Warming drinks—especially the boozy, spiced and topped-with-a-dollop-of-something-creamy kind—go together very nicely with snow sports. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the time-honored tradition of the après-ski tipple is made all the more rewarding by the exhilaration and chilling temperatures that preceded. But it did take a crack team of professional cocktailians to pull off their union with aplomb at the recent inaugural Après-Ski Cocktail Classic, March 14-17 in Snowmass, Colorado.
I dropped everything and picked up ski poles to join the more than 1,600 après-ski enthusiasts who attended cocktail demos, pairing dinners and tastings. Of course, it’s not après-ski without the skiing. Which is how I found myself on the mountain at 8 a.m.—a full hour before it would open to the public—with Cocktail Classic cofounder Kevin Haasarud; one of America’s foremost beverage educators, Steve Olson of A.K.A. Wine Geek; and our ski instructor Bob. First tracks is an honor unto itself, but zipping down powder-covered slopes before anyone else in such company is quite a treat.
Back at the Wildwood Snowmass, and ready for my post-ski drink, the warm gin punch and engaging history lesson flowed courtesy of William Grant & Sons portfolio ambassador Charlotte Voisey. Mixologist, author and Cocktail Classic cofounder Kim Haasarud and I guffawed as 11th generation glass designer Maximilian Riedel demonstrated how his family changed history when it introduced beverage-specific glassware. (Tequila in the Cognac glass—awful; Cognac in the Cognac glass—a revelation!)
At the grand tasting, I got to try Woody Creek, a potato vodka from nearby Basalt, Colorado, that had just launched the week prior, as well as Resqwater, a new hangover preventative, and one that I think will save Las Vegas much heartache (and headache) this summer! It certainly did after Glenfiddich ambassador Mitch Bechard’s Scotch-fueled fireside chat. “Och, aye!”
Las Vegas’ own Tony Abou-Ganim prepared his beloved cousin Helen David’s Tom & Jerry, invented and made famous at Port Huron, Michigan’s Brass Rail, where the “Modern Mixologist” got his first taste of bartending. Fittingly, the setup for Abou-Ganim’s “Hot Toddies 101” seminar was kitted out with lighting and sound like a Las Vegas DJ booth! Well, if the mountain won’t come to Vegas, Vegas must go to the mountain.