Best is a weird word. Especially when factoring in the massive differences that come with taste. But some things are truly so exceptional that the title is earned and the weight of the crown can be happily worn on unwavering shoulders. Such is Dante, the New York bar that was rightfully awarded the number one title by World’s 50 Best in 2019. The esteemed bar — owned by husband and wife Linden Pride and Nathalie Hudson — is currently taking over The Snow Lodge is Aspen and will continue to peddle its world-class drinks through the remainder of the ski season. Situated directly at the base of the mountain, the patio is well equipped to deliver the kind of apres fit for a town that has become synonymous with all things luxurious. While Pitkin County is currently facing Level Red restrictions, the patio is large enough to accommodate multiple parties, with a range of bottled cocktails lending a glimpse into the kind of thoughtful refashioning Dante brings to the classics.
Dante took over the venerated Caffé Dante in 2015, exactly 100 years after the original locale first opened its doors. “When we reopened Dante in 2015, we wanted to pay homage to its roots as a historically Italian neighborhood cafe while offering consistency in quality and innovation to those who walk through the door,” said Pride. Since 2016, Pride and Hudson have taken the show on the road, with pop-ups in Barcelona, Moscow, Shanghai and London helping to situate the concept at the center of cocktail culture near and far. Another slightly shorter takeover is currently running in Dubai. Pride says this is by far the longest installation Dante has participated in and is certainly one of his favorites.
“As an Australian, we have an epiphany towards the Rockies,” smiled Pride. While the owners are splitting time between their various locations — including the recently opened Dante West Village — he and a continuous visiting staff of six are there to make sure everything remains up to Herculean snuff. The partnership was originally forged after the team considered a takeover at The Surf Lodge — The Snow Lodge’s sister restaurant in Montauk, New York — with Pride ultimately deciding Aspen was better suited to the times.
The food and drink menus both reflect the staples that thrust Dante into the limelight, with an additional set of specific hot drinks suited to the apres atmosphere. “We think of the activations as their own kind of entities,” said Pride. The Garibaldi ($12) — a simple combination of Campari and aerated “fluffy” orange juice — is a must, the flavor and texture both a manifestation of clarity. “It’s hard to do simple really well,” continued Pride. Dante is certainly sumptuous, in all the best ways. The bottled cocktails ($35 for an 8 ounce and $98 for a 750) are all big, boozy and extraordinarily well-balanced. The Manhattan combines Four Roses bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, salted honey and Angostura for an idyllic interpretation that suggests the original while delivering on the promise of the superb.
While the drinks certainly sit center stage, the food is nothing to sneeze at. The burrata ($14) — with confit tomato and basil oil — continues the tradition of immaculately executed simplicity. The Dante’s Signature Burger ($24) comes with smoked bacon, beets, gruyere, tomato & lettuce, on a housemade brioche bun — the beets providing a standard reflection of the duo’s homeland. Both are incredible, but the drinks are the point.
While Aspen is no small trek, Dante is worth the trip and should certainly be included in any existing itinerary that already involves the high-country oasis.
Dante at The Snow Lodge is located at 501 East Dean St., Aspen. Currently, under Pitkin County‘s Level Red Restrictions, it is open every day from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. for outdoor dining and pickup/delivery via the in-house app.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.