Favorite

Cork & Cask aims for swank sipping 

click to enlarge A fine whiskey appreciates the company of nice things. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A fine whiskey appreciates the company of nice things.
The hype around Cork & Cask, home to more than 200 whiskeys and a wide assortment of wines, stems mostly from its Las Vegas-inspired decor: a gaudy-posh array of velvety, high-back chairs and sleek sofas sidled up to shiny white tiger granite tables, pretty chandeliers, a dark birchwood bar-back lined with bottles lit by changing LED lights, a sexy black taurus granite bar counter, and the always-amazing steampunk-toned paintings of local artist Phil Lear.

All that’s to say it bears the stylistic imprint of majority owner Joe Campana (51 percent), borrowing elements familiar from The Rabbit Hole and Bonny & Read from Campana’s portfolio, which includes Stir, Supernova, and soon-to-launch Shame & Regret (in 15-C’s old spot) and Kanaloa, a Hawaiian poke bowl bar, near Supernova. Lucas Frye, the other owner, who holds the 49-percent stake, counts friendship with Campana back to their days working at Phantom Canyon in the early aughts; Frye went on to work at The Club at Flying Horse, then in Destin, Florida, before returning to spend four years at Bourbon Brothers.

While Campana continues to mentor certain employees of his (Matt Baumgartner for Shame & Regret and Audriana Sutherland for Kanaloa) into co-ownership of his new spots — and occasionally cause a near-boycott-level ruckus by pissing people off on social media, it must be noted — Frye is the welcoming face at Cork & Cask, which he describes as “The Addams Family meets Alice in Wonderland meets Penny Dreadful.” The concept started with whiskey and wine, and grew out from there, he says.
Location Details Cork & Cask
60 E. Moreno Ave.
Downtown
Colorado Springs, CO
434-8949
3 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., daily
Bar Food
For all the ritzy visuals, Cork & Cask, minus an actual kitchen and with an assist from Bonny & Read chef Josh Kelly, pursues a starkly simple and unpretentious food menu, more mingle-plate house party than elevated drink bar — hell, a Bavarian pretzel the size of our heads screams hockey game. But it also equates to a damn satisfying snack, dipping doughy hunks in a white cheddar and Brie fondue, with house mustard as another option.

Brie also stuffs the whiskey balsamic-soaked figs on a small plate of creamy, fatty bacon bites from Wisconsin-based Nueske’s. A stuffed olive assortment includes salty feta and funky blue cheese, while the charcuterie board could just as easily be assembled out of any decent grocery store deli. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with some fine Swiss, Brie and aged Irish cheddar, prosciutto, a salami trio, honey, mustard and grapes, but there’s no surprises or anything to personalize it to this place, such as local sourcing or a more-rare option. A deviled egg flight’s actually the highlight, including a traditional take, an herbaceous balsamic pesto rendition and a pickled egg with rich yellow curry filling.

We skip vino for cocktails, which show roundly well-made, from a New Orleans classic Vieux Carré with Knob Creek Rye, to the blushing pink, Prosecco- and rose liqueur-sweet Adelaide, and an Arsenal Mule, basically a gin buck kicked up by pear liqueur and a white balsamic offset. And to honor the whiskeys — priced for an ounce-and-a-half pour, neat or on the rocks, and ranging from the familiar and affordable to rare and expensive — we pick one new to us and many U.S. states as of 2018: The Irishman’s sister label, Writers’ Tears, which deserves its high rating in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

Simply having a plethora of whiskeys does not make Cork & Cask unique. But the showy décor certainly does, and fans of Campana’s brand will feel right at home with Frye.

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