Overshadowed by Aspen, Carbondale is easy to miss. Sitting at the foot of Mount Sopris, Carbondale lacks the glitz and glamour of its neighbor, but there are plenty of reasons to seek out this eclectic, 6,800-plus-resident town.
Carbondale is a newly minted Certified Colorado Creative District, a designation that recognizes rural thriving arts communities. Bikers will want to pedal along the paths that cut in and around the small mountain town. Natural hot springs entice with their therapeutic waters. But we stopped by for another reason: to get a spirited taste of Carbondale.
Follow Forbes Travel Guide’s food-and-drink-fueled tour through Colorado in our four-part series. First, we visited a wine region. Then we hit the state’s culinary capital. And now, we’re venturing to Carbondale for cocktails.
WHERE TO DRINK
While the state may best be known for beer, it’s working to build its reputation as a spirits destination. In February 2018, the Colorado Distillers Guild launched the Colorado Spirits Trail, an itinerary that maps out 50-plus craft distilleries making brandy, whiskey, gin, agave, rum and more. Our stop was Carbondale’s Marble Distilling Co.
Connie Baker gave up her medical communications career in New York to pursue spirits in Carbondale. “This is my calling,” Marble’s head distiller and co-founder said.
When Baker delved into the business, she was surprised to see how much waste distilling created and was determined to make spirits as sustainable as they were robust.
Opened in 2015, her zero-waste distillery sources 90 percent of its grain from within a mile, with the rest coming from elsewhere in Colorado. After the grains have been distilled, the protein-rich spent mash is given to ranchers for feeding livestock and compost. Marble also developed an innovative system that recycles the water and creates all of the energy needed for the distillation process. This saves more than 4 million gallons of water and 1.8 billion BTUs annually, which is enough energy to power 20 homes for a year.
Thankfully, taste isn’t sacrificed in making these spirits sustainable. Pop into The Marble Bar, a stylish space with a 9,000-pound marble slab bar, gray furniture and Edison bulbs, to sample the distillery’s collection.
Gingercello is a spin on the classic Italian liqueur limoncello, but it uses fresh-cut ginger and lemon zest to deliver zing. The 70-proof tipple is great on its own or in the bar’s Marble mule (vodka, ginger beer and lime) or Tee Time (tea, lemon, lavender simple syrup).
For the Moonlight Expresso, Baker drew on her mother’s coffee liqueur recipe, though Baker changed things up by adding locally roasted Guatemalan coffee and Ugandan vanilla beans for her dark, rich version. You’ll be tempted to swap The Dude (Moonlight Expresso, cream and chocolate shavings) for your morning brew.
Marble’s flagship spirit is its vodka, which is filtered through Yule marble (the same stone used for the Lincoln Memorial) from a quarry in Marble, an aptly named town about 30 miles away. The 80-proof vodka is not as brash as its Russian counterparts, offering a creamy and smooth finish.
WHERE TO EAT
Head to Silo, a cozy spot hidden in an industrial-looking area, for farm-to-table breakfast served all day long. Dig into the Blue Plate, a thick toast slice topped with housemade ricotta, crispy kale and an egg, or the King of Convenience, a build-it-yourself egg sandwich with aged cheddar and your choice of toppings on soft ciabatta.
If you have room left, order some of the strawberry, basil and lemon muffins. Dusted with powdered sugar and crowned with a flower, the housemade muffins look like a kitchen showpiece, but you’ll want to devour the moist cakes.
Opt to sip your nitro coffee out on the tiny patio to take in snow-capped Mount Sopris vistas and the pristine Colorado air.
WHERE TO STAY
Above The Marble Bar, you’ll find The Distillery Inn. It debuted in 2015 as Carbondale’s first boutique hotel, and it’s the only inn in the world housed within a working distillery. Five modern rooms come with fireplaces, local art adorning its walls, Fili D’oro Italian linens on the bed, Bose SoundDock XT speakers and a bar loaded with a copy of The Martini Book, proper tools such as a jigger and stirrer and Marble spirits.
Bring your own minibar cocktail (or a professionally made tipple from the bar below) to the intimate rooftop and enjoy the fresh air, views of Main Street and piped-in music.
Guest room bathrooms have spacious rain showers and Colorado products, including toiletries from Steamboat Springs-based Ranch Organics and a slice of black clay facial soap from Osmia Organics, which is less than 1.5 miles from the inn.
Borrow one of the property’s cruiser bicycles to ride the Rio Grande Bike Path, a 44-mile paved trail that traverses Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs. Or for a shorter but art-focused trek, pedal the Artway, a mile-long stretch on the Rio Grande Bike Path that features sculptures, the Latino Folk Art Garden and the Youth Art Park.
Of course, if you want to make Carbondale a day trip, Aspen is just 30 miles away with top-notch hotels, like Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The St. Regis Aspen Resort.
WHERE TO RELAX
When you need to reset, walk over to True Nature Healing Arts, where you’ll find a café, boutique, spa, underground kiva and classes in yoga, dance, Pilates and more. Make time to explore the one-acre Peace Garden, which is open to the public. For a meditative stroll, follow the hand-cut sandstone tiles winding around in the labyrinth or the circular path in the Zen garden, which affords a brilliant view of the garden. Or sit under the gazebo next to a large fire pit.
Slip off your shoes and carefully walk along the reflexology path, a trail embedded with stones positioned to affect parts of your body. For example, the “earth” section targets your legs, feet and body base, while the “fire” portion supposedly aids with digestion, the core and self-confidence.
Afterward, go to the wood-lined café, where you can peer at the garden through the floor-to-ceiling windows from the big cushioned wood chair with a mug of steaming Earl Grey — it boasts one of the largest organic tea selections in the Rockies.