We asked Colorado bartenders what they stash in their flasks for days of playing on the mountain.
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Like any number of Coloradans, I’ve been skiing for decades. The amount of “stuff” I’ve amassed in those years is excessive—my fraying ski bag is so bulky that it hardly fits onto a ski bus. And yet, this Christmas my husband managed to find one accessory I didn’t already own: A flask. It’s a perfectly cool, vintage-inspired Stanley flask, and although I’ve never been one to pass on a party, I have yet to use it. Making my way down one last run after a wine-soaked lunch is one thing, but racer laps with booze is quite another.
A recent weekend in the mountains, however, made me wish I’d packed my newest accessory. As 5280’s current Bar Issue confirms, we are spoiled here in Denver when it comes to quenching our thirst. The offerings at one slopeside watering hole were so underwhelming that I regretted not filling my flask with a pre-batched Vieux Carré or my favorite after-anything liqueur: green Chartreuse. The rocks glass from our hotel sink and the ice machine down the hall would have finished the job. The revelation made me wonder: What do bartenders who also like to play in the snow put in their flasks?
Eric Dutton, the liquids lord at LoDo’s Vesta Dipping Grill, is an avid snowboarder. On a bluebird spring day he can be found on the beach at A-Basin with a flask of Montenegro, a rose-scented Bolognan amaro.
Boulder’s James Lee, an alpine skier with a soft spot for the East Vail Chutes, packs rye, Scotch, or Japanese whisky. Unless it’s date day. Then he brings “a good ice wine or Créme de Pêche to warm us up without getting too sloppy,” says the owner of The Bitter Bar.
When he’s not behind the stick at the Viceroy’s Eight K, beloved Snowmass bartender Justin McDuffie likes to skin, snowshoe, or skijor with his retired sled dog. McDuffie has “a rolodex of flasks” for such occasions, which he fills with rye from Basalt’s Woody Creek Distillers, Grand Marnier, or eau de vie.
Chad Michael George, President of the Colorado Bartenders’ Guild and a veteran barman at LoHi’s Williams & Graham, carries the heirloom apple brandy from Mendocino’s Germain-Robin for lunch or après-ski. “It's always fun to hand a flask off to a friend when there's something in there they haven't tasted,” says the alpine skier who fancies Keystone’s Independence Bowl.
Acorn’s Alexandra Flower, an avalanche-certified crevasse climber and boarder, packs green or yellow chartreuse, Wild Turkey 101 rye, or Russell’s Reserve 10-year-old bourbon. “Every once in a while I pack mezcal because I am snowboarding with a tequila or mezcal lover,” the RiNo barwoman says.
Mike Henderson, beverage director for Root Down and Linger, shared my initial reaction to recreating with a flask. “Absolutely not," he said when I first asked him if he carried one, “I don’t even ski with headphones.” But the more we talked about it, the more this self-described “slackcountry” tele skier (his term for “getting just outside the gates at the resorts”) came around. “Now that you mention it I’m kinda into filling an après-flask,” he says. He went on to tell me that he’ll pre-batch a Diamondback cocktail, which is made with rye whiskey, apple brandy, and green Chartreuse. Headphone prohibition? “Slackcountry” turns? A pre-batched Chartreuse cocktail? I’ll race you to the bottom.