As I approached 3113 W. Cary Street, curious passersby had their faces pressed against the window, trying to get a peek at the highly-anticipated establishment inside. While the front door was temporarily out of use, co-owner Mattias Hagglund greeted me outside and led me through a shared entrance with Carytown Cupcakes. We whisked past the confection-filled display cases, pushed through a pair of swinging doors, and entered The Jasper, Richmond’s newest cocktail bar nestled in the heart of Carytown.
Built on the foundations of old school Southern hospitality—and literally on a bottle of the timeless favorite Chartreuse—The Jasper aims to offer a unique cocktail experience for all who walk over the freshly tiled “J” in foyer. Hagglund, Kevin Liu, and Thomas “T” Leggett, all mixologists of repute both locally and nationally, are the brains behind the operation. The trio joined forces with the design team Campfire & Co. to create the ideal spot to grab a bite and a drink late night. The renovations of the 100-year-old retail space boast dark handsome walls, high ceilings, and a pristine, lavish bar—the perfect setting for the conversation to follow.
What brought you all together to form this cocktail dream team?
Hagglund: After selling my interests in Heritage last year, I was figuring out my next steps and had always discussed opening our dream bar with T [formerly of The Roosevelt] someday. My good friend Kevin [of Tin Pan and Carytown Cupcakes] knew I was looking for a space and reached out to suggest the location next to Carytown Cupcakes. I knew he was hardworking and that the three of us could figure it out. With a parking lot across the street and an optimal spot for foot traffic, we knew it would fit perfectly with our concept.
Why another cocktail bar?
Leggett: Richmond is great for drinking and dining, but a lot of places feel specialized. You have to go to one bar to have a good cocktail, another to grab a cold beer late night after work, another for a decent bite to eat— no place has it all. Often there’s either pressure to have a full dinner, or if you’re in a group and one person wants an old fashioned, one wants a cheap beer, and the other a bottle of wine. There aren’t many places that can accommodate that, especially after midnight. Being in the industry for so long, we saw a gap that needed to be filled and we wanted to be that place.
Hagglund: We’re also geared to efficiently accommodate groups of all sizes with a variety of flexible seating and standing room options. Our idea is to be the best version of a neighborhood bar we can be. We agonized over every detail to make it the best place to drink and a great place to work behind the bar, too.
What inspired the name?
Hagglund: There was a prominent bartender and caterer in the early 1800s—he was one of Richmond’s first celebrity bartenders. When you were coming to Richmond and you wanted guaranteed well-made drinks, food, and hospitality, you went to see Jasper Crouch. T first found his name doing research on old Richmond drink recipes and he found the house punch at the Richmond Quoit Club. Quoit was popular, brought over from England, similar to bocce or horseshoes, and the club (politicians, the fancy folk) met once a month to drink, eat, and play quoits. It’s a fantastic drink and will pretty much always be on The Jasper’s menu.
What style of food do you offer?
Hagglund: Jeremy [Wilson] has set up a quality menu that goes great with drinking. We mostly offer a small plates menu, consisting of house bar snacks and one entree: a bánh mì. The baguette will be made here and we will use local Harlow Ridge Farm pork, chicken liver, pickled veggies, cilantro, and kewpie mayo (there’s a vegan version with mushrooms and tofu, too). All the ingredients we use are valuable, but the food will be really quality made—as tasty as we can possibly serve it—and all available until close at 1:30 A.M.
What’s on tap?
Leggett: Five beers, two wines, two cocktails, one cider, sparkling and still water—to start, at least. Jeremy and Brandon [Peck] have put together a great list of wine and beer, respectively. The cocktail list has been a collaborative effort and will offer a little something for everyone. We like the idea of making it easy to choose something without the fuss—house red, house white, but if you want a nice bottle of wine or a cheap beer, we’ve got that, too.
Past the bar, up the ramp to the rear of the restaurant, a familiar yet curious symbol was painted on the floor—the first artwork to adorn the space.
What’s that on the floor?
Hagglund: That’s the Chartreuse symbol. We love Chartreuse, so we painted it on the floor.
Mattias laughs at the team’s jovial drink inspiration.
OK, but why is it on the floor?
Hagglund: The real story behind the Chartreuse is based on the fact that a lot of bartenders are into it. Jeremy even has it tattooed on his finger. With the wonderful story behind the drink and how celebrated it is by bartenders, we decided to bury a bottle as we built The Jasper—sort of like a good luck charm. So, as they were doing the demolition to the original floor, running all new plumbing and right before they backfilled with concrete, we gathered around and buried a bottle, lovingly, as the heart of The Jasper.
Quoit Club Punch
by Jasper Crouch
1 bottle Jamaican rum
1 bottle brandy
1 bottle Madeira
2 cups lemon juice
2 cups sugar
Combine all and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place in large bowl with lots of ice. Lemon twist for garnish if you want to get fancy.
Photography by Lesnick Photo