Find out what to drink after you’re done on the ski hill, plus a recipe for mulled wine
It was 1989. Stowe, Vermont. We came off the hill around 4pm with our daily dose of mountain views, fresh air, exertion, and plenty of cute ski bunnies to activate a sixteen year-olds’ hormones. My feet breathed that sigh as they slipped into a pair of worn runners after the stiff ski boot. Returning to the chalet with immediate and extended family, we lit a fire while my teenage appetite anticipated the oven-baking nachos. Long before an official career in the drinks business, my youthful mind paid no heed to the specific label of the beer we were allowed, but a niggling in my memory wants it to be Stroh’s. The moment sticks mostly because my parents relaxed their typical adherence to the law while my equally underage brothers and I enjoyed one or two beers. The carefree spirit of pre-adulthood, cold outdoor exercise, one of our final family trips and the reward of beer and its buzz, conspired to make it one of the best weekends of my life.
Later, 1999. Whistler, B.C. My best friend and I figured we’d learn to snowboard on a five-day trip. We came off the hill around 4:30pm, and not bothering to head back to our hostel-cum-‘dance’ club to shower, change or nap, we peeled off our jackets with sore feet already slipped into soft winter boots and settled into a booth at the Keg. After a couple of beers, dinner hour approached and we splurged on the surf’n’turf and a bottle of some kind of Zinfandel… I want to say Seghesio, or Rosenblum. My appetite made it among the best striploins I’ve tasted to date, and the ripe, soft red wine went down like warm silk. As young adults our tastes had become inquisitive, and I was in my early years of a full-fledged wine career. The exercise, general tomfoolery, eating and drinking of a long weekend ski holiday made it one of the best weeks of my life.
The gustatory reward that follows skiing is different than other outdoor exertion. Endorphin-pumping exercise, the mental zone required for slope negotiation, the quiet and vast beauty of the views, the physical relief of finishing and above all, the cold air that combusts more calories than the exercise alone, increases our appetites for peak-no pun intended-eating and drinking experiences.
Because our bodies crave the calories, the most rewarding après ski beers can tend toward higher alcohol, more intense flavours. With the explosion of heady, hoppy IPA, look for West Coast beers:
Phillips Kaleidoscope IPA from Victoria ($7 for a 650ml bottle)
Elysian Immortal IPA from Washington ($7 for a 650ml bottle)
or for something a little milder, Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado ($19/6 pack)
The same goes for wine: we like more crisp white in summer and the warmth of red in the winter. Grab anything from fleshy but firm:
Amarone (Brigaldera 2008 $63)
to ripe red zinfandel (Joel Gott 2011, California $23)
to chewy California cabernet (Stuhlmuller 2010 Alexander Valley $49)
or opulent Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Chateau la Nerthe, France $60)
‘Tis the season…for warming wine
By Tom Firth
Whether you call it Glühwein, bisschopswijn, wassail or simply mulled wine, we are talking about spiced or heated wine perfect for winter nights or warming your heart after a wintertime exertion.
Recipes and results will vary when made at home, and one of the challenges might be to make a good mulled wine on your first crack at it. Start with the wine; you do want a full flavoured red, and you probably don’t want to spend too much money on it. Portuguese, Australian, or Chilean wines are good value, and burst with red wine flavours suitable for heating and spicing up.
You can try this recipe, or you can go somewhere like Silk Road Spice Merchants (locations in Inglewood and Calgary Farmers Market) where they sell a pretty good blend of spices for mulled wine. Theirs comes in either a 60 g ($7) or 120 g ($10) package, and a tablespoon or two will suffice for a bottle of wine. For heating the wine, you can simmer on the stove, or I do know people that use a slow cooker on a lower setting instead. The microwave works as well, but on principle, I won’t microwave my wine – no matter what it’s for.
Jacqueline from Silk Road says, “We only sell the one option, and we think it’s the best combination of spices for the best result, but I’ve seen many different recipes on how to do it. Some recipes use different combinations of spices, but almost always contain some combination of cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cardamom. I’ve seen some that use star anise too, which isn’t in our blend. Some recipes only use fresh fruit, some ask for the addition of different liquors, like brandy…” But spoken from someone who obviously takes mulling spices seriously, Jacqueline goes on, “When doing mulled wine, my personal preference is to use the cheapest bottle of red wine, our spice blend, and some slices of fresh orange, but I also add a cup of apple juice per bottle of wine to sweeten it.”