Consider this weekend one big cocktail party for the Aspen community and all of its guests as the seventh annual Après Ski Cocktail Classic kicks off.
It’s a four-day mostly free festival that runs from Thursday, March 14, to Sunday, March 17, and features back-to-back events that could have participants drinking from morning till night.
There are après ski parties, seminars, fireside chats, on-mountain activities and finally, the Great Après Ski Pub Crawl.
The crawl, which is one of the few events that requires a paid ticket, is a competition among local bartenders who will be tasked with creating a cocktail with a spirit they’ve been given.
“Sunday Funday” will take on a life of its own as pub crawlers go to 13 venues to sample Aspen’s mixologists have concocted. It also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day.
Joe Lang, who founded the cocktail classic, said he could have gotten more bars to participate but 13 seemed appropriate.
“I call it the drinker’