E. Dean St., 970-429-9581
photography by c2 photography courtesy of chefs club