By Mikaela Ruland
When I showed up to the REI Adventure Station for one of their first Mountain Mixology classes, it was just me and a group of ladies visiting from Minnesota. Our faces slathered in sunscreen and armed with snowshoes, we set off up the Kokomo lift in the brilliant spring afternoon sunshine.
Our REI Adventure Station instructors for the day helped us get into our snowshoes at the top and off into the woods we went, in search of Rocky Mountain cocktails.
Over a hill and through a stand of trees, we came upon the elusive snow bar. Situated in a perfectly sheltered ring of trees, the bar was built entirely of snow and had seats carved out on either side. Waterproof blankets were distributed and we settled in to learn about the magic of foraged cocktails.
Lavender, sage, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and juniper berries are all ingredients you can find in the Colorado Rockies, unbeknownst to me. Each cocktail we learned to make over the day, under the right circumstances, could be made in the Colorado backcountry with foraged ingredients. All you’d need to carry would be sugar, water and alcohol. Our hosts had made bitters (grain alcohol + various ingredients) with the previously mentioned flora and passed them around for us to smell before getting started on our first cocktail.
Our mixologist of the day, Jerry, demonstrated making a Goosey Good, a combination of gooseberries, and simple syrup, and then mixed it with ice and vodka in a metal cup. If we didn’t have ice in the backcountry, Jerry suggested we use snow, nature’s ice.
We all passed the cocktail and tasted it before Jerry went on to make three more cocktails: the Lavender Lush, Wild One and Berry Blitz.
After having tasted all four cocktails, we were let loose on the snow bar under the supervision of our mixologists and REI instructors to make our own cocktails. I attempted to recreate the Lavender Lush, a mixture of lavender, raspberries, lavender bitters, lavender simple syrup and vodka.
A bar is a bar whether it’s in the middle of the city or the middle of the woods. Our group bonded over foraged cocktails and learned each other’s’ life stories. We took group photos and laughed about getting lavender caught in our teeth and mused about which cocktails we’d try to make on our cabin or backpacking trips in the summer.
When it was finally time to leave, we trekked out into the sunshine (our packs stuffed with all sorts of awesome swag), shouting our goodbyes to our mixologists and felt grateful we’d gotten the chance to experience an exciting new addition to the Copper and REI partnership.