Whether you’re busy celebrating the holidays or relaxing after a day of skiing, these drinks will satisfy all winter long.
By Katie Nichols
Tens of thousands of New Englanders love to escape to the mountains of Vermont as soon as the snow starts sticking. We ski all day, après at the best bars, savor the local eats and then out for drinks. Tomorrow, we wake up and do it all over again, weekend after weekend — and love it!
I don’t know about you, but I have this nostalgia for the winter season where no matter where you go, ski hats, hoodies, spandex, and the most bomber winter boots are proper dress. You sit by the fireplace at the local bar comparing stories of the day over a nice cold beer because, hey, you’re thirsty — and a nice cold Vermont brew is just the fix. Life is good.
Here are some of my favorite winter libations to accompany you this season.
From old breweries to brand new ones there is a wide spectrum of local breweries in Vermont to fulfill your aprés needs.
Me? I favor the wheat beers, saisons or ales, like my new flavor of the season — the Lost Nation Saison Lamoille. Marrying spice and fruit in the classic farmhouse style of saisons, with a lower alcohol content of 5.9 percent, it is a delicious beer to sit by the fire with and watch it snow.
In the tried-but-true category, Switchback is a great beer all year long, but even more perfect while you thaw out your toes. But when in Vermont, you can get whichever style you desire from any of several regionally renowned breweries, such as The Alchemist in Waterbury, Hill Farmstead from Greensboro, Lawson’s from Warren, Lost Nation from Morrisville, Drop-In Brewery in Middlebury, or find them on tap at most local bars in many of Vermont’s ski communities — or outlier communities like Montpelier and Waterbury (hey, we all ski here so you have to be pretty remote not to be considered a ski town in Vermont!)
Cider is on the prowl. Everywhere you go the newest thing seems to be about the local ciders, and in Vermont they are making headway from hard cider to ice cider. Offering great options for gluten free drinkers, as well as lower alcohol contents, ciders are refreshing, bright and great to mix and match. Simply add a touch of ginger or lemon to give it a little oomph, like the Dirty Mayor from Citizen Cider, or just enjoy it as is like I do. And don’t overlook Woodchuck Cider, produced at its new headquarters in Middlebury. With 60 percent of the nation’s hard cider market, they market specialty brews on occasion, and always have their staple of varieties in six packs to accompany any part.
Ice Cider, what is it? Derived originally from the French Canadians, you harness the sheer cold of Vermont winters to freeze the apple juice and concentrate cider with an optimum balance of acidity and sweetness. A dessert wine in its simplest form, Ice Cider can be used in many other ways from a topping on ice cream (yum!), or mixing into a cocktail.
Mix it with a prosecco and a twist of lemon and you will find a delicious concoction to enjoy. You may also find something called Orleans, a local aperitif cider infused with herbs that are based on European traditions of infused wines such as Vermouth or Campari, perfect for blending into creative cocktails. Just ask your bartender.
Bring on the cocktails. Vermont also has a growing list of nationally known spirits. While micro-breweries and wineries catch the interests of visitors, keep a watch on local spirits like Green Mountain Distillers and Smuggler’s Notch Distillery, as well as Saxon River Distillery, Whistle Pig (near Middlebury), and Caledonia Spirits (near Hardwick), which was recently lauded for its internationally acclaimed Barr Hill Gin. Check out the brewery pages in this issue for more about Vermont’s wineries, breweries and spirits.
Vermont’s excellent restaurants serving locally grown food pair well with several varieties of wines- local, domestic and foreign, red, white, bubbles. Take your pick. Each month we’ll pick a favorite based on small producers, eclectic varietals, and just great wines for the season.
This month’s featured wine is Atteca because of its seasonally hearty notes of spice, cocoa and blackberry. Rich old vines of Garnacha from Spain warm you up on those brutal winter days and pair perfectly with braised pork shoulder or even carnitas. Look for it at your local wine shop (at Cork in Waterbury it sells at $18).
If you prefer white wines, try to find the Ontanon Vetiver, which is from the region of Rioja. Made up of a grape called Viura this wine imparts a creamy and rich quality filled with citrus notes. Forget the chardonnay, this wine is your new best friend for any kind of menu or for just a glass after work, skiing or relaxing anytime.
No matter what your style, check in next month and we’ll explore more libations, some of which are sure to become your new favorites.