Whiskey and Craft Cocktails in Colorado at Breckenridge Distillery
Whiskey and cocktails and mountains, oh my! These are just a few of my favorite things (a surprise to no one who’s read the blog here or follows me on Instagram). And it’s these things that I followed to one of my favorite mountain towns last month, Breckenridge, Colorado, where I spent a couple days with Breckenridge Distillery.
I first visited Breckenridge, Colorado nearly three years ago with Breckenridge Tourism for what was one of my most beautiful fall getaways. In just three days I saw some of the most beautiful fall foliage I’ve ever seen, drove by 14ers (aka 14,000-foot-tall mountains), crossed the Continental Divide, held "sled" puppies, and saw a moose (true story). You can see some of the photos here.
Naturally, among the highlights was Breckenridge Distillery, dubbed the "World's Highest Distillery." I imagine I looked like a kid in a candy shop (or bull in a China shop), touching every bottle of booze, sticking my sample cup out for a taste at every possible moment, and asking all the questions. But I must not have drank too many samples or asked too many questions, because Breckenridge Distillery recently invited me back to spend a couple days with them for a couple days of cocktail making, photo taking and backcountry exploring.
And oh how things have changed in just the couple years since. For starters, Breckenridge Distillery now makes a lot more spirits. When I first visited, there were a few different spirits they produced, including the popular straight bourbon whiskey, as well as a bottle of bitters, spiced rum, vodka, and chili chile vodka.
Now, that portfolio of spirits also consists of an espresso vodka, pear vodka, gin, and several whiskies, including a sherry cask finish, port cask finish, spiced whiskey, and a single malt, which they feature for their exclusive Dark Arts Society whiskey club. However, the biggest surprise and most important discovery, was the restaurant, featuring multiple bars, a full dinner menu, and naturally, a craft cocktail menu from Breckenridge Distillery’s liquid chef (yes, a liquid chef), Billie Keithley. After all, when was the last time you made dinner reservations at a distillery?
So after doing a tasting and tour of Breckenridge Distillery, I followed it with drinks and appetizers at the bar (hello, prosciutto-topped deviled eggs), and then dinner, and dessert, in the main dining area. Best après-ski ever?
The headlining event, however, was actually the following day. That’s when I grabbed a couple local friends from Breckenridge Tourism and Breckenridge Distillery, asked them to bring a cocktail ingredient each and a pair of snowshoes or skis, and we headed for the backcountry. Their job was to guide us somewhere pretty with a view (and bring one cocktail ingredient each), and my job was to make the cocktail. And neither the views nor cocktails sucked.
Fittingly, today I'm also sharing some of the cocktail highlights from my time in Breckenridge. Below you'll find a couple cocktail recipes from Breckenridge Distillery's liquid chef, Billie Keithley, followed by the backcountry cocktail recipe I made.
Obi-Wan Old Fashioned
- 2 ½ oz. Breckenridge Port Cask Finish
- ½ oz. simple syrup
- 2 dashes barrel-aged whiskey bitters
- Zest of orange and a Luxardo cherry for garnish
Since the Old Fashioned is basically the official cocktail of Whiskey Tango Globetrot, it seemed only appropriate to feature Breckenridge Distillery’s version of an Old Fashioned. PLUS, it’s Star Wars inspired, which makes it that much better.
The difference between your traditional Old Fashioned and Breckenridge Distillery’s Old Fashioned from Billie is that this one uses their bourbon whiskey that’s finished in a Tawny Port cask, and barrel-aged whiskey bitters (rather than Angostura). You’ll add the whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir rapidly before straining into a rocks glass with ice. Finally, garnish with what Billie calls a “healthy zest” of orange and add a Luxardo cherry.
- 2 oz. Breckenridge Spiced Whiskey
- 3 ½ oz. pineapple juice
- 1 ½ oz. cream of coconut
- 1 oz. orange juice
- ½ oz. Falernum
- Nutmeg, grated
- Garnish tiki style
That’s right, a tiki menu at a distillery. YOLO? Tiki Tuesdays at Breckenridge Distillery feature a selection of tiki-inspired cocktails (and punch bowls) from Billie, such as the Killing Joke. To make this tiki cocktail, add all the ingredients (except the nutmeg and garnishes) to a cocktail shaker full of ice and shake. Strain into a tiki cup with ice and top with grated nutmeg and any combination of tiki-style garnishes, like sliced citrus, bushel of mint, edible flowers, and an umbrella.
Backcountry Hot Bourbon Cider
Last is my own cocktail recipe, a backcountry cocktail featuring a hot bourbon cider. I like it in part because if you’re going out adventuring or camping with friends, then you can ask each of your friends to bring an ingredient. And that’s exactly what I did for this, asking my friends to bring one ingredient each for our backcountry snowshoeing adventure above Breckenridge.
- 1 packet of powdered hot cider
- Hot water, piping hot
- 2 oz. Breckenridge straight bourbon whiskey
- 1 oz. ginger beer
- Cinnamon stick for garnish (optional)
For this backcountry cocktail, there are a couple different ways you can prep it. The easiest is to bring an insulated stainless steel bottle (or other vessel that can keep beverages hot for several hours) with hot water in it. Just don't make the mistake I made by asking for hot water from a coffee shop and getting warm water instead, which was then lukewarm water for après-snowshoe.
When you're ready to make your cocktails, pour in a packet of this spiced cider powder into the hot water (1 packet per 6-8 ounces of hot water). Alternatively, you could also just bring your own hot cider that you've heated up beforehand and keep in a warm vessel. Then, for every 5 ounces of cider, add 2 ounces of whiskey and top with 1 ounce of ginger beer. For this cocktail, there's no better ginger beer than Fever Tree, because it has a little more spice than most ginger beers. If you're feeling fancy, add a cinnamon stick or apple slice to garnish. And voila, you have perhaps the easiest, most delicious backcountry cocktail.