Colorado Springs in the past few years has had a vibrant craft cocktail culture with bars like The Archives, The Principal’s Office, and Burrowing Owl. It’s just far enough away that you can feel like you’re getting a change of scenery (and a break from the usual crowd) as well as the opportunity to try some seriously creative drinks.
So, if you’re feeling like taking the trek up back in time, here’s one brand-new place that’s definitely worth paying a visit.
Located behind a nondescript door in an alleyway just north of Bijou, you’ll find Shame & Regret, a Prohibition-style cocktail bar and one of Colorado’s latest additions to the speakeasy trend. It’s not trying to hide — you’ll see the sign in blazing red neon as soon as you enter the alleyway. Once through, you’ll enter into a warmly-lit, leatherbound interior straight out of a Rat Pack film — the sort of spot where you can sit back, relax, and kick it like a 1920’s mobster.
The bar is owned by Matt Baumgartner, formerly of The Rabbit Hole, an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed bar on Tejon (which would make a great second stop if you’re thinking about doing a crawl). He opened Shame & Regret only a few short months ago and hasn’t yet ramped up any major advertising efforts.
Because of this, the bar is still, as our bartender Emily told us, in that magical phase where the only people who know about it are those who know someone involved, and those who just happened to stumble upon it by surprise.
The menu plays host to a range of modified classic cocktails — think Gimlets, Manhattans and Mai Tais — all with a twist or two to set them apart. We started off with a hibiscus-accented mojito, and an Old Fashioned spiked with a dose of Fernet. Both were delicious, their flavors original but still retaining their classic feel, and after a few minutes of sipping, we decided to order some food.
The food at Shame & Regret is largely traditional British Isles fare, “peasant food,” as Emily called it. We ordered a round of scotch eggs, which arrived ensconced in a shell of crispy-fried ground sausage, the egg yolks just soft enough to achieve a perfect, creamy texture. Not bad for a kitchen that is apparently about half the size of the space behind the bar.
But the coolest stuff, we soon learned, was what’s not on the menu. As we started thinking about our second drinks, Emily regaled us with a long list of concoctions that, for one reason or another, never made it onto the official menu. Maybe it’s a speakeasy thing. I was taking my time thinking of what I wanted to try next, and apparently, I took too long.
“Do you like gin?” Emily asked me abruptly.
“Sure,” I told her, and she disappeared in a flurry of mixing ingredients. A couple of minutes later, she was back, holding aloft a glass of dark purplish-blue liquid which she set down in front of me, along with a quarter-shot of what looked like straight lemon juice. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it,” she said, and proceeded to tell me what she had made.
It was called a Minuteman. The main ingredient was a butterfly pea-infused gin, the source of that unusual color. But it didn’t stop there, because butterfly pea, she told me, with a mischievous grin, reacts with citrus. She encouraged me to dump the lemon juice from the shot glass into the drink, and as I did I watched it transform into a vibrant purple.
“Let me know what you think,” she said, and went to help another customer. I didn’t think that would be a problem, and sure enough, a sip confirmed what my eyes already knew — I would be coming back here again very soon.
Shame and Regret is located 15 E Bijou St. Suite C, in Colorado Springs.