Howl Mercantile & Coffee
(130 W. First St., Salida) vies for the hippest curation ever. Seriously, upon touring through all the leatherwork (a back-pocket slim wallet with hand-engraved depictions of curvy butts), jewelry (including the Springs’ The Universe Conspires) and odd items (a clay pipe shaped and glazed like a donut), my girlfriend turns to me with a knowing smile and says “I follow all
these people on Instagram.” And yes, she also follows Howl
. Howl (yes, a nod to the poem; this is a creative space with monthly art shows) basically answers the question “what would it look like if I smashed, say, Story Coffee and Josh & John’s into Ladyfingers Letterpress?”
Owner Kimi Uno and crew serve coffee and espresso drinks with Denver’s Corvus Coffee Roasters products at the back of the store, making an excellent vanilla latte ($4/16-ounce). But the item you must go for is their affogato ($5), made with the good cold stuff from Crested Butte’s Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream. Rotating flavors are another offering at the coffee counter, and all the samples we try are superb. But we finally settle on a coconut cake flavor (think Thai coconut ice cream) and a stellar salted rosemary honey pecan, to which shots of Corvus’ Dead Reckoning espresso are added — an Ethiopian-Guatemalan blend described as having a fruit-forward sweetness. I write down “epic” and “holy shit” in my notes. (I’d howl like the wolf pictured in their logo, but that’d be cliché, and we want to be welcomed back.)
Of note: Howl’s also a Salida spot to buy switchels (sparkling vinegar drinks), infused sparkling waters, syrups and the aforementioned herbal bitters from Dram Apothecary — on whose farm we’ll sleep that night, but more on that on p. 24. We take home a six-piece sample bitters set ($30) to play with in cocktails, mocktails, tea, coffee, and even just water (recipes on their website). Though they are from plant extracts in a vegetable glycerin base, the bitters aren’t anywhere near as potent as essential oils (which most people say you shouldn’t drink), so five to 10 drops as a starting point just begins to add an essence to drinks with more bold flavors. But that little bit works perfectly to enhance a carbonated water with the clean essence of wild mountain sage, lavender-lemon balm, or palo santo, a wood I’ve burned as incense but never knew was also a medicinal that’s imbibable. Described as mystical, with “holy” as the direct translation, palo santo to me has always had a frankincense-like ability to quickly season the air with an unforgettable smell, cause a person to inhale deeply and close their eyes into relaxation — yeah, it just smells (and now tastes) sacred.
Dram’s Citrus Medica bitter cries out to be added to an Old Fashioned, while its elegant Black label, with both black tea and pepper, plus dark berries and cardamom, adds an elusive je ne sais quoi
to coffee for me one morning, at a higher drop count. My favorite, listed as good for upset stomachs and stress headaches, is Dram’s Hair of the Dog, spiked with ginger, cinnamon and fennel — and yes you can try it as a hangover remedy, though I haven’t had occasion to. The company says to consider the bitters as you would salt and pepper, to add that “missing something” to help balance out flavors in baked goods, dressings, sauces and more. We haven’t done this yet, but we will.