Legend has it that Saint Bernards used to deliver brandy in little barrels to mountaineers and skiers in the Swiss Alps back in the 1800s. Sipping warm-your-heart beverages and schussing the slopes is still a popular pairing — and, for some, those après-ski sips are the best part of skiing and one of the few reasons to celebrate a long, cold winter.
Each winter in New England, athletes flock to the mountains — and the bars surrounding them — to enjoy the fresh powder and warming tipples that make the region’s infamous winters a bit more palatable. At some of the top slopes and sweetest ski towns in the region, these are the popular cocktails beloved by après-skiers.
Caledonia Spirits Distillery and Bar in Montpelier, Vt., serves several wintry cocktails for the ski- and-board crowd. The distillery is especially known in its neck of the woods, and globally, for pioneering the use of raw honey in the production of its renowned Barr Hill Gin. The distillery and bar draws the après-ski crowd from Sugarbush, Stowe, Bolton Valley, and Mad River Glen ski resorts.
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“One of my favorite things about our distillery bar is the mixture of people on any given day,” says Harrison Kahn, Caledonia’s vice president of marketing. “At the end of a ski day, the bar is teeming with folks just off the slopes, and we always have regulars and locals from the Montpelier area — including farmers, legislators, yoga teachers.”
Perennial après-ski favorites include the Fir’get About Tomorrow, “a wintry Martini inspired by the snowy forests and mountains of Vermont,” says bartender Nathan Canan-Zucker, who created the sip. “Balsam fir and stone pine accentuate the resinous juniper notes [of gin], preserving the dry, piney finish of a classic Martini, but with a touch more spice and body for a welcoming embrace after a day of skiing.”
The Toast Mallowne, which Canan-Zucker says was “inspired by relaxing fireside after a long snowy day on the mountain,” is built in a mug with the distillery’s aged Tom Cat Gin, crème de cacao, Mexican spiced pepita orgeat, aged rum, coconut milk, milk, cinnamon tincture, mole Bitters, Tom Cat Butter, a drop of lemon oil, and hot water. It is topped with a maple Angostura Tom Cat marshmallow that is toasted table-side.
“An unctuous blend between a Hot Buttered Rum and a Mexican hot chocolate, the subtle spice and smoke notes deftly cut through the savory richness,” says Canan-Zucker. “One sip will have you feeling ‘better now.’”
Après, the cocktail bar located in Mirror Mirror day spa in Stowe, Vt., is a hotspot for skiers and riders right off the mountain in search of massages. Its Thanks, It Has Pockets cocktail — a gin cocktail complete with citrus and floral notes — is a popular order for thirsty athletes. “Stowe is very beer-focused,” says Après founder and owner Christopher Leighton. “So anyone looking for a cocktail in a relaxing lounge type of environment can really enjoy the space.”
Espresso Martinis are trending this winter, and the sophisticated sip is a popular après-ski cocktail at Trails End Tavern at King Pine Ski Area in Madison, N.H. The Martini is a pour of Three Olives Triple Shot Espresso Vodka, Baileys, and Frangelico. “The cocktail has been served for about four or five years,” says bar manager Ben Whipple, who is additionally a member of the King Pine snowmaking team. “It’s definitely one of our tavern’s signature cocktails that is popular after a day of skiing or riding.”
Down the road, about a quarter mile from the King Pine ski hill, is the sought-out après-ski Traditions Pub at Purity Spring Resort, whose menu boasts both typical Espresso Martinis and an Espresso Light Martini, which adds a float of cream to the typical recipe.
Skiers at Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort can crown their last run on the slope with a Piggy Mule at the WhistlePig Pavilion, a new-to-this-season, wildly popular take on the Kentucky Mule made with local WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye Whiskey, South Burlington’s Halyard Brewing Co’s River Pirate ginger soda, and fresh-squeezed lime juice.
“Winter can get very cold in Vermont,” says Kenny Richards, head brewer and founder of Halyard Brewing. “How nice does a cozy fire, warm raclette, and a delicious locally crafted cocktail sound after a few hours on the mountain — especially when you can leave your skis right outside the door?”
In the chilly northeastern region, skiers and boarders alike know that a warming cocktail after a great run is perhaps the best part of a ski day — and even lodge-bound novices know that any time spent on the bunny slopes deserves a fun, wintry sip.