Après & Aperitif: The Best Ski Town Spirits and Where to Drink Them

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For those in the know, ski towns have some of the best libations anywhere under the sun—you just have to know where to look.

The culture of imbibing is as native to skiing as chairlifts and fireplaces. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a decent cocktail at a resort, let alone a spirit with any sort of embraceable lineage or history that wasn’t delivered via shot-ski.

Seltzy by Roadhouse Brewing Co.in Jackson, WY
Courtesy New Thought Media Inc.

Today, ski town culture at home and abroad has started to rediscover the heritage of a bygone era. Some destinations, not particularly known for innovation, are even proving to be bright spots of alpine alcohol evolution, like “Seltzy” by Roadhouse Brewing Co. in Jackson, WY, is even producing in-demand drinks like hard seltzers to keep up with evolving tastes. We chatted with some of the foremost experts around the world to get the inside scoop on what’s worth seeking out the next time you find yourself in some of the world’s greatest ski towns.

Europe

Alpenwitter from Badrutt’s Palace in St. Moritz, Switzerland
Courtesy Badrutt’s Palace

Ski Town: St. Moritz, Switzerland
Place: Badrutt’s Palace
Spirit: Alpenwetter
Ingredients: An age-old secret 42-herb blend of local alpine flora.
Origin: At 58 proof, this dark liqueur isn't meant for warming the soul after a day on the slopes as much as it's meant to help digest and cap-off an après, much like an amaro. The drink has its roots in the early 1900s in the Swiss Alps and is long-heralded as a digestif and having medicinal qualities. Arguably the most famous label is Alpenzeller, which was founded in 1902 and whose recipe is still only known by a handful of people to this day. Great in an Old Fashioned or a simple Champagne cocktail.

Bombardino, a hot egg liqueur, advocaat, with whipped cream
EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

Ski Town: Sestriere, Italy
Place: Multiple bars
Spirit: il Bombardino
Ingredients: The harmonious blend of milk, whiskey (or brandy),and zabaglione (Italian egg-based custard).
Origin: Literally translated as “the bomb” from Italian, “il Bombardino” has its roots in Livigno, a popular ski resort in the province of Sondrio. Legend has it that a young Genovese gentleman who wasn’t accustomed to cold weather arrived to run the Mottolino Lodge and raided the kitchen to solve for remedies to dealing with the cold, the bombardino was his finest creation and when the first patron tried the warm beverage, he exclaimed, “It’s a bombshell!”

Cocun Punch from Cocun Cellar Restaurant at Hotel Ciasa Salares in San Cassiano, Alta Badia, Italy
Courtesy Hotel Ciasa Salares

Ski Town: San Cassiano, Alta Badia, Italy
Place: Cocun Cellar Restaurant at Hotel Ciasa Salares
Cocktail: Cocun Punch
Ingredients: Rhum Zu Plun Dark, honey water, lime juice, tangerine oleo saccharum, milk, tangerine peel garnish.
Origin: This drink was originally conceived in the Dolomites at the family-run Hotel Ciasa Salares and remains one of its most popular. The Cocun Punch is a modern take on an old-school classic with a unique smoke and citrus one-two punch with most guests ordering more than one. It’s a light-bodied beverage that won’t weigh you down either at lunch or post-ski aperitivo. Saluti!

Aged Negroni from Hotel La Perla in Corvara Alta Badia, Italy
Stefano Butturini/Courtesy Hotel La Perla

Ski Town: Corvara, Alta Badia, Italy
Place: Hotel La Perla
Cocktail: Aged Negroni
Ingredients: Beefeater, Campari, Cochhi Vermouth, Carpano Vermouth, and orange or lemon peel.
Origin: The Five Star Hotel La Perla celebrated the centennial anniversary of the famed Negroni, the king of Italian aperitifs in 2019. 100 years of the king of Italian aperitifs, with a unique take. Instead of pouring it on demand, they create several barrels of the delicious concoction by aging it in barrels from eight to 12 weeks at a time. Each with its own distinct flavor profile. No two the same, but everyone better than the last.

RELATED: The 10 Best Campari Cocktails You Can Make At Home

Il Cocktail dell’Anniversario from Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & SPA in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Courtesy Marriott 

Ski Town: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Place: Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & SPA
Cocktail: Il Cocktail dell’Anniversario
Ingredients: Champagne Comte de Montaigne Brut Limited Edition, Brandy Rubinelli Vajol, produced in collaboration with Villa Zarri, Bitter “Le Vaglie” from Az. Santa Barbara, homemade Rosemary Syrup, Lime juice, Finished with raspberry, blueberry and smoked rosemary.
Origin: The Cristallo Lounge Bar has long been the unofficial living room of Cortina. To celebrate its 120th anniversary this delicious concoction is served by request only with its a dedicated selection of canapes featuring crispy beetroot tartelette with lime sour cream, avocado cream and marinated salmon and dried and fried Helianti chips filled with Helianti cream and crispy bacon.

