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Great Après Ski Cocktails

Recipes for Success.

One benefit of being an “seasoned” skier is the luxury of hindsight. Looking back over more than four decades on the hill, I can honestly say that some of my most memorable moments came après ski.

Initially, it was for the love of beer, preferably draft beer, at Happy Hour prices. Consider I grew up in those halcyon days when the drinking age was 18, and the scene at the lodge bars was always hopping. Ski areas could offer great season pass rates to college kids, because they knew they’d make back every single dime at the bar. Of course, as we got older, our tastes matured as well – I leaned toward Bass Ale, Newcastle Brown, or Guinness Stout.

Then came the unmistakable “wine phase” during the courtship of my wife and our early years of marriage. In winter, we would opt for big, bold reds like robust Cabernet Sauvignons and blends from California and South America, complex Sangioveses from Italy, or dusty, dry Syrahs (or Shiraz) from Australia, all of which paired beautifully with the rich, hearty après ski meals we prepared to refuel for the next day on the hill.

These days, well into my second half-century, I drink less, but better. Instead of beer, I prefer to re-hydrate with water, and enjoy a quality spirit. Come late fall, my tastes turn to darker liquors. Bourbon is a favorite, including Basil Hayden, High West, Woodford Reserve, Redemption, Maker’s 46, Blanton’s, Bulleit, and Ridgemont Reserve 1792. And while I respect a well-crafted Manhattan, I prefer my bourbon straight with a single large ice cube and just a few drops of water to open it up a little.

At Chez O’Connor, cocktails are social events, just like they are après ski at the lodge or ski house. When you get a bunch of fun people together, you’re bound to expand the drink menu (though the “gin or vodka martini debate” will probably rage forever!). Here are some of the most popular concoctions at our place.

The Original Margarita
According to the good folks at Cointreau, the inspiration behind the “Original Margarita” was the desires of a chic socialite, Margarita Sames, who was determined to mix her favorite spirits together until she made the perfect drink for entertaining at home. In 1948 in Acapulco, Mexico, the Margarita was born, made with two of Sames’s favorites: Tequila and Cointreau. For me, it’s the perfect cocktail.

The Original Margarita
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (no substitutes!)
2 ounces premium blanco tequila
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Shake and strain into a margarita glass. Garnish with salt and a lime wheel. Can also be served over the rocks, salt optional.
(The original recipe calls for a blanco tequila, but I’m partial to oak-inspired reposados and anejo tequilas, in basically the same measurements.)

The Smoky Margarita
Now we’re talking. Again, relying on the Cointreau mixologists, this is “a masculine balance of smoke and oak, anejo tequila and mezcal create a uniquely complex base for a Margarita. Cointreau and lime juice brighten, while a smoked salt rim brings everything full circle.” Don’t skip on either the tequila (check out Roca Patron anejo) or mezcal. Quality ingredients create a quality cocktail

The Smoky Margarita
1 ounce anejo tequila
1 ounce mezcal
1 ounce Cointreau
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain over ice in a smoke salt-rimmed rocks glass (or go sans salt). Garnish with a lime wheel. Imbibe carefully.

The Cosmopolitan
In our neighborhood, my wife Lauri is known as the Queen of Cosmos, and for good reason. She’s got this cocktail absolutely dialed. While many cocktails allow a certain leeway with regards to ingredients and quantities, the Cosmopolitan requires precision.

The Cosmopolitan
1½ ounce premium vodka
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce cranberry juice
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Rum and Tonic
My brother Sean and I relish a refreshing gin and tonic during the warmer months (Utah’s Beehive Jack Rabbit Gin is giving my all-time fave – Bombay Sapphire – a run for it’s money). But after the clocks roll back in November, the gin moves to the back of my liquor cabinet. While I opt for tequila or bourbon, Sean, however, likes rum. Unlike the gin and tonic, which requires a taste-forward gin, the rum and tonic provides more latitude, depending on your personal tastes. Mount Gay from Barbados is a family favorite.

Rum and Tonic
2 ounces Mount Gay rum
4 ounces quality tonic water (such as Fever Tree)
Lime wedge
Fill a highball glass with ice. Squeeze the lime over the ice and drop in. Add rum and top with tonic. Stir briskly and serve.
(For a nice spin on this classic, substitute Jose Cuervo’s 1800 Silver tequila for Mount Gay, and garnish with an orange slice).

Now, all this said, I’m the first to admit that while I enjoy playing bartender, I’m no expert on mixology. So I reached out to some of our friends in ski country for some of the more trendy cocktails from the mountains. Here are some great choices.

Bourbon Maple Cider
Breanna Escobar, bar manager, Cinnabar at Snowbasin, Utah

“Just about any cocktail with bourbon is delicious, especially in the winter, with the hints of vanilla and a smoky finish,” says Escobar. “I think the bourbon pairs really well with the sweetness of the maple syrup, the spiciness of the ginger liqueur and black pepper, and topped with hot apple cider to warm you up after hitting the slopes.”

Bourbon Maple Cider
1¼ ounce Bulleit bourbon
½ ounce ginger liqueur
¼ ounce maple syrup
5 ounces hot apple cider
Dash of fresh cracked pepper
Combine and serve in an Irish coffee mug.

White Bear
Josh Hockman, manager, The Brass Tag at Deer Valley, Utah

“This is a great winter drink because it’s a cream-based drink, which provides a nice rich backdrop for the seasonal flavors,” said Hockman, winner of the 2015 Park City Cocktail Contest. “The Outlaw Distillery Spiced Rum is a bold spiced rum, with notes of clove, allspice and cinnamon. Their distilling method leaves some of the spices in each bottle, making it very robust in its flavors. The Frangelico liqueur provides a nice nuttiness note to the drink, which continues the pattern of seasonal flavors.

“Finishing the drink with fresh-grated nutmeg provides a seasonal aroma that the guest will identify with before they taste it. All of the ingredients are well balanced; making it an easy-to-drink cocktail even though it is based on rich cream.”

White Bear
1½ ounces Outlaw Distillery Spiced Rum (Salt Lake City)
½ ounce Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
½ ounce Demerara simple syrup
1 ounce fresh cream
Shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain over fresh ice. Grate fresh nutmeg on top and garnish with a candied cherry.

A Little Bit Country
Justin Hyjek, Homestyle Hostel, Ludlow, Vermont

“Nothing to me represents a New England winter quite like a hot toddy,” says Hyjek. “Here at the Hostel, we enjoy a drink aptly named Little Bit Country. And it’s easy enough to make.”

A Little Bit Country
2 ounce Bulleit Bourbon
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ ounce maple syrup (the real stuff)
¼ ounce Luxardo maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Add lemon swathe to mug, build drink in mug, top with hot water stir and enjoy.

Indian Summer
For something a bit different, here’s a bonus cocktail from Hyjek at the Homestyle Hostel, near Okemo Mountain.

Indian Summer
1 ounce mezcal
1½ ounce cantaloupe puree
½ ounces Campari
½ ounce Luxardo apricot liqueur
½ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon
Shake all ingredients, pour over large cube and garnish with lemon wheel.

Hot Spice Cider
Dan Withey, manager, Sitzmark Club at Alta, Utah

“This is the most popular drink in the Sitzmark Club at Alta,” says Withey. “Skiers walk in and smell the cider on the burner and that’s want they want, especially after a cold day.”

Hot Spice Cider (with whiskey or rum)
1 quart apple juice
1 teaspoon clove
3 cinnamon sticks
Peel from half of an orange
Steep for 30 minutes, then strain. Pour 1 to 2 ounces of whiskey or dark rum into a mug, add the cider, and serve.

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