Your patio is beckoning. Summer evenings in the mountains are the perfect times for hosting small get-togethers. Forgo the standard wine and cheese plate and try something different. We’ve crafted four party ideas using some of our favorite Colorado food and drink purveyors to change things up a bit.
1. Bourbon and backgammon
Summit County is home to the world’s highest distillery, Breckenridge Distillery. While Breckenridge Bourbon served neat or on the rocks is a divine experience, take things up a notch for this bourbon and backgammon party. Have several backgammon boards set up and ready to play placed around your patio. Add a competitive edge by giving each guest 10 dimes to bet with. Print out basic instruction sheets to place near each board, if needed. Have candles and cafe lights glowing and bluegrass music queued up for ambiance. Place large, glass beer steins in the freezer to chill, and wait for your guests to arrive to create your floats.
Black cherry-chocolate bourbon float
2 scoops dark chocolate gelato
1 to 2 ounces Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey
Black cherry soda
Place dark chocolate gelato into each beer mug, add bourbon and fill to top with black cherry soda. Serve with straws and long spoons.
2. Beer and barbecue
While beer and barbecue are classic partners in crime, give them a grown-up twist by turning your porch into a tasting room. Set up a table with a selection of beers, arranging them from lightest to darkest. Set out smaller tumbler glasses, encouraging each guest to sample different styles of beer. Use butcher paper as a tablecloth, so you can use a marker and label each type of beer. Have guests score each beer or add their own tasting notes, just for fun. Head to Antler’s Discount Liquors on Summit Boulevard in Frisco, where they allow you to build your own six-pack. Try local beers and wacky beers you’ve never heard of in combinations such as IPA, Saison, stout, lager, pilsner, wheat, etc.
On the side, serve grownup grilled-cheese sandwiches, cut into smaller triangles. Taking a note from famed Denver chef Jennifer Jasinski by swapping out cheddar for more sophisticated ingredients such as goat cheese with orange marmalade on sourdough or jalapeno jam and Camembert cheese on thick brioche. As a dipping sauce, set out small bowls of the absurdly addictive Breckenridge 9600 BBQ sauce. Head to breck9600.com to learn more about this barbecue sauce and to find out where it’s available for sale in Summit County.
3. Tea party
Who says teatime needs to be proper? Turn some of your favorite teas into “tea-tinis.” Rather than martini glasses, serve them in chilled teacups.
Use Spring44 Vodka for the first recipe for its smooth, clean and crisp finish. Spring44 Distilling, located in Loveland, uses Rocky Mountain artisanal mineral spring water in all six of its spirits. Use the classic vodka in this recipe, but the next time you’re on the Front Range, head up for a free tour of the distillery, built in 2010, and try the Honey Vodka and Old Tom Gin.
Earl Grey tea-tini
2 ounces strongly brewed Earl Grey tea, cooled
1 ounce Spring44 Vodka
½ ounce cream
½ ounce simple syrup
Start by brewing 8 satchels of your favorite Earl Grey tea in 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes, and then remove teabags and transfer tea into a glass vessel. Place into refrigerator, and allow 1 hour to cool completely.
To create the simple syrup, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add 2 cups sugar, and remove from heat. Stir until completely dissolved and thickened. Place into refrigerator to cool. Once completely cooled, it can be transferred to a plastic squeeze bottle.
Fill martini shaker with ice. Add Earl Grey tea, vodka, cream and simple syrup. Shake for 30 seconds, and strain into chilled teacup.
Blackberry lemonade tea-tini
2 ounces strongly brewed Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea, cooled
1 ounce Leopold Bros. Rocky Mountain Blackberry Liqueur
1 ounce Leopold Bros. American Small Batch Gin
Start by brewing 8 satchels of Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea in 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes, and then remove teabags and transfer tea into a glass vessel. Place into refrigerator, and allow 1 hour to cool completely.
Fill martini shaker with ice. Add lemon tea, blackberry liqueur and gin. Shake for 30 seconds, and strain into chilled teacup. Top with a thinly sliced lemon wheel.
For this tea-tini, use the classic Lemon Zinger tea from one of North America’s largest tea manufacturers, Celestial Seasonings, located in Boulder. Since 1969, they’ve been crafting soothing herbal teas, green teas and black teas.
For the booze, we head to Denver distillery Leopold Bros., a family-owned and operated small-batch distillery. If the distillery’s use of regional fruits and botanicals isn’t enough to entice you, then its beautiful apothecary-style bottles make it impossible to resist.
For the perfect accompaniment for our tea-tini, try your hand at baking vanilla bean scones along with Devonshire cream and lemon curd. Or skip the mess and head directly to Columbine Bakery across from City Market in Avon to pick up an assortment of goodies. Try the hazelnut cheese croissants or the macaroons, and set Pandora to the Edith Piaf station to accompany your swanky soiree.
4. Starry nights
Perk 763 of living in the mountains: the night sky. With the lack of city lights illuminating the sky, we can clearly see an incredibly array of stars, and sparkly stars call for sparkly bubbles. Invite a small group of friends over for a starry night sipping party. Download an astrology app to your phone or tablet to identify some of the gorgeous stars you’re gazing upward at. See which guests can spot the most constellations. The prep for this gathering couldn’t be easier. On the afternoon of the party, head to Northside Coffee & Kitchen in Avon for some doughnuts. Place them in the fridge until the party, and they’ll be the perfect dense consistency for dipping into this cocktail creation. Swing by Dillon Ridge Liquors to pick up the booze, and you’re ready.
The black velvet was first created in London in 1861. This champagne and stout beer combination is the perfect balance of the heavy beer and light, sparkling wine. Instead of traditional Guinness, opt for the Vanilla Porter from Breckenridge Brewery. This smooth, roasted beer is the perfect start to this liquid dessert. Use extra-brut champagne, the least sweet variety. Set out fancy bowls of mini donuts for dipping, and enjoy.
Black velvet cocktail
Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
Fill a champagne flute or Tom Collins glass ¾ of the way with champagne. Slowly pour Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter over the back of a large spoon, in hopes of achieving a layered effect. If it mixes, who cares!