Aprs-Ski Cocktail Classic: A classic in the making | AspenTimes.com

Aprs-Ski Cocktail Classic: A classic in the making

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Being in the upper Roaring Fork Valley holds some distinct memories for Kevin Haasarud.When he was 7, Haasarud’s family rode a Greyhound bus from Southern California to visit a friend, a ski instructor in Snowmass Village. In Snowmass, Haasarud remembers hearing loud applause, peeking over a fence, and seeing college-age kids, no doubt aided by a few alcoholic beverages, skiing off a jump and landing in a pool.A few decades later, Haasarud returned for a different kind of fun. As director of the film portion of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, he was responsible, over a 13-year run, for programming such movies as “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Super Size Me” and “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic.”Haasarud is back in the valley, in a role that brings together the Snowmass aprs-ski cocktail scene he witnessed as a kid, and the Aspen festival happening he had a hand in creating as an adult. Haasarud is among the executive producers of the Aprs-Ski Cocktail Classic, which makes its debut this weekend, with most events in Snowmass.”For me, this is a wonderful coming home,” he said. “We’re not going to say we’ll have college kids jumping into pools. But it is a great celebration of all things cocktail culture.”That celebration isn’t meant to be a wild party, but a more mature appreciation of the finer points of mixology. In the spotlight are award-winning single malt Scotches, whipping up warm drinks, and pairing cocktails with meals.”This is not about throwing back a Jgermeister shot,” Haasarud, a 47-year-old father of two, said. “This is about slowing down a bit, savoring a sip while sitting snowside. This is like the Food & Wine Classic, aprs-ski cocktail style.”The center of the inaugural Cocktail Classic is the Grand Tasting Village, which operates Friday and Saturday, from 3-6 p.m., in the Snowmass Conference Center. The Village will feature over 70 brands of spirits, including two tastes, a vodka and a pear brandy, from the new local operation, the Woody Creek Distillery. The Village will also have a rejuvenation station, offering free massages, and a coffee station. Also at the Conference Center will be the private reserve tasting room, featuring rare brands like Balcones’ Texas Single Malt Scotch.The Cocktail Classic will also present seminars on such topics as Cheese Fondue & Champagne, presented by Jim Butchart, executive chef, mountain division for the Aspen Skiing Company, and Little Nell master sommelier Sabato Sagaria; the Terroir of Coffee, with Richard Karno; Tiki Time in the Snow and more. A four-course meal on Saturday night at Snowmass Kitchen, presented with Saveur magazine, will have four mixologists pairing the dinner courses with cocktails. The activity moves to Aspen on Sunday, with the Great Aprs Pub Crawl and Stories of Agave and Mezcal. The Pub Crawl, at 2 p.m., will take participants on a tour of seven bars, including Jimmy’s, 39 Degrees, Justice Snow’s and the Terrace Bar at The Little Nell, where bartenders at each location will be serving a special concoction as they compete for the title of best aprs-ski cocktail. Stories of Agave and Mezcal, at 3:30 p.m. at Jimmy’s, will feature restaurateur Jimmy Yeager, and Steve Olson, a regular at the Food & Wine Classic. “It’s specifically for people who are not new to the idea of agave. It’s for people who want to go deep,” Haasarud said.Haasarud himself is more of a red wine guy. But he’s usually not far from an expert on spirits and cocktails. Haasarud’s wife, Kim, is a professional mixologist, the author of several books, including “101 Martinis” and “101 Margaritas,” and founder of the beverage consulting company Liquid Architecture. She is also an executive producer of the Cocktail Classic. (The two other producers are Carbondale resident Joe Lang, and Laura Albers, both of whom worked on the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.)Through his wife, Haasarud has earned an appreciation of cocktails and spirits. He says that the recent rise in cocktail culture – with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, creative mixing and even local sourcing – mirrors the wave of independent comedy filmmakers he worked with at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.”They’re trying to create a wonderful product and story, and find an audience for it,” he said. “And they’re doing it with much more limited means than with a studio or a major liquor brand. That passion for creating a unique product, locally sourced, artisanal – I find that inspired.”Haasarud is pleased to see that the cocktail has recovered from what he calls the “post-‘Mad Men’ dead zone” – “a land of pre-mixes and green goo out of a gun, or instant margarita mix. The move in the culinary world from farm to table has been followed by a garden to glass movement. So we have liquid chefs,” he said.Haasarud hopes the Aprs-Ski Cocktail Classic gives another boost to the art of drinking. When he toured Cognac, the medieval city in the west of France for which the variety of brandy is named, in the mid-’00s, he saw how a beverage could become a core part of a region’s culture.”It was a world unto itself. Not unlike wine,” Haasarud said. “You walk through and the smell of Cognac is emanating from the streets. There are these barrels underground, evaporating – they call the evaporation ‘the angel’s share,’ and it gets through the streets. You get a sense of a process that’s been going on for a millennium.”stewart@aspentimes.com

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