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Specialty cocktails for après-ski crowd inspired by local ingredients and classic drinks

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - After a long day on the slopes, nothing quite eases the aches and pains like a good drink.

For Brian Sbrocco, the perfect end to a recent day of skiing was a beer float.

Yes, a beer float.

"It's not quite the root beer float I grew up on," Sbrocco said. "It's one of the concoctions that you wouldn't normally do; you wouldn't combine beer and ice cream but it blended it beautifully."

The drink at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Avon, Colo., is just one of the latest trendy cocktails designed for those coming off the slopes.

Skiers have always sought out a refreshing drink or two after a day of racing down the mountain. Every afternoon, they can be seen unbuckling tight boots and heading into slopeside bars. Beer flows freely while a cheesy guitarist or cover band wails away.

But now resorts are making apr�s ski a bit fancier, with drinks that leave weary skiers shouting, "Another round, barkeeper!"

With his beer floats, Christian Apetz, the executive chef at the Park Hyatt, has taken a childhood favourite and added a bit of kick. All floats feature local beers and ice creams or sorbets made in house at the hotel.

In one drink, he's paired the New Belgium Brewing Company's 1554 Enlightened Black Ale with a regional version of rocky road ice cream called Rocky Mountain Road, plus raspberry-Champagne sorbet. Another drink takes the Left Hand Brewing Company's Milk Stout and pairs it with cocoa sorbet.

"This is a perfect way to end a day on the slopes," Apetz said. "Parents will order a float and enjoy it outside next to the fire while their kids" take part in the Hyatt's free, post-skiing tradition: making s'mores.

Sbrocco said he would have never thought to put such combinations together but found it refreshing after a day on the slopes.

"I don't think I could have more than one because it was pretty rich," said the 41-year-old skier from Austin, Texas.

On the other side of the mountains, the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colo., has just taken one of the oldest ski town drinks and added a twist.

During Prohibition, the Colorado hotel's saloon was converted into a soda fountain. But that didn't stop the alcohol from flowing. Patrons were known to have a few shots of bourbon in their French vanilla ice cream milkshakes. The drink was known as the Aspen Crud. It is still served today at the J-Bar, the name of the one-time soda fountain.

The hotel just reopened after four and a half months of renovations and a new, hot version of the Aspen Crud was added to J-Bar's menu. No ice cream here. Instead, bartenders take bourbon from Peach Street Distillers and add vanilla tea, cinnamon syrup and then float cream on top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Not to be outdone, at the Four Seasons Whistler, in British Columbia, Canada, cups of the ultimate hot chocolate come in large mugs with a chocolate lattice work over top. Skiers can order the drink with a Belgian or Verona chocolate in dark, milk or white. Then they top off the beverage with three "boozy truffles" filled with either mint liquor, Baileys Irish Cream or Kahlua.

"Every resort, most especially ski resort hotels, have their own version of hot chocolate, and all — of course — claim theirs is the best. So, we set out to up the ante and actually create what we believe to be 'the best' hot chocolate drink imaginable — the $20 hot chocolate," said chef Edison Mays. "Ours consists of a number of homemade specialties, including marshmallows truffles filled with liquor. It's hard to beat."

Several other resorts across North America have also recently launched some creative winter cocktails. Here's a sample of them:

— Colorado's Tommyknocker Brewery has taken a bit of the slopes and turned it into a new beer to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Loveland Ski Area. The Pine Bough Pale Ale is copper in colour, medium in body has a malty sweetness. But the real secret here is the spruce pine needles, handpicked from Loveland's slopes and used to provide a bit of an herbal finish to the beer.

— The Montage Deer Valley, in Park City, Utah, offers a S'mores martini inspired by the classic childhood s'mores treat of chocolate and marshmallow melted on a graham cracker. The drink includes Baileys, Stoli Vanil vodka, cocoa and the quintessential graham cracker. It is topped off with a marshmallow created by pastry chef Ray Lammers.

— The Handle Bar restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, in Wyoming, has put its own unique spin on the traditional hot toddy. It offers three modern takes on the drink: one with Bols Genever, a Dutch gin-like liquor, and chamomile tea; another with Hakushu whisky, raspberry tea and honey and a third with Spanish brandy, coffee, and Vov Zabaglione egg liqueur (similar to eggnog).

— Moonlight Basin Resort in Big Sky, Mont., offers a bloody mary with vodka from Montana's Vigilante distillery, topped off with a bit of locally sourced elk jerky. "We think our Montana-version of the classic bloody mary is the perfect cure for too much apr�s-ski fun," said general manager Greg Pack. "What's more appropriate than pairing locally-sourced vodka with locally sourced elk?"

— The 1930s Parisian-themed Sweet Spot sits at the base of Colorado's Crested Butte. Inside, skiers will find an arcade, candy counter and locally produced ice cream. But the real gem here is the martini bar and the establishment's signature martini: European sipping chocolate mixed with Godiva vodka, a touch of Grand Marnier topped with mini marshmallows, lightly torched.

___

Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.

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