Melting Snow from Hotel Olden in Gstaad, Switzerland
Courtesy Hotel Olden

Ski Town: Gstaad, Switzerland
Place: Hotel Olden
Cocktail: Melting Snow
Ingredients: Sake, Grand Marnier, Sirop de Grenadine, Jus de Citron.
Origin: This cocktail is an original and was recommended by the bon vivant Sebastian Schoellgen of 84 Rooms—but conceived by the team at the Hotel Olden. It’s certain to be unlike many other cocktails you’ll find in Switzerland with very different flavor profiles from orange to rice and sweetness from the Sirop de Grenadine. Looking for something special to sip on post-schuss? This is it.

Ski Town: Lech & Zürs am Arlberg, Austria
Hotel: Aurelio Hotel
Spirit: Rochelt Mirabelle
Ingredients: 50% ABV sipping liqueur
Origin: This particular schnapps comes from a specific part of lower Austria where the Mirabelle plums that make the base of the spirit are grown. Distillation can take up to ten years, producing a very special end product that those across the Austrian Alps are proud to sip day in and day out. Rochelt is definitely one of the best heritage distillers in the world.

JAPAN

Ski Town: Minami-Uonuma, Niigata, Japan
Place: Satoya Café
Spirit: Hakkaisan, Yukimoro, Junmai Daiginjo Sake (100% Yamadanishiki rice sake)
Origin: We called, Dean Fuerth, Beverage Director, Sushi Nakazawa (Aspen, New York City, Washington, D.C.) to get his take. “Hakkaisan is one of the most prolific breweries in the alpine Niigata prefecture. Among the wide array of saké they produce is the “Yukimoro” Junmai Daiginjo. Niigata receives some of the heaviest snowfall in all of Japan, and the local populace would historically harness this snow to create large, naturally refrigerated structures called Yukimoro. Similarly, Hakkaisan ferments the sake, and transfers it to inert tanks which are subsequently buried under thousands of pounds of snow and left to age untouched for three years. This process mellows, softens, and integrates the texture and flavors of the sake, yielding an elegant and refined beverage.”

RELATED: What’s New in Japanese Whisky

Ski Town: Shiga Kogen, Nagano, Japan
Place: Time Izakaya
Spirit: Iwai, Tradition – Sakura Cask Finish (Blended Whisky)
Origin: “Iwai ‘Tradition’ is the staple whisky of Mars Shinsu, Japan’s highest elevation distillery, located in Nagano prefecture. The whisky is named after Iwai Kiichiro, one of the early pioneers of Japanese whisky. The 75% malt, 25% corn blend is modeled after the softer, fruitier whiskies of America, and is aged in a mix of bourbon, sherry, and wine barrels before release. This seasonal cuvée is further finished in casks made from Japanese cherry blossom trees, prized wood known as Sakura, which lends a touch of florality and red fruit tone to what is already a balanced, harmonious whisky.” - Dean Fuerth, Beverage Director, Sushi Nakazawa (Aspen, New York City, Washington, D.C.)

SOUTH AMERICA

Pisco Sour from Hotel Portillo Bar in Portillo, Chile
Courtesy Hotel Portillo Bar 

Ski Town: Portillo, Chile
Place: Hotel Portillo Bar
Cocktail: Pisco Sour
Ingredients: Pisco, lemon, simple syrup, egg white, ice
Origin: Pisco is a light-colored brandy specifically made in only two regions in Chile. The origin of this particular cocktail is disputed with one story based in Peru and another in Chile. True to its name, the “sour” portion of the drink comes from the addition of lemon juice, but it has a surprising richness through frothy egg white. If you’re lucky, Portillo’s veteran bartender will whip one up for you—he’s been making the cocktail for most world-class ski teams and guests for the better part of 40 years.

USA

El Calientito from The St. Regis Aspen Resort in Aspen, Colorado
Carly Campbell/Courtesy The St. Regis Aspen Resort  

Ski Town: Aspen, Colorado
Place: The St. Regis Aspen Resort / Mountain Social
Cocktail: El Calientito
Ingredients: low-proof coffee liqueur, mezcal, cherry Heering, agave, hot chocolate powder, warmed milk and a roasted marshmallow or chocolate shavings for garnish.
Origin: Known as a mountain mixology destination, The St. Regis Aspen introduced El Calientito as the newest warm winter cocktail to warm the soul after a day on the slopes. Reminiscent of the family tradition of roasting marshmallows around the warmth of a fire, the cocktail uses the foundational hot chocolate and s’mores taste-profile and matures it with a hit of smoke from mezcal and fruit from agave on its own. Cherry Heering adds an unexpected enhancement to the earthy flavors as a final note.

