“Try this,” says the bartender. “It’s as cold as your ex-lover’s heart.” I’m prepared for the chill even before I tipple from the vintage coupe, which holds a cocktail called Harriet, a graceful concoction with creamy Japanese Ki No Tea Green Tea gin. It’s woody and aromatic, with Champagne Vinegar — prettified with a floating, diminutive, white flower. Sidled up to the bar in a moody, shadowy Art Deco basement room, I could be a character from a book, sneaking a drink during Prohibition. That’s what I love about a speakeasy: the fantasy factor. This secret bar, Bad Harriet, part of Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection, in Aspen, occupies a retired newspaper office in an old building, adjacent to the hotel. Purportedly abandoned, its vitrines display vintage typewriters all askew, as if the bygone journalists fled in a hurry. But, knock on the front door at night, reservation in hand, and a stealthy host will lead you to descend rickety stairs. There, boozy magic is afoot. Named after the wife of Jerome B. Wheeler, who ran the Hotel Jerome in its early days, the subterranean hotspot offers outstanding, creative, satisfying cocktails in antique glasses with mystery and style. There’s even an amuse-bouche; that is, a small welcome, (“gateway?”) cocktail to sip as you peruse the clever menu. Choose a libation from three categories: Style, Power Class. My eponymous drink, startlingly strong, gloriously smooth, ends my day with a bang.
But Bad Harriet’s not even the coolest thing about Hotel Jerome, which opened in 1889 during Aspen’s silver boomtown phase and remains one of the mountain town’s most esteemed stays today. Utterly unique in Aspen, which may be best known for its glitzy, see-and-be-seen-scene, the Hotel Jerome recalls, instead, old money, confident elegance, and storied personality. It’s all in the details, really — even before you walk through the historic front door. The experience starts with affable, cowboy-clad doormen, then opens into a glamorous, albeit understated, contemporarily-tweaked, fin de siècle lobby ( I thought of Hotel Sacher in Vienna) — deftly curated with Western textures, shapes, and appropriate period art. The elevator has leather walls, guest rooms offer coffee cups with brass bottoms, room lamps look like gold-sheathed tree stumps, animal-skin covered thrones serve as desk chairs, and a buzzy pool invites in a restaurant-edged courtyard.
I adored my Deluxe King in the hotel’s original portion. On the third floor, it felt like an airy apartment, with panoramic windows overlooking Aspen Mountain. The contemporary decor drew from history, but evoked a modern, mountain-style sense of place. The huge soaking tub cured what ailed me. Other rooms to consider? With a private outdoor sitting area, the new-built Poolside Junior Suite fringes the pool, and provides easy access to The Garden and other hotel dining venues.
Choose The Garden, Jerome’s al fresco venue on sunny days to sit amid the blooms and gaze at the mountains. Botanically-infused “garden to glass” cocktails and a stellar collection of biodynamic wines match well with farm-fresh dishes, such as Smoked Trout Dip, Calabrian Focaccia Panzanella, and Lobster and Ras-El-Hanout Ora King Salmon with artichokes, and brown butter bordelaise. For a late night snack, nibble foie gras and sip Champagne in the atmospheric The Living Room, the hotel’s inner sanctum bar. In the morning, start with the Aspen outpost of Felix Roasting Co. in digs designed by Ken Fulk, situated right next to the lobby.
Yarrow, a serene, delicate spa in the basement begins each treatment with a curative foot bath, awash with healing herbs and botanicals. Go for the Herbal Stone Massage, in which the therapist uses hand-crafted herbal poultices and warm, mineral-rich, natural salt stones to free energy blockages and unknot muscles.
Given Aspen’s hoity-toity reputation for man-made luxury and opulent living, it can be easy to forget that nature itself truly defines the destination, a lush garden of delights in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. With rivers, streams, lakes, forests, and mountain peaks, the charming town, composed of myriad Victorian bungalows, also has an organic side. Partake of it on foot, on the ski slope, pedaling a bike, casting for fish, climbing a mountain or rafting a river. Yoga atop Aspen Mountain is always a treat (I recommend Shakti Aspen for a zen practice.) The Jerome’s able concierge can arrange any activity you desire. Deeply committed to sustainable travel and keeping Aspen pristine for the future, Aspen has instituted an “I will travel responsible” pledge, which it hopes all travelers will take. Each pledge signed results in a donation to a local, outdoor-supporting organization. I’ve signed mine — how about you? #leavenotrace