When I was young, Thanksgiving meant sparkling apple cider. It was the only time of year that I got to sit side by side with my parents and raise a toast with all the other adults, holding up a bubbling golden glass of sweet juice. It was so exciting. I had my very own special beverage, one that only came out during that time of year.
The winter holidays are filled with these special beverages—hot toddy, eggnog, cider spiced with rum, wassail, hot buttered rum. The long nights encourage us to rest at home and indulge ourselves. These special drinks define the season.
Even in Utah, a state not exactly known for liberal drinking habits, the tradition of raising a glass is becoming an increasingly local tradition thanks to the state’s award-winning new distilleries, home-grown vineyards and wineries, and avante garde cocktail bars and mixologists. This season, when you get ready to pop that cork or muddle that drink, use this list to make sure that what you’re enjoying is as Utah as possible.
When Mark Twain came through Utah, he found the whiskey worth writing home about. In his 1871 novel Roughing It, he described Utah’s local distilled refreshment, a close cousin to whiskey, as “made of fire and brimstone.”
When the LDS Church changed its tune and outlawed alcohol in 1870, it took almost 140 years for the distillery trade to return to these Rocky Mountains. Now two great distilleries call Utah home, Ogden’s Own Distillery in Ogden and High West in Park City.
Ogden’s Own Distillery
Onetime botany student Timothy Smith started Ogden’s Own with an herbal liqueur he called Underground, flavored with 33 herbs and spices including angostura, anise, cardamom, gentian, yarrow, wormwood and mate. However, the 80-proof beverage is mercifully devoid of the cloying sweetness common to most liqueurs, so the taste of the herbs come through clean and strong. Tim calls it an “herbal spirit.” Underground took home the double gold award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2010.
A year later, Ogden’s Own created Five Wives Vodka, a 50/50 blend of corn and wheat with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. Two new offerings take cues from the original and run in different directions: the very vanilla Five Wives Heavenly and the Five Wives Sinful, which, in keeping with the company’s herbal roots, delivers robust natural flavors.
In the winter, we like to drink Underground in hot water as an anytime toddy, with the hour dictating the intensity. Easy, cozy, tasty.
3075 Grant Ave., Ogden. O http://gdensOwn.com
I once spied a High West bottle in the line-up of whiskeys at a fancy cocktail lounge in the hip town of Portland, Oregon. I asked the mixologist what he thought of High West and he sang high praises. Most whiskey connoisseurs in Utah likely already have one of these bottles in their collection. If they don’t, it’s worth considering.
With 10 different whiskey blends plus two vodkas, there’s something for every taste.
703 Park Ave., Park City. 435.649.8300. http://HighWest.com
Sugar House Libations
When you’re using top shelf liquor, you want the best mixers for your cocktail, not some corn syrup-filled questionably flavored mix. At least that’s how Bobby Taylor, Megan Pales and Kenny Byron feel. The three friends, owners and creators of Sugar House Libations, came up with their own flavored simple syrups and started bringing them to parties. They gained a following among their friends and in February 2013 turned the idea into a business. Some of their concoctions include raspberry-mint, plum-lavender, and apricot-lemongrass. Each bottle is made with local and regional fruits and herbs. Their syrups can be found at the Winter Downtown Farmer’s Market, online and in several shops around town. Price per bottle, $18.
The little town of Toquerville in southern Utah has the distinction of being the historic center of winemaking in the early days of Zion. Armed with orders from Brigham Young and a wine press and distillery from California, John Conrad Naegle set up shop in the pioneer town, making it the headquarters for a widespread Mormon winemaking business. Today, though Utah’s best vineyards are still rooted in that dry southern soil, equally exciting wineries are popping up from Layton to Cedar City.
The Hive Winery
Hive owners Jay and Lori Yahne are engineers with a knack for winemaking. Located in Layton, this small-batch winery specializes in non-grape fruit wines and meads. The Hive boasts around 40 different wines, ranging from dry to semi-sweet, made from raspberry, black currant, peach, apricot, strawberry and honey. Their bottles run $13-28. They are carried at select Utah State Liquor stores and are available at their store in Layton.
1220 W. Jack D Dr., #2, Layton. 801.546.1997. http://TheHiveWinery.com
Kiler Grove Winegrowers
In 2011, Michael and Elva Knight and David Olson moved their 11-year-old wine operation from California to South Salt Lake. While the grapes are still grown in California, the production of their Rhone-style wines happens here. Kiler Grove puts out a tempting variety of wines, including: Grenache, Malbec, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebbiano, Zinfandel and blends. Bottles run $14-24. Not available in state liquor stores.
53 W. Truman Ave., SLC. 801.746.0977. Noon-7pm, Thurs-Sat. http://KilerGroveWines.com.
Castle Creek Winery
Located 14 miles from Moab, Castle Creek Winery makes some of Utah’s most popular wines. Owner and head vinter Will Fryer buys almost exclusively Utah grown grapes – from Spanish Valley, Fruita and Palisade – and turns them into excellent bottles of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot and others. Castle Creek’s top seller is a red blend called Outlaw Red, a silver medal winner at the tasters’ guild international competition. Thanks to the unique flavors imparted by Utah’s dry desert soil and clear mountain water these wines, available at most Utah State wine stores, are an easy favorite.
Milepost 14, Hwy 128, Moab, Utah. 435.259.3332. http://CastleCreekWinery.com
Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery
Listed in the Lonely Planet guide as a must-see stop, Spanish Valley is the smaller cousin to nearby Castle Creek. Situated on only five acres in red rock country, it’s owned and operated by the Dezelsky family. Their wines include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and cherry wine.
This hot, creamy classic Irish coffee will warm you to the bone.
1.5 oz High West Whiskey
1 oz Brown sugar syrup
(one part brown sugar, one part water)
Hot brewed coffee
Unsweetened cream, lightly whipped
Add the whiskey and syrup to an Irish Coffee glass and fill two-thirds of the way with coffee. Top with one inch of whipped cream.