It’s A Classic: The Apres Ski Cocktail Classic has stood the test of time — and good taste | AspenTimes.com

It’s A Classic: The Apres Ski Cocktail Classic has stood the test of time — and good taste

by Jeanne McGovern

Aprés ski might be the best part of any day spent on the slopes — it's fun, easy and always a good time. So what, then, is the Aprés Ski Cocktail Classic all about? You guessed it …

"What this weekend is really about is having fun; we don't take ourselves too seriously … because that's what après ski is all about," says event co-founder Joe Lang. "We're not pretentious — if you want to have a beer, then just have a beer. But if you want to experiment a little, you can do that, too."

Now in its sixth year, this cocktail festival that has proven to be one of the favorite events of the winter season in Aspen. As in past years, there will be a plethora of local, regional and national talent showing attendees that bartending is truly an art form — and it's all free.

"Now, with the growing pains behind us, we wanted to make the Classic more accessible," says Lang.

Toward this end, the event has openened all of its daily tastings, seminars, fireside chats and more to the public, gratis. A ticket ($50) is still required or Sunday's Great Après Ski Pub Crawl (see Libations, page 14). drinking experiences during the weekend.

"I would say it's a move away from an experience which was a little siloed by having it in one spot to having this notion of embracing the city as a whole and really supporting existing businesses," explains co-founder Kevin Hassarud, who along with Lang and Laura Albers have been the inspiration behind the Classic since its inception. "This year we're reall taking what already exists and elevating it."

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Indeed, the seminars being offered to the public this year – "Take Your Vodka Beyond Soda and Wine" at the Cooking School of Aspen, for example — aim to teach imbibers more about the craft of cocktailing than the art of just knocking one back. And since this is, after all, an event wrapped around skiing, you can guarantee plenty of on-mountain happenings (Top of the World Popups and the Rum Cake Cabin are among this year's offerings).

"Instead of one grand tasting tent for all of these things, we are spreading it around to include a lot of local businesses," says Lang. "I think that was a big piece of the puzzle for us — how to include the locals, how to give something back to the local businesses that give so much all year round."

Among the venues hosting events at this year's Classic are the Hotel Jerome, St. Regis, Hooch, Jimmy's, Cooking School of Aspen and others. The folks at these venues all had their own reasons for participating in the Classic's new format (see Q&As, previous page and this page), but one thing is clear: Fun is the name of the game — whether you're behind the bar or not. "Last year I personally got to run around last year and try all the drinks for the pub crawl," says Hooch's Lindze Letherman. "All of them were so good and the judges had a hard job."

This year will likely be the same, says Hassarud. And, like last year, a brass band will lead the march from bar to bar — "adding a wonderful little buzz to the afternoon, no pun intended." Still, the Cocktail Classic and Pub Crawl have come a far ways in just six years, which is something its creators don't take for granted.

"You never know where things are going to go," says Hassarud. "For us it was really just a firm belief that we love to ski, we all love great craft cocktail … so it didn't seem like rocket science to elevate the experience.

"We didn't know where it was going to take us but, at least we knew we'd get in some great skiing with family and friends from the spirits' business — how bad could it be?"

Obviously, not bad at all, as another Classic weekend kicks off ….