277 martinis a night, Miner’s Claim owner Christian Harra wins ‘Best Bartender’
Miner’s Claim restaurant owner Christian Harra’s first job in the service industry did not involve mixing gin and vermouth.
Barely a teenager and living in Milford, Connecticut, Harra rode his bike down to a local Mexican restaurant where his friend washed dishes, hoping to get his foot in the door also.
“[The manager] didn’t have any work inside the restaurant but said, ‘Come in once a week and pick up cigarette butts.’
“And that’s what I did,” Harra said of the job that paid five bucks a week. “Until one night, when the back door opened up while I was picking up cigarette butts and I heard, ‘come on in.’
Christian’s “in” was washing dishes, which eventually led to bussing tables, waiting them, cooking and finally bartending.
Now 47, for the third year in a row, Harra was voted Best Bartender in this year’s Glenwood Springs Post Independent Locals’ Choice.
Last Tuesday, while concocting margaritas, mules and other libations off the Silt staple’s 24-page drink menu, Harra also prepared 277 martinis — just another “Tini” Tuesday, Harra explained of Miner’s Claim’s 2-for-1 martini night.
Harra discovered his love for the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys following a few blurry spring break trips to Aspen during his college and culinary school years.
“Drinking, après ski, dinner — it was unbelievable,” Harra said of the Western Slope lifestyle he grew to love. “I was like, I’m moving out here.”
Harra did exactly that when he made the roughly 2,000 mile drive to the Roaring Fork Valley in a 28-foot U-Haul. Upon arriving Harra quickly made a name for himself with locals and celebrities, working in restaurants such as the former Rainbow Grill in Basalt.
“[Hunter Thompson] used to come in. Came in twice. I had to kick him off the [Rainbow Grill’s] deck twice,” Harra said, explaining how the gonzo journalist would always order the same round of drinks.
“Three, triple absolute citron and lemonades, and he would never finish one of them.”
According to Harra, Thompson would leave a little bit at the bottom of the glass before moving on to his next drink. “At the end of that, [Thompson] would have a triple Chivas — again, he would always leave a little bit in the glass — and at the end of that, a quadruple espresso.”
The first time Harra had to speak with Thompson was when he lit up a joint on the restaurant’s busy patio. The second pertained to the author turning the restaurant’s deck into a revealing photo shoot of his personal assistant.
“I’m like, ‘Hunter, come on, we talked about behavior,'” Harra laughed.
At the age of 25, Harra purchased a 3-bedroom, 2-bath cabin in Silt that was zoned for commercial use. Working by day with his father to turn the dwelling into a restaurant and sleeping on its bare floors at night, Harra opened Miner’s Claim in 1999.
Twenty years later, the majority of the restaurant’s original crew — including 2019’s “Best Chef” in Locals’ Choice, Oscar Sanchaz — has remained intact. A crew Harra considers family.
Loved by locals, Miner’s Claim in 2018 squeezed 10,028 pounds of lemons, oranges and limes and made 15,681 martinis — almost five times that of the town’s population.
“I love my locals,” Harra said. “That’s what we are, a locally driven restaurant.”
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