The Aspen Crud from J-Bar at Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection in Aspen, Colorado
Courtesy Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection

Ski Town: Aspen, Colorado

Hotel:  J-Bar at Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection
Cocktail: Aspen Crud
Ingredients: Five scoops of French Vanilla ice cream, three 1 oz. shots of bourbon, ice
Origin: The famous (or infamous) "Aspen Crud" is steeped in Hotel Jerome's 100+ year history. During Prohibition, the J-Bar was converted to a soda fountain—but locals in-the-know found a way around the liquor laws—when they ordered milkshakes, they asked for “crud” (the addition of four shots of bourbon). A favorite order of past writers J.P. Marquand, Luke Short (Fred Glidden), and Thornton Wilder, Aspen Crud is J-Bar’s signature drink, dating back to Hunter S. Thompson’s days, and the 10th Mountain Division soldiers, who knocked back Aspen Cruds in the ‘40s after training on the slopes.

RELATED: 11 Bourbon Cocktails That Old-Fashioned Lovers Need to Try

New Fashioned from TimberRoom at Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection in Telluride, Colorado
Courtesy Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection

Ski Town: Telluride, Colorado
Hotel: Timber Room at Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection
Cocktail: New Fashioned
Ingredients: Slow drip house-infused spiced bourbon (displayed on the bar), cinnamon, clove, star anise, dried orange
Origin: Bustling après-ski festivities commence daily at 3:00 p.m. at Reflection Plaza with executive chef Bill Greenwood’s ceremonial Alphorn serenade, signaling across the mountain that it's time to gather and exchange stories from the day’s adventures over warm libations and lots of snacks. The New Fashioned is the signature cocktail of the newly-opened Timber Room prepared in a Japanese coffee contraption that looks like a chemistry set.

Bistro Old Fashioned from Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, NV (Lake Tahoe)
Jim K. Decker/Courtesy Edgewood Tahoe Resort

Ski Town: Stateline, NV (Lake Tahoe)
Hotel: Edgewood Tahoe Resort
Cocktail: Bistro Old Fashioned
Ingredients: Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Smokey Orange Bitters, Demamara Syrup in a beautiful ice ball
Origin: “I come from Wisconsin where Old Fashioneds are very different than the west coast versions and I wanted to create a great one that celebrated the citrus notes, but also highlighted an amazing whiskey. We chose to feature the Frey Ranch as the bourbon in this cocktail because of its refined taste, and the fact it’s made just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern Nevada. We wanted the bourbon to shine in this drink; we do not add soda water like a typical old fashioned, so we needed a bourbon that filled all the components. We also wanted to celebrate a family that believes in what we believe in as well here at Edgewood in Tahoe: ‘Be good to the land and the land will be good to you’,” - Cari Schmitt, Restaurant Manager, The Bistro Edgewood

Ski Town: Summit County, CO
Place: Endo’s (Copper Mountain), Derailer Bar (Winter Park), Slope Side Grill (Steamboat)
Cocktail: Whiskey Mary
Ingredients: Stranahan’s Blue Peak Single Malt Whiskey, homemade Bloody Mary mix: Green tomatoes, tomatillos, horseradish, garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, sea salt, black pepper, green hot sauce, secret spice blend.
Origin: “In the Summit County area, riding from mountain to mountain you would encounter the famous Whiskey Mary, a unique take on a traditional Bloody Mary. I’ve recently started making this cocktail with Stranahan’s new Blue Peak, which gives the Whiskey Mary a rich and mellow profile, perfect for après or lunch.” - Lucas Townsend, Head Mixologist at Stranahan’s Lounge

The Horse Thief from The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection in Park City, Utah
Courtesy The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection

Ski Town: Park City, Utah
Place: The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection
Cocktail: Horse Thief
Ingredients:  Reposado tequila, High West Campfire Whiskey, Green Chartreuse, ginger syrup, lime juice, blackberries, Tajin
Origin:  A standout cocktail, Horse Thief, is named for Blue Sky owner Barbara Phillips, who in 2013 stole a mistreated horse from a very neglectful ranch. Her work has continued since then, rescuing 24 horses and 30 cows through the ‘Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation.’ This cocktail pays tribute to her work of making lives better for animals throughout the Wasatch Back.

Lavender Cosmo from Element 47 at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado
Courtesy The Little Nell

Ski Town: Aspen, Colorado
Place: Element 47 at The Little Nell
Cocktail : Lavender Cosmo
Ingredients:  Grey Goose Vodka, St. Germain, Lime, and White Cranberry Juice
Origin:  A modern twist on a Nell classic is typically enjoyed during après ski or prior to dinner we have infused Grey Goose with the essence of lavender. On the nose this cocktail is bright, floral, and herbaceous. On the palate its well balanced with citrus, and elderflower liqueur. Together it harmonizes flavors of lychee, elderflower, and subtle notes of lavender. Finally its presented on a large ice sphere with a flower inside.

Bucking Bronco from The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail in Vail, Colorado
Courtesy The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail

Ski Town: Vail, Colorado
Place: The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail
Cocktail: Bucking Bronco
Ingredients: Breckenridge Bourbon and Ginger Lime Shrub, locally sourced
Origin: A Rocky Mountain twist on the Moscow Mule, served on tap at the legendary, Remedy Bar.