The après ski scene has always been an integral part of your ski vacation. You hit the slopes for hours on end, cascading down the hill, trail by trail in search of the freshest powder. How should a day of epic shredding end? Bellying up to the nearest ski bar, of course, gathering with friends and family, recounting the day’s adventures with monumental narratives that would put a Warren Miller movie to shame.
For years these legendary tales have been accompanied by the après ski libation of choice, beer. It is the perfect refreshing beverage to quench your thirst after a day on the slopes, and help you remember crucial details in your mountain stories like the eight feet of air you got off a hit that was really only about eight inches. However, recently there is a new trend developing in the après ski scene. One that can make your stories even more legendary, and that is après ski cocktails.
“With the advancement of palates as well as the sophistication of restaurants and bar staff, the options for cocktails have progressed past a base spirit and ‘soda’ style drink,” says Max Overstrom-Coleman of Vermont Spirits. “There are now a broad range of drinks that appeal to a greater range of après skiers’ tastes.” The growing farm-to-glass trend has also put an emphasis on local ingredients; craft distilleries are popping up in and around ski towns across the country. “Many après consumers are from out of state and want to taste local products,” Overstrom-Coleman explains. “This desire coupled with nearby distilleries producing exceptional rye, bourbon, gin and vodkas drives liquor sales as well.”
Quite honestly, what can be more local than après ski cocktails themselves, which are often only crafted at specific resorts by expert mixologists. “Don’t get me wrong, a well-made craft beer is great, but that can be found at other bars and restaurants,” observes Josh Hockman, head bartender at the Brass Tag in Deer Valley, Utah. “Specialized mixed drinks, however, are typically only found at that one place.”
With all of this in mind, you might find it hard not to give at least one mixed drink a try after a long day of making some turns. So we hit up a bunch of the best après ski bars in the country to see new and exciting cocktails that they are stirring up this ski season…
The Brass Tag (Deer Valley, Utah): Northside
Relatively new to the food and beverage scene at Deer Valley is the Brass Tag. However, don’t let their newness fool you into thinking that they are green when it comes to the craft cocktail scene. This is never more evident than in what Hockman describes as their go-to après ski drink, the Northside. This is a play on an old-fashioned, made using locally distilled Beehive barrel-aged gin, Grand Marnier liqueur, Luxardo liqueur and house-made bitters.
1.5 oz Beehive Distillery Barrel Aged Gin
.25 oz Luxardo Liqueur
.25 oz Grand Marnier Liqueur
3 Dashes of The Brass Tag Orange Bitters (made in-house at The Brass Tag)
Luxardo Cherry for garnish
Stir gin, Luxardo liqueur, Grand Marnier and bitters over ice for 10 to 12 seconds. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Flame orange oil over the drink. Garnish with Luxardo cherry.
Sitzmark Club (Alta, Utah): Gin Old Fashioned
Situated in the original portion of the Alta Lodge, this classic ski bar offers a beautiful firepit to warm yourself in front of as you take in views of the mountain. No stranger to the après ski scene here is legendary pro skier/bartender, Dan Withey. Withey has been working at the Sitzmark since 1992, when he packed up and left Wisconsin in search of the steep and deep. He attributes the growing trend in après ski cocktails to the emergence of High West Distillery and Beehive Gin in Utah: “These new craft distilleries are giving you better options to mix drinks with, whereas back in the day, we used to only carry one or two generic options.” The Gin Old Fashioned is a local favorite that will have you feeling pretty good after a day on the mountain.
1 tsp. Agave Nectar
Dash Angostura bitters
2 oz. Beehive Barrel Aged Gin
Orange peel for garnish
Shake with ice. Strain into glass. Garnish with orange peel.
Montanya Distillers (Crested Butte, Colorado): Señorita
Not only is Montanya partners with Crested Butte, they also have their own rum bar that is a hopping après ski joint itself. How do they separate themselves from the pack and keep attracting a full crowd on a daily basis? “Pushing people outside the rum cocktail box (coke, pineapple, coconut) with flavors rarely associated with rum like basil, grapefruit, chai spices, habanero, cucumber, and more,” says owner and president Karen Hoskin. “We make almost everything from scratch at our distillery.” The Señorita is the perfect drink to warm your insides with some spiciness.
Juice of 1 fresh-squeezed lime
.5 oz light agave
6-8 muddled cilantro leaves
3 oz habanero-pineapple infused* Platino
Shake and strain into glass. Garnish with cilantro leaf.
*Habañero Pineapple Infusion
Take the rind off half of a fresh pineapple and chop into small pieces. Slice 1/2 to 1 fresh habanero pepper, wearing gloves. Remove seeds. Place all of the above into 1 bottle of Montanya Platino Rum. Add the habanero in stages if concerned about the infusion being too spicy. If it gets too spicy, add more Montanya Platino Rum.
Harriman’s Farm to Table (Mount Snow, Vermont): Gin-ger Mule
Located inside the Grand Summit Hotel, Harriman’s Farm to Table is Mount Snow’s premier dining experience. “Maple seems to be one of the top sellers in our après ski cocktails,” bar manager Jesse Horton reveals. “There is also a good following for the local small batch distilleries in Vermont that we use in our drinks.” One such example, the official mixed drink of Ski Vermont this season, is the Gin-ger Mule.
1.25 oz Coppers Gin
.25 oz Blood Orange Bitters
Juice from half a lime
1 oz Blood Orange Juice
Fill a highball glass, add first four ingredients and top with Ginger Beer.
The Firetower (Stratton, Vermont): Bacon Old Fashioned
Returning from last year’s top aprés ski bars and beers story is The Firetower, whose après ski cocktail business is booming right now. “Our cocktail biz was up 58 percent from the 2013-14 season to the 2014-15 season because we focused on creative stuff and the guests are willing to give things a try,” explains owner Peter Micioni. “With cocktails trending everywhere right now, my coworkers and I saw a void in the après scene that needed to be filled,” adds bartender Giovanna Romano. “We focus on making classic, affordable, handcrafted fresh cocktails.”. While getting creative with ingredients from out of state, they are also kicking it up with in-state favorites, like Vermont maple syrup—a key ingredient in the Bacon Old Fashioned.
In a mixing glass muddle one orange slice and one Bada Bing cherry with 1/2 oz maple syrup, 2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, and 2 1/2 oz of Bacon-infused Maker’s Mark. Fill glass with ice and stir. Strain contents into a rocks glass over a large cube, splash with club soda and garnish with an orange zest and strip of bacon.
Truckee Tavern (Lake Tahoe): Dan O’Callahan
In a fun twist for this ski season, Truckee Tavern has a whole line of après cocktails modeled after the classic California-based ski flick Hot Dog. They are also consistently pushing the limits of creativity by incorporating many in-house ingredients,. including bitters, homemade chocolate ganache and house cold-brewed coffee. So which “Hot Dog” themed cocktail is best? “Personally any drink based on the whiskey is my go-to after a long day on the hill,” says owner Chris St. Martin. “The Dan O’Callahan [named after the movie’s main character] is a well-balanced cocktail based on a Manhattan that puts me in the perfect mood to start my après.”
1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1/2 oz Lairds Apple Brandy
3/4 oz Royal Vermouth
1/4 oz Pavan Orange Liquor
2 dashes of Truckee Tavern and Grill Apple Bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, stir and serve up with a flamed lemon peel.
Piste Mountain Bistro (Jackson Hole, Wyoming): Fireside
Located in the Rendezvous Lodge at the top of the Bridger Gondola, this new spot is all set to serve you cocktails at 9,095 feet. “Trying to riff a drink off of something that reminds you of sitting by a fire, or eating a slice of mom’s apple pie, will not only speak to the palate but also to the rest of the senses,” observes iconic bartender Billy “Bonefish” Fannemel. “When you have had a life-changing day of skiing/boarding and après rolls around, nothing, and I mean nothing is as transporting as a well-made cocktail shared with friends or family.” Hence, the Fireside.
3/4 oz brandy
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3oz dark hot cocoa
2 drops xocolatl mole bitters
Stir all ingredients together, top with marshmallow cream and brûlée with a torch.
Local (Jackson Hole, Wyoming): Hell or Highwater
Located in Jackson’s historic town square, Local is “the place to be seen” after a day on the slopes. Local’s drinks feature three key components of a great après cocktail: they are seasonal, specific to the bar and made with local ingredients. Take for example, the Hell or Highwater, made with newly released Highwater Vodka, straight from Jackson Hole. Trying a drink like this one is a great way to experience the taste and flavor of a new place. “We create cocktails unique to our bar,” says manager Paul Smith. “They are a great, festive way to kick off the party and get ready for a great night.”
2 oz. Jackson Hole Still Works Highwater Vodka
.5 oz. Passion Fruit Puree
.5 oz. Ancho Chili Syrup*
2 shakes Smoked Paprika
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill with ice. Shake for 10 seconds. Strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and another shake of smoked paprika.
* Ancho Chili Syrup
2 cups Water
2 cups White Sugar
7 Ancho Peppers
1 Dried Habanero
Tear Ancho Peppers. Bring water to a boil. Add additional ingredients. Reduce to a simmer. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Reduce to low simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove habanero pepper. Blend until smooth. Strain through fine mesh strainer. Let cool. Should keep in fridge for two weeks.