The ‘shoulder seasons’ (fall and spring) between the main vacation times are often a perfect time for a sojourn in the mountains. Hotel deals can be at their best and the throngs of usual visitors are at a low. Most warm weather activities still abound, with cooler temperatures and beautiful fall foliage as a backdrop making for a sublime vacation.
Vail is no exception.I spent a culinary and adventure filled weekend there mere weeks ago but found it transformed when driving through last weekend. The surrounding mountains offered a dense concentration of fall color with daytime temperatures in the low 70’s, allowing ski slope mountain biking to rage on and the temptation for a long leaf-peeping trail ride with Vail Stables to be its prime.
I recently attended a Vail Harvest Dinner showcasing the current season’s cuisine with four of the most popular restaurants in Vail: Matsuhisa, Elway’s, Larkspur and Sweet Basil. The chefs ponied up such lovely dishes as Grilled Vail Mountain Porcini/LaVenture Farm Gnoochi and Single Estate 68% Dark Chocolate Cake with dried black olive and olive oil chocolate ‘vinaigrette’. All these restaurants roll with the seasonal queues, sourcing local fare which gently coaxes us into the cooler months of hearty, soul-warming food and drink.
Realizing readers at home might want a bit of the Vail Harvest ‘spirit’, each of these four restaurants provided me with a harvest Cocktail recipe to share. I had the distinct pleasure of making them all to photograph and can unequivocally say they are all a smashing success; with distinct notes of fall, there is a new favorite here for every palate.
- 2 ounces of Bulleit bourbon
- ½ ounce agave syrup/nectar
- ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
- 4 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
- ½ ripe Palisade peach, peeled and quartered
- 5-8 mint leaves
1. Muddle peach and agave in a mixing glass.
2. When peach is completely muddled, add mint. Bruise mint with muddler.
3. Add lemon juice, bourbon, bitters and ice; shake vigorously. Strain twice into a highball glass with fresh ice. Garnish with mint sprig.
- 2 ounces Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka
- ½ ounce Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ¼ ounce fresh ginger
- Sprig of rosemary
- Dash rhubarb bitters
- 3 ounces Rocky Mountain Pear Soda
- Gingerbread spice (for rimming glass)
- Garnish:dehydrated pear chip, pear slice and/or rosemary sprig
1. Rim a Collins or Highball glass with gingerbread spice.
2. In a shaker mix vodka, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, fresh ginger, and rosemary with ice. Shake vigorously.
3. Fill glass with ice, strain shaker into glass, top with bitters and pear soda. Garnish with dehydrated pear chip, pear slice and/or rosemary sprig.
- 4 ounces Big B’s Apple Cider (non locals can use fresh apple cider)
- Mulling spices
- 1 ½ ounce Berentzen ApfelKorn Apple Schnapps or Myers dark rum
- Pumpkin spice and sugar (for rimming the glass)
- Sliced orange (for rimming liquid)
- Cinnamon stick for garnish
1. Heat apple cider with mulling spices over low heat for 1 hour.
2. Rim a large brandy snifter with juice of a sliced orange; dip into a shallow glass of pumpkin spice and sugar (1 part pumpkin spice to 5 parts sugar; or to your taste).
3. Add hot cider and apple schnapps or rum. Garnish with cinnamon stick.
- 1 ½ ounces Makers Mark bourbon
- ½ ounce Mt. Gay rum
- ½ ounce Thyme Lavender syrup (see below)
- 5-8 fresh mint leaves
- ½ ounce water
- 2 dashes Fees Brothers whiskey barrel aged bitters
- Mint leaves for garnish
1. Place mint leaves, thyme-lavender syrup, water and bitters in a mixing glass; muddle.
2. Add bourbon and rum with ice; shake lightly and strain into a cocktail glass with fresh ice.
3. Garnish with mint leaves.
Thyme Lavender Syrup
Boulder Locavore note:this recipe makes much more than needed for one cocktail above. I reduced the ingredients to ¼ of this recipe and it was plenty for a few cocktails.
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 ½ cups water
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 dried lavender leaves
Bring all ingredients to a boil slowly and reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes.Let cool and strain.
Need ideas for a fall jaunt? There loads of fall activities, in addition to the regular opportunities of hiking, cruiser biking, mountain biking down the mountain after a gondola ride and more. Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year in my book and Vail opens its fall arms with visual splendor. For information on what’s happening in Vail, visit www.Vail.com.