Where to go and what to order at aprés in Eagle County
Spend enough time at the base of Vail or Beaver Creek and you will bear witness to one of the more awesome sights in this ski town — men and women tearing up the dance floor in ski boots, eating dinner with goggles around their necks or lugging their gear to the parking structure long after dark.
It all starts with apres ski.
Apres has become so rooted in ski culture that it has even found itself a place on Wikipedia, which describes the activity as having originated in the Alps with skiers getting together, drinking, swapping stories and celebrating their day on the mountain.
Sitting down to the apres options in Vail and Beaver Creek, one thing becomes clear — getting loose and celebrating any kind of day on the hill with your friends is too fun to refuse.
Just take it from the locals. When asked where they would go and what they would order:
“Vendetta’s,” Maria Scully said. “I would probably go for their Bloody Mary and a slice of pizza.”
“Toss up,” Kenzie Grant said. “The Alpenrose for beer or hot chocolate and a cheese plate; or Vendetta’s for beer and pizza.”
“Vendetta’s,” Sylvan Ellefson said. “Either a whiskey ginger or a Budweiser bottle.”
“Los Amigos,” Bjorn Bauer said. “For their Sangria.”
From $3 PBR tall boys and shots of Jamo (read: Jameson) to mixologists crafting complicated cocktails for every occasion, apres-ski bars are serving up something for everyone and every occasion.
FROM BROOKLYN TO THE REMEDY
One such hot spot is clearly Vendetta’s — a longtime restaurant where Vail Ski Patrol, regular locals and visitors from all corners of the earth gather for apres. Bar manager and 20-year bartender for Vendetta’s Michael Hannigan is kicking up the dust on the drink menu this winter to cater to the crowd coming in off the hill.
“We turned it over and have more winter-style drinks,” Hannigan said. “Warmer beers, heavier beers and a list of eight or so mixed drinks.”
One mixed drink to look out for at the Bridge Street establishment is the “Brooklyn”: lemon juice, muddled orange, a sugar cube, grenadine and Maker’s Mark, served on the rocks. On a bitter cold day, honorable mention goes to the “Wonder Snug,” a warm drink made from Wondermint Schnapps — a more flavorful schnapps with hints of almond, rosewater and wormwood — mixed with hot cocoa and topped with whipped cream.
Shots-wise, Vendetta’s bartenders can pour just about anything, from cheap well tequila for that friend that stole your fresh tracks, to custom shots like a “Mind Eraser” for your buddy who needs to forget about his or her yard sale under the chairlift.
Down the street from Vendetta’s is La Tour, a popular spot for a more upscale apres experience. Behind the bar at La Tour are bartenders Ben Moss and Harold Mikkelson. Both have been mixing and pouring at La Tour for five years, according to the restaurant’s front of house manager, Abbie Minton.
“Just ask one of those two what they recommend,” Minton said. “We do a lot of wine during apres, but Ben (Moss) has crafted a very unique drink menu.”
For instance, for the friend that was complaining about their boots all day — and there is always that person — there is “The Remedy.” The drink is a play on a Cosmopolitan and features Grey Goose, fresh squeezed lime, St-Germaine Edlerflower Liqueur and cranberry, all garnished with a lemon twist.
To celebrate a good day in the terrain park, you and your buddies can channel your inner “dude” and cruise over to Garfinkel’s for the signature “Crushian” — a take on the Big Lebowski’s favorite, the White Russian.
Or, say the day included deep, fresh, light snow that kept your group pinned to Grouse Mountain and ignoring lunch all day at Beaver Creek. Both the Coyote Cafe and the Dusty Boot pair beers with food on the cheap, making a brew a good way to make up those lost calories.
Kevin Gray, in his 16th year at the Dusty Boot, also recommends you at least try their margarita on any apres-occasion. The margarita is available in a standard size or an astonishing 46-ounce size and features a double barrel Reposado Herradura tequila hand picked by Gray at the Herradura tequila plantation.
Off the top of the head and in no particular order, bars like (dare you to try it in one breath) Vendettas, La Tour, Garfinkel’s, Los Amigos, Pepi’s, Loaded Joe’s, the Chophouse, Blue Moose, Coyote Cafe, The George, Bol, Bart and Yeti’s, Altitude, The Red Lion, Frost, Moe’s, the Bully Ranch, Larkspur, Yeti’s Grind, the Alpenrose, Up The Creek, Flame and the Minturn Saloon (just to name a few) each offer a unique twist on how to celebrate the day.
Like taking every run or riding every lift, the only difficulty in enjoying all Vail and Beaver Creek have to offer when it comes to apres is simply trying everything available — just be sure you apres responsibly.