By Carey Jones
Updated June 22, 2016
Mini Jimmy's, Aspen, Carey Jones
Credit: © Carey Jones

There was no shortage of exclusive parties, both official and unofficial, at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen this past weekend. But the most exclusive bar in town? It only sat four. You could only hang out for half an hour. The bartender was one of the best in the industry. And oh yeah, it was in a closet.

Yep, an actual closet. In Aspen, Jimmy’s is a longtime favorite of both the local community and the Food & Wine Classic, and Jimmy Yaeger’s restaurant is always a hub of activity. But many revelers walked right by the door to “Mini Jimmy’s.” It didn’t look like much, but it hid a teeny bar, a squishy couch that can just squeeze three drinkers — and Jeff Bell, of New York’s PDT. (The real PDT can only be accessed through a phone booth; why not double down on the speakeasy idea?)

In its fourth year running, “Mini Jimmy’s” was the brainchild of Yaeger and Jim Meehan. “A few years ago over the Food & Wine Classic, Jimmy and Jim were joking, ‘why doesn’t Jeff just work in the coat room,’” said Bell. And the rest is history. From a bar about two feet across, Bell poured five gorgeous cocktails, including the Romeo y Julieta, with Ron Zacapa 23, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Campari, and tobacco essence; and the Nichol Buck, with Tanqueray 10, Lustau manzanilla sherry, lemon, and Fever Tree ginger beer.

In earlier years, cocktail enthusiasts just camped out all night, kind of defeating the point of a secret bar. But a 30-minute time limit took care of that — and made the experience a little more exciting. Who can’t spare half an hour for the best bar in town?

“It works great for me,” says Bell, “if you stay in one place, instead of running around Aspen, you can see more people.” How about as a patron; Don’t you run the risk of getting crammed in way too close? Not at all, says Bell. “It’s just 30 minutes! We kick you out! Then you just say ‘Thanks, great to see you,’ and walk right out the door.” (Note that down for your Aspen itinerary next year.)