At Bachelors Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, relaxation comes paired with cigars, cocktails and the best friends you’ve yet to meet | VailDaily.com

At Bachelors Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, relaxation comes paired with cigars, cocktails and the best friends you’ve yet to meet

Phil Lindeman
Bachelors Lounge is a beautiful room for a sipping and smoking experience.

At Bachelors Lounge, the posh new cigar bar at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, the characters you meet set it apart from just about anything else around here.

And never mind that it’s the only true cigar bar this side of Denver. Just two years back, before the Ritz underwent a sweeping remodel that touched everything from individual rooms to the neighboring Buffalos restaurant, the space where cigar and cocktail aficionados now congregate was a sort of kid-friendly hangout — “Ritz Kids,” they called it.

Bachelors Lounge will hardly be mistaken for Ritz Kids with a new name. The recent facelift introduced plenty of high-end allure: a cozy cocktail bar, a stone-hearth fireplace, striking artwork (think surrealistic Western scenes), contemporary wall coverings, the all-important private humidor, and a posh, semi-enclosed patio with private fireplaces and flat screens for college football.

Except at the lounge, the outdoor pièce de résistance is called a terrace, not a patio. The latter is found at the base of Bachelor Gulch Express and hosts free s’mores at dusk throughout the winter. That’s honestly more than enough to fill the gap left by Ritz Kids, and besides, after just a single season the lounge concept has emerged as a much better use of the space.

“We like to think of this as our ‘speakeasy meets nightclub’ in the mountains,” says Stephanie Leavitt, the resort’s director of sales and marketing, as she led me into the lounge for the final evening of the summertime Sip and Smoke series. “We wanted something we could offer as an upscale, adult-only outlet. It’s a place to just have your own vacation, let your hair down.”

Back to the characters at Bachelors Lounge: By characters, I mean a cross-section of the most intriguing people I’ve met since last winter, when I was on the Beaver Creek terrain park crew and rode Cinch Express dozens of times each week. I’d soak up details on the Argentinean Andes with exchange workers one lap, then trade legends about hidden powder stashes with lifelong locals the next. If a cultural historian wanted to conduct one of the strangest, most exhilarating oral history projects in Colorado history, the state’s chairlifts are untapped gold veins.

Or this hypothetical historian could just drop by the lounge on a typical afternoon. Like any good cigar bar — this is a place to unwind for hours on end, not a stuffy restaurant where diners are marooned at isolated tables — the people-watching is top notch. Like this upcoming cocktail and wine evenings, Sip and Smoke brought a mix of connoisseurs, enthusiasts and, like me, folks who didn’t know a damn thing about scotch or cigars, but who wanted to soak up the atmosphere anyway.

There was a pair of 30somethings from California, the sort of women who wore high heels and cocktail dresses with the effortless comfort others save for yoga pants. They smoked cigars, one apiece, and then confidently told me they’d never smoke again. Still, they laughed — it was fun for a night.

There was a recent transplant from Boston, a lifelong policeman who now works at the Eagle airport and fell hard for Bonfire Brewing. He told me his name for the article, but as we moved past courteous chitchat — you know, as the third scotch led to the fourth scotch led to a round of cocktails — he tactfully hinted at anonymity, even for a small-town mag. I’ll honor his wishes, and instead offer a belated cheers to his company.

There was even a large, rambunctious group — maybe they were part of a late-summer wedding — that wanted to know everything about everything. They dove deep into the difference between scotch and whiskey (it starts with geography), then went over the difference between the nicotine in cigars and cigarettes (it’s inert in cigar smoke) before ending with the proper way to light a cigar (use a cedar “spill,” or small lighting stick, and let the end dance in the flame until lit — don’t taint a good smoke with butane). Although executive sous chef Ben Christopher writes an exclusive menu for the lounge, complete with house-made wild game sausages this winter, the group ordered pizza from Magustos and sat back once it was delivered, content to revel in the decadence of cigars and scotch and sausage pie.

Then there was Dave Haddad, owner of luxury cigar supplier Fumar Cigars, who became the de facto ringmaster of the evening. I met him as he rolled a custom cigar — “Let’s put it this way: I’m a child of the ‘70s and had a running start on rolling,” he said with a wink — and as the night waned on, he held sway over the crowd, pizza gang included.

And why shouldn’t he? Hiddad knows a high-end concept like Bachelors Lounge can fill a niche. That niche is his natural habitat: He travels the world selling cigars, and without exception, people tend to associate their favorite cigar with unforgettable characters, not an exotic tobacco or garish price point.

“After a while, the big, pretty buildings are invisible,” Haddad says, feeding into my metaphor, not his. “It comes down to capturing emotion and that emotional moment. The mosh-pit bars will always be there, but if you can give someone an experience, something to take away, that’s when it sticks.”