In a town teaming with bars and restaurants, it’s tough to pick a favourite but Ophelia's Electric Soapbox was among the most memorable establishments I visited while in Denver. Housed in the historic Airedale building, the vibe is lively and lustful as it should be given the structure’s past. Over the course of the last century the Airedale has served as a saloon and hotel, brothel, peep-show parlour and adult video bookstore. Having just opened in 2015, already Ophelia's is a well-known hotspot but when I sauntered over for Sunday brunch I brought a book thinking, hey, it might be slow.
The place was hopping as I’m told it pretty much always is thanks to the eclectic menu, sumptuous libations, sunken stage, dance floor and unending flow of live music. Unfortunately, I had just missed performances that were part of the Fierce! International Queer Burlesque Festival, held in Denver that week, but happily the party was still in full swing. And so I did what one must do when in the Mile High City, and saddled up to the bar.
“Fix me your favourite,” I instructed the bartender.
He laughed and presented me with The Airedale, a boozy, floozy, doozy that, thanks to the kind folks at Ophelia’s you can now create at home. Still, the next time you’re in Denver be sure to pop by the “gastro brothel” -- you can even stay upstairs at Hostel Fish, an upscale “poshtel” that also opened last year.
1 bar spoon simple syrup (2:1 Sugar:Water)*
2 grapefruit zests (1 for garnish)
In a mixing glass combine bourbon, Aperol and simple syrup. Twist a grapefruit zest expressing its oils into the mixing glass, and then toss the zest in. Add ice and stir for about 45 seconds. Strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with ice (preferably block). Garnish with remaining grapefruit zest.
*To make simple syrup: Bring two parts sugar and one part water to a boil, stirring frequently. Simmer for a few minutes until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely. Can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to a month.
Introducing the Laker
Wondering what to do with the rest of the bottle of Aperol? The recipe for its popular Aperol Spritz is on the label but I asked bartender, Brenda Lee, to come up with one more that gives a nod to summer. Inspired by her lakeside abode, The Laker is simple to make and tastes as good as it looks. A sprig of rosemary gives a herbal woodsy note to the grapefruit and orange-based liqueur.
Recipe by Brenda Lee
2 oz Aperol
4 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
1 spring rosemary
Into a tall glass pour Aperol. Add rosemary sprig and ice. Slowly pour grapefruit over ice to get layered look. Guests can stir with rosemary sprig after you make the big presentation!