Great Plates has kicked off! For me, the next two weeks are going to be a smorgasbord of food at places that I normally can’t afford, so I’m pretty excited ...
Esquire Magazine got the internet buzzing last week with a doomsday article bemoaning the increasing demand and shrinking supply of top-shelf whiskey. The whiskey industry has always been susceptible to booms and busts, and if you’ve looked any cocktail menus recently, it’s pretty clear we’re sitting at the top of the bubble. Whiskey is hip, whiskey is cool, and whiskey is goddamn delicious. All good things, right? But as the public continues to scoop up bottle after bottle of 12-year-old Scotch, the major distilleries are starting to run low on stock. Great whiskey can take a long, long time to make and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
But all isn’t doom and gloom! The article’s author turns her nose up at young, upstart distilleries, implying that nothing good can come from distillers without decades of experience. I’m going to have to disagree with that. In the magical world of Whiskey Land, age comes before beauty – take a bottle of great whiskey and let it sit in a dark cellar for fifteen years, and you wind up with pure gold. There are no shortcuts. Greatness demands age, and age takes time. Obviously.
But not everyone wants – or can afford – premium whiskey. Younger whiskeys are cheaper and easier to find, and offer a greater variety to drinkers that have become accustomed to the microbrewery model (ie: small batches, limited releases, and experimentation). Large, established distilleries strive for perfection, not experimentation. Small, new distilleries like our own Feisty Spirits are more willing to unbutton their collars, let their hair down, and play around with their whiskey. Maybe it’s the FoCo Loco in me, but I love a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Between Feisty Spirits, William Oliver’s Publick House, upcoming distilleries like CopperMuse and Big Fat Pastor, and a brand new whiskey bar opening soon in Old Town, it’s obvious to even non-drinkers that we’re living in a whiskey renaissance. How long will it last? That’s anyone’s guess, but in the meantime I plan to enjoy it with fun, local spirits that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and a laid-back, quintessentially Colorado attitude with distillers that are eager to share, happy to teach, and willing to have a little fun with their craft.
As a late night blogger, freelance writer, substitute mailman, and emotionally scarred veteran of the mass-market retail industry, I’m all too familiar with atypical work schedules. Not everyone works a 9-5 job, or even has a steady work schedule from week to week. Just ask your favorite Old Town bartender – you can bet their “weekend” doesn’t start till Monday. This can make it tough to plan meetings or sign up for classes and events. Fortunately, this month’s sponsor makes it easy for you to get an education without compromising your flexibility.
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45 years. That’s how long Tony’s Bar & Rooftop has been open in one form or another – since 1969, the year that alcohol prohibition was repealed in Fort Collins. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Tony’s grew out of Bakes’ Restaurant and Alley Lounge at 249 S. College Avenue (where HuHot is found today). With the first on-premise, full-bar liquor license in Fort Collins, Bakes’ Alley Lounge was a ’70s hotspot until 1977, when Antonios “Tony” Katopodis – who had emigrated from Greece 5 years earlier – bought the place and ran it for 11 years as The Greek Connection diner and Bakes’ Alley Lounge. In 1988, Tony moved the whole business across the street to its current location and renamed it Tony’s Restaurant and Lounge, serving up delicious diner-style Greek breakfasts in the front and slinging booze in the smoky back lounge accessible through the alley. The diner was scrapped in the mid-’90s and Tony’s was remodeled into the bar-centric establishment we know and love today. In 2009, Tony’s expanded even further with a rooftop patio. After a few more cosmetic updates and renovations, Tony’s was ready to slide into its 45th birthday looking a hell of a lot better than most places greeting that particular milestone.
To celebrate the occasion, Tony’s is throwing a massive 45th Anniversary Party next Friday, February 28th, open to the public at 6:30 PM. They’ve been updating their Facebook page with cool old photos and interesting anecdotes from throughout Tony’s 45-year reign, so I recommend checking them out for a quick hit of nostalgia.
After 45 years, I can’t help but wonder where Tony’s is going to go next. Tony’s landed on Playboy’s Top 100 College Bars list in 1997, cementing their status as the go-to college bar in Old Town, a reputation that has served them for better or worse for the last 15 years. Their rooftop patio became a favorite destination for smokers and cigar connoisseurs, leading Tony’s to host cigar nights and cocktail pairings on a regular basis. But times change. With the recent city ban on smoking within 20 feet of bar or restaurant patios, Tony’s is being forced to adjust its game plan. Tony’s - along with a few other local bars offering popular outdoor smoking areas – has until June 18th to comply, then all smoking on their rooftop patio will be nixed completely.
Personally, I think this smoking ban is taking things a little too far. I’ll say it up front: I don’t smoke, but I breathe in things every day that are a lot worse than a little secondhand smoke, so I don’t really care if someone wants to smoke around me, outside, in a well-ventilated space. If I ever develop lung cancer, it’s more likely to come from breathing in exhaust from the urban cowboys cruising College Avenue in their pimped out Dodge Rams than from an occasional hand rolled cigar. Tony’s built their rooftop patio partly to address this exact problem – by allowing smokers a safe place to go and enjoy a drink and a smoke, away from public sidewalks or dirty back alleys. I don’t see how a cigarette smoked fifty feet above your head is hurting you any more than the lead paint in your crappy apartment or the RBGH in your kid’s chocolate milk. We’re all gonna die someday, guys. Might as well have some fun first.
Anyway. Back to the party. If everyone who’s ever stepped foot in Tony’s throughout the years decides to come relive their glory days (or make some new ones), you can bet there’s going to be a line around the block. And in honor of the event, I’ll be posting a full review of Tony’s next week on Late Night Fort Collins. This one has been a long time coming, mostly because I’ve changed my mind about this bar so many times that even I’m confusing myself.
What about you? What are your thoughts, memories, and musings on Tony’s? Will you be wishing them a “Happy Birthday?”