Muddling season begins in the mountains: Spring cocktail roundup

Kim Fuller
The Ginger Pearl from Frost Bar, Vail. |

Mud season may not be the best time to hit the trails in the Vail Valley, but local libations are still in season. Have your taste buds on the lookout for some zesty spring trends, including infused simple syrups and spirits, specialty ice cubes, citrus notes and refreshing herbs. Also, notice how mixologists are bringing back some of the classics and adding their own modern twist.

Dedicate a few happy hours this May to explore some of the new cocktails springing up in the valley.

Ginger Pearl

Crafted by Ben Walton and Anthony Insetta — Frost Bar, Vail.

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CapRock Organic Gin, Domaine De Canton, lemon simple syrup, green pepper and Bosc pear puree, egg whites, lavender bitters.

While Frost bartender Ben Walton doesn’t like eggs, he said, he loves making cocktails with egg whites. This froth-topped drink is balanced with the earthy and sweet characteristics of a fresh spring rain.

“The green pepper comes through a lot,” Walton said, “and smashing it with the pear you get that natural sweetness that not overwhelming.”

If your palate is savvy enough, you’ll be able to taste every angle of this creative cocktail.

“Every flavor comes out,” he said, “and that’s what’s really nice about it; it’s refreshing and easy to drink, but still brings in that complexity that keeps it unique.”

Spring Teaser

Crafted by Ian Tulk — Restaurant Kelly Liken, Vail.

Breckenridge Bourbon, rosemary honey simple syrup, bergamot tea ice cubes, egg whites.

“It’s my twist on a whiskey sour,” said Ian Tulk, lead bartender at Restaurant Kelly Liken. “I wanted something fresh for the spring … plus, everyone likes iced tea in the summer, so it’s hitting the best of both worlds.”

As the bergamot tea ice cubes melt, the cocktail changes flavors, which keeps it fresh until the last sip.

“People love it, but it always seems to go down too fast,” Tulk said. “The egg white gives a beautiful viscosity and texture; the rosemary gives earthiness.”

Get Hi-on-Biscus

Crafted by Ian Tulk — Restaurant Kelly Liken, Vail.

Lemongreass infused Snova vodka, hibiscus simple syrup, ginger liqueur.

“The house-infused lemongrass Snova vodka from Denver ads a wonderfully subtle freshness to the drink,” Tulk said. “The hibiscus flower and ginger simple syrup has a bright ruby color; it always makes people smile with the first sip.”

The edible flower garnish on this cocktail is fun to try as well. For kiddos and non-drinkers, the non-alcoholic “Hibiscus Swing” is an option to enjoy.

Nottingham Park

Crafted by Jeff Ball — Vin 48 Restaurant, Avon.

Butteit Rye Whiskey, Carpano Antica Vermouth, maple syrup, orange slice, lemon rind.

A strong whiskey flavor gives this cocktail a robust start, but it sinks right into your palate. This cocktail’s lowball glass holds an impressively large ice cube in this dark amber drink.

“The maple syrup mellows out the cocktail and gives it a roundness and a softness,” said bartender Jenna Stecker. “And the citrus aromatics really balance it all out.”

Fresa Caliente

Crafted by Amber Martinez — Vin 48 Restaurant, Avon.

Three strawberries, cilantro chile simple syrup, chile tincture, Milagro Tequila, Alipus Mezcal, freshly squeezed lemon juice and lime juice.

If “hot strawberry” isn’t an intriguing enough name for you to try this spring drink, then read on.

“This is served in a lowball over rocks, with sprigs of fresh cilantro over the top for aromatics,” Stecker said. “It comes out a nice light pink color from the strawberries.”

The smokey quality from the mescal and the heat from the chile tincture come together nicely with the herbasiousness of the simple syrups and sweetness from the strawberries.

“It’s very fresh for spring and summer,” she said. “A great combination of spicy and sweet and smoky.”

Rosemary Smash

Crafted by Mark Summers — The Rose, Edwards.

Tequila, rosemary simple syrup, fresh lemon, mint, splash of soda.

If a cocktail’s name includes the word “smash,” Summers explained, then it’s a drink with mint — usually muddled.

While this smash holds bright and refreshing flavors from the lemon and mint, it’s the added herb that rounds it all out.

“The drink is fresh,” Summers said, “and the rosemary brings in an earthiness to it.”

The First Word

Crafted by Mark Summers — The Rose, Edwards.

Mezcal, Aperol, Yellow Chartreuse, lime juice.

Inspired by the “all-equal-parts” qualities of the The Last Word — a classic cocktail, The Rose bar manager Mark Summers has created a twist on this spring libation.

“Its flavors are complex, but still balanced,” Summers said.

“People are usually scared of mezcal, especially women,” he continued, “and women love this drink.”

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