Sam Gemus of Justice Snow's in Aspen, ColoradoIn this second installment of our Montanya Bartender Series, we’re traveling up into the Colorado mountains and highlighting Justice Snow’s. This restaurant, in historic Aspen, is wildly popular for its hand-crafted cocktails with fresh ingredients and inspiring creativity. This bar and restauraunt has the most extensive cocktail program west of the Mississippi.  Montanya Distillers is honored to be featured regularly on Justice Snow’s cocktail menu. 

In September, 2014, the entire staff of Justice Snow's hiked over to Crested Butte (and Montanya Distillers) for a comprehensive distillery tour, tasting and rum pairing cocktail hour with appetizers at the Montanya Distillers Tasting Room.  In May, 2015, Justice Snow's bartender Jacob Johnson joined Montanya's staff in Crested Butte for two days as part of our Bartender "Bar Stage" Program.  We love to host talented bartenders at our rum bar to learn a bit about our specialty, craft rum mixology.  In June, 2015, we will be collaborating with Justice Snow's on a Montanya Cocktail Party as part of Aspen Food and Wine.  More details will be announced soon. 

In this feature Samuel Gemus, a bartender at Justice Snow’s, explains what makes a great night of bartending, his favorite Montanya cocktail and a must-try rum recipe.

Samuel Gemus

Bartender at Justice Snow’s

Years of Bartending Experience: 3.5 years

What sets your bar program apart from all others?

The Justice Snow's bar program is different for two reasons, scale and speed. With a bar menu that once exceeded 150 cocktails and patrons that are usually two to four people deep at the bar, the bartenders have to be skilled and fast. Most cocktail bars have the luxury of only seating people in how many chairs they have; that's not the luxury we get here. We often fill to standing room only. We as a bar staff must have incredible depth of knowledge, extremely precise hand work and superb social skills to handle such thirsty crowds.

How do you use Montanya Rum in your bar program?

Montanya Rum is one of the amazing Colorado spirits we like to feature in our bar program.

With a cocktail menu as extensive as Justice Snow’s, the best place to feature a local distillery is on our opening statements page, which is our first two pages of the book, and where you’ll often find Montanya. With so many amazing Colorado distilleries, we now feature mostly local products on our Opening Statement menu.

What makes for a great night of bartending?

A great night of bartending has many faces. When the light is at the perfect dim, the music is at the perfect decibel, the background noise is scattered with laughter, and there’s a pronounced sound of ice banging around in the shaker. Everyone is working hard to create a great ambience for every single person. Then after the dinner service the band shows up ready to rock, the tables get pushed to the side and everyone dances, drinks and shares a great night with friends and strangers. That is the perfect night for a bartender.

What’s your favorite rum cocktail?

Tiki Old Fashioned from Sam Gemus, Justice Snow'sMy favorite Montanya Rum cocktail came about when I was tinkering with some classic recipes. I threw a brown sugar cube in a rocks glass and put a dash of orgeat syrup along with several dashes of angostura bitters and tiki bitters. I then muddled the sugar cube down very finely and added some Montanya Rum along with ice and a lemon, or sometimes an orange peel. This is one of my favorite ways to make a rum Old Fashioned.

RECIPE: Tiki Old Fashioned

In a rocks glass:

1 brown sugar cube

dash of Orgeat Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

2 dashes Bittermen's Tiki Bitters

muddle above ingredients and add

2.5 oz. Montanya Oro Rum

orange or lemon peel

stir with a bar spoon

What do you wish more people knew about Justice Snow’s?

I wish more people knew that at Justice Snow’s, we work to restore culture within our drinks. Many places all across the country serve people too many drinks and then you lose the great tastes and sensations behind the drinks. For example, a well balanced Rum Manhattan can truly open someone’s eyes to how beautiful rum can taste, giving them another amazing option and gets people thinking beyond Rum and Coke.

Justice Snow's - Aspen, Colorado

Justice Snow's Michelle Kiley's Favorite Montanya Rum Cocktail:

Kiley, the dynamic and delightful proprietor at Justice Snows, is a particular fan of the Fiery Passion cocktail at Montanya Distillers rum bar in Crested Butte.  (You are not mistaken that Montanya has a strong history of enjoying the company of other women-owned businesses in Colorado and around the world!) We have included Kiley's favorite cocktail here so you can share her love of this spicy, dramatic passionfruit recipe.


in a tall Collins Glass 

In cocktail shaker with ice

2.5 oz Habanero-Pineapple Infused Platino (recipe below)

1 fresh Lime, juiced

2 oz Juice made from organic, unsweetened Passionfruit Puree

.5 oz light Agave syrup

6 fresh Mint leaves - lightly muddled

Shake and strain over ice

Top with Club Soda or Seltzer

Garnish with 1/2 Spiced Sugar Rim (Turbinado Sugar, Cinnamon, Nutmeg), a fresh Pineapple wedge and fresh Mint sprig

Habanero Pineapple Infusion:

Take the rind off a half a fresh Pineapple and chop into pieces.  Slice 1/2 to 1 fresh Habanero pepper, wearing gloves.  Place into 1 bottle of Montanya Platino Rum.  Add the Habanero in stages if concerned about the infusion being too spicy.  (If it gets too spicy, add more Montanya Platino Rum.)  

As we highlight bartenders we have come to love, we’d also like to hear from you. If you know about a bartender who is making innovative cocktails with Montanya rum, we'd love to consider them for a future post.  And if you haven’t already, check out last month’s feature on The Kitchen Denver.