Crested Butte Cabin Fever
Vacationing in Crested Butte meant racking up 1,864 miles in a car with three small children. They’re mostly happy, adventurous and patient children, but still. It’s a long, long drive. The payoff? A charming town, mountain streams to stomp in, Colorado peaches from the farmers’ market and a weekly high of 86F. Just what we hoped for. Which made discovering The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin an unexpected pleasure.
Our lovely, lovely friends offered to tuck in the kiddos one night, so we strolled over to The Dogwood. It was clearly a funky joint, a series of snug little rooms dating back to 1891 with a cocktail lounge upgrade. I’m not sure what I expected when I flipped over the drinks list, but it wasn’t fennel, sumac, galangal, salted plum or aloe juice. All very interesting, but tasty?
Yes. I started out on the safe side with a Southern Sidecar (bourbon, blood orange, bitters and sugared rim), and I got exactly what I asked for. A well-built bourbon drink, balanced with citrus, delicious enough that I immediately regretted my timidity. Not the husband. He went for the Romeo y Julieta, made with tobacco-infused rum, hibiscus syrup and plenty of mint. Refreshing, slightly sweet and reddish from the hibiscus and rum-y, with a thread of tobacco (think fresh leaf, not stinky cigarette).
With my courage up, I ordered the Apridite. The menu describes it as “whiskey + apricot + fenugreek,” and, judging from my notes, I was clearly more involved in sipping and chatting with my date than quizzing the bartenders. What I do recall is it’s made with McAfee’s Benchmark Bourbon, apricot puree and fenugreek syrup, what co-owner Phoebe Wilson calls “a hippie thing.” Whatever. This drink makes a great argument for using quality “value” brands like Benchmark, which rates an 86 from Tastings.com and costs less than $15.
Hmmm…next up was the Riki Tikki Tavi. It’s a favorite book, and if I lived in Crested Butte it might also become a favorite drink. Agavales tequila (another Tastings.com “best buy”), cardamom and orange, shaken, served up with an orange garnish. And finally came the Beetnik, the drink that prompted us to come here in the first place.
Chris Fiala, owner of Completely Gluten Free, recommended it when she dropped off an order of G-F ravioli and gnocchi earlier in the week. She was spot on. Ruby red, full of rich earthy beet flavor infused into vodka and spiked with ginger syrup—it almost tasted healthy. And certainly good enough to try my own hand with it, if only I’m able to pry my last few beets out of our parched garden. It might even make me forget that it’s 107F back here in Kansas.