When we planned a skiing vacation in Park City we had been warned that drinking in Utah would be problematic, most of which I knew from my American Wines certification course. One friend went so far to say that the cocktails are watered down, stick to the wine. (Want to cut to the chase? Story in photos here.)
But we happily discovered that yes, many of the bars in Park City can make a decent – and well above that – cocktail. For this article I will stick to the one I reviewed: High West Distillery. I sampled some of their single spirits, bottled barrel-finished cocktails and even managed to try a couple of cocktails.
We also enjoyed lots of “comfort food”, as one guest called it, which was served up in several welcoming rooms encompassing three floors of the Saloon location. Our server, Jessica, was extremely helpful in guiding us to the favorites of the menu. We wanted to try many of the mouth-watering dishes and the ones we did have notes in italics.
High West Saloon Menu Highlights
Bacon and Cashew Caramel Popcorn, BBQ Dusted Potato Chips, Pretzel and Beer Cheese (whiskey was also in the cheese, so good!), then onto Braised Beef Short Rib (hubby had that, very tender), Chicken Pot Pie, House Smoked Salmon, Lamb Stew, Chicken Schnitzel (with a wonderful lemon-caper sauce I loved!), Mac and Cheese, Sweet Potato Mash, Wild Berry Cobbler, S’More, Butterscotch Budino, Chocolate Manhattan Mousse (of course we couldn’t resist this one! Loved the “Swiss dark chocolate, High West Barrel-Aged Manhattan, Honey Brittle” and it was the perfect finish to our evening…though we fought over the last mouthful.
The Brown Spirits
(Note on the serving of cocktails in Utah, from The Guardian, “Cocktails can only have 1.5 fl oz. of a primary liquor. Secondary alcohol “flavourings” can be added but can’t exceed 2.5 fl oz. of total booze. Mixologists have to be creative in Utah. They can’t just load up the glass with booze (as in a Long Island Iced Tea). It’s truly a work of art to see what some bartenders are able to do around here with these restrictions. Read more here.)
Spirit Tasting (my notes are in italics)
We started with a flight of the four “core products” that included:
American Prairie Bourbon
Blend of 2 to 13 year old straight bourbons.
“High West pledges to donate 10% of our after tax profits from the sale of this bottle to the American Prairie Reserve”
Smooth, smoky and low on the harsh levels.
Blend of 2+ year-old rye.
Traditional flavor, nice and creamy.
Blend of 6 to 16 year old straight rye whiskeys.
Very balanced, with a golden delicious apple flavor that really popped.
Blend of 5-year-old whiskeys; Bourbon, Rye and Blended Malt Whiskey
Had it all: smoke, caramel and peat. Well done!
Then we couldn’t resist a taste of this one based on Jessica’s recommendation as a not to be missed:
Blend of bourbon and rye
A favorite at the saloon; with flavors of honey and caramel.
Bottled Barrel-Aged Cocktails and Created Cocktails
The Barreled Boulevardier
Bourbon, Vya brand sweet vermouth and Gran Classico bitter amaro is blended in American oak Bourbon barrels until the distiller has deemed it ready for bottling. This was my personal cocktail favorite, it was unique to anything I’ve had…and I’ve had a lot! If you are a brown spirit fan you’ve got to seek this one out. The menu describes a grapefruit component that was really interesting.
36th Vote Barreled Manhattan
The “36” is a nod to Utah being the deciding vote to end prohibition. It’s basically two parts Double Rye Whiskey, one part sweet vermouth, and two dashes of Angostura bitters for every 2.5 ounce serving. It rests in a 2-year-old rye whiskey barrel for 120 days before bottling. Classic aroma and flavor of a Manhattan, but with a nice bite to it. Very pleasant.
Cocktails (we only had one each as these were not tastes)
GOLD, GLORY & GOD “American Prairie Bourbon, PX Sherry, Oloroso Sherry, Punt e Mes, Allspice Dram”
I loved this cocktail, difficult to describe but like the Boulevardier, it had some unique qualities for me.
Old Fashioned Old Fashioned
Traditional flavors with the addition of cinnamon.
Final note: There is an extensive cocktail, wine, bubbles, beer, single malt and additional spirits list, on the backside of the dining menu and in a separate menu. So if your palate desires something different than what we sampled, you are covered. There is also a “general store” where you can purchase their spirits and other merchandise. We checked on the two bottled barrel aged cocktails we really liked and found that we could purchase in L.A.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com