You likely love hot cocoa on a cold day as much as the next person, but a thoughtful cocktail will warm you up just as nicely, especially when savored with postcard-pretty surroundings. That said, we’ve rounded up a warming clutch of seven cozy cocktail spots, all nestled in some of the most popular snowy destinations around the country.
It’s not exactly chemistry, but if you happen to have a degree in it, as mixologist Seamus Gleason does, you’re bound concoct some pretty delicious cocktails. “Time spent in a lab teaches you precision,” he says. “You appreciate that a little more than a quarter of an ounce is not the same as a quarter of an ounce. And shaking or stirring for too long or not long enough will change the flavor profile of a cocktail dramatically.” The mindset is a good match for boutique hotel Hotel Jackson, which prides itself in bringing design details and meticulous service to Jackson Hole’s Town Square district.
Here, local ingredients and spirits are often part of the equation. A tall icy glass of the Lebanese Lemonade, inspired by the hotel’s owners who originally hailed from Lebanon, is made with Highwater vodka (distilled right in town at Jackson Hole Still Works) and a refreshing mix of freshly squeezed lemon juice, orange blossom and mint. Gleason’s own favorite is the spirit-forward Ransom Note. A barspoon of honey, he says, is just enough to mellow out the notes of honeysuckle, fresh greens and light spices Ransom gin is known for. A couple of dashes of Angostura bitters tie it all together. And to finish it off? “A twist of lemon really makes this pop,” he says. “It’s a warming winter cocktail with just a hint of spring.”
Channel your inner mountain man (you too, woman!), because you have the Grand Teton as your backdrop here. You’ll want to go forth and hike, ski, mush and shred that mountain. But at the end of the day, some luxury is in order. Which is where The Handle Bar, an upscale gastropub created in collaboration with Michael Mina, comes in. Mixologist Lara McKee approaches her cocktails from cook’s perspective, having worked in the kitchen for nine years before taking the helm behind the bar.
Her drinks menu is fired up with all sorts of spiced goodness, from the house-made Fireball whiskey (lit with cayenne and her own cinnamon syrup) and the Scottish Ski Jumper (Dewar’s scotch, Laphroaig scotch, basil syrup, lemon and ginger beer) to the Saged and Confused (Hendrick’s gin, sage syrup, lemon and grapefruit) and the Alpine Old Fashioned (with a fresh pine-y note from rosemary). For a tart lift (witness it in the Jackson Mule), she turns to local huckleberries, which grow only in a smattering of states besides Wyoming.
You know your rich friend’s beach house that you never want to leave? That’s what this place is channeling, says Hanley Mead, The Tiller manager who also an able mixologist. So what that it’s cold outside? With a marble counter and settle-in-and-relax leather-backed stools, the bright open space has panoramic views of the ocean.
Mead likes to match her menu to the place, which explains her penchant for briny cocktails here—Dirty Martinis, salted Margaritas, a cocktail called the Daisy (Cocchi Americano apéritif, mezcal and grapefruit topped with a dash of sea salt), just to name a few. Seasonal products from local farms also work into her drinks, as well as elements of surprise. In winter, that means hints of cocoa flavors and spices, as in a boozy spiced chai latte and a cardamom-spiked Collins. “We use a couple of dashes of cardamom bitters,” she says, “and it’s the most unexpected hit of nostalgia in an otherwise ordinary drink.”
It’s hard not to pretend you’ve gone back in time as you stroll through the magnificent Gilded Age mansion housing this old-school bar and restaurant. Built by, yes, a descendant of that Vanderbilt clan, it opened as a boutique hotel in 2011. The bar is tucked at the far end of the restaurant, which cooks up seasonal, regionally sourced dishes and serves as a constant source of inspiration for the cocktail menu. Pickled watermelon, for instance, which head mixologist Adrienne Nicole spotted on a charcuterie plate, was mused over and ultimately muddled with cilantro. You’ll now find this winning combo in a refreshing yet smoky drink made with mezcal, lemon juice and soda water.
The house-made dram gets an extra spicy kick with nutmeg, and the bitters are King Ramsey’s, crafted right in Newport. If you’re lucky enough to be here when it snows, the house will provide you with molds to turn the fresh-from-the-sky flakes into snowballs. Use them to chill your drink of choice (grown-up snow cones!) or simply delight in the notion of it.
Back in the day, America’s first destination ski resort served an eclectic clientele of bold-faced names, including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Ernest Hemingway. It was the place to be seen on skis—America’s first destination ski resort and an early Hollywood hot spot, made even more enticing by the world’s first chairlifts. A couple of years ago, the now-80-year-old Sun Valley Lodge received a major facelift to keep up with the times, and Architectural Digest was there to cover it. Spaces got airier, and the new expansive windows did a better job of showing off the view than earlier ones. The lounge opened up and got brighter too, but it’s still somehow proudly reminiscent of a dimly lit old-timey bar. Here, folks can count on good conversation along with good cocktails and, on most nights, an amazing jazz pianist who keeps things chill.
The menu is a tribute to the lodge’s legacy, and bar manager Kurt Harris isn’t shy about experimenting with unique ingredients from around the globe, which is fitting, given the resort’s international clientele. He’s also meticulous, insisting on juice squeezed fresh on the same day and such luxe touches as Luxardo maraschino cherries and Carpano Antica Formula vermouth. When we asked him what he’d recommend for a wintry cocktail, he replied that there are too many. But to narrow it down, he’d look for something with “richness, earthiness and a bold expression of the base liquor.” His top choice? The Rye Manhattan, a classic, like the bar experience you get here, even as time and design trends march on.
You’ll warm up pretty quick in this cushy space with plush leather banquettes. Like the hotel itself, happily situated at the base of the gondolas, it’s distinctly Aspen but without the pretension. The name of the bar and restaurant, designed with reclaimed Colorado redwood, refers to silver’s place on the periodic table and pays homage to the city’s past life as a mining camp in the 1880s.
Mixologist Ricky Leyvas, who gives off an upbeat vibe behind the bar and therefore all around it, stays local whenever he can, so you’ll find Leopold Bros. American small-batch whiskey in The Little Nell Hot Toddy, as well as flowers from the property’s garden pressed into a custom ice sphere and chilling out in Xavier’s White Cosmopolitan. Syrups and juices are made in-house, as is the ginger beer, which gets its wicked bite from fresh ginger. “It’s a game changer for any Mule,” says Leyvas. It’s also a tasty way to spice things up after a day on the slopes.
Sometimes when you’re exhausted from skiing out in the wilderness, your achy muscles and joints are just crying out for Champagne and an egg-salad-caviar sandwich. Are we right? Well, you’ll find plenty of both in this glamorous yurt in the middle of Empire Pass (elevation 8,300 feet), with a stunning view of the Wasatch Mountains. Called a beach club because Utah boasts 229 sunshiny days a year (never mind the frigid temperatures), it features cocktails made with Veuve Clicquot's Rich line, made specifically to blend into cocktails and give flavors a tingly lift.
Here, it’s poured over a house-made compote made from local blackberries and compressed into ice or complemented with the herbaceous brightness of fresh fennel and balanced with cracked pepper. You’ll be convinced that the drink of celebrations is actually “generously versatile,” says Dave Wallace, the beverage manager. And you’ll soon want to grab a glass, just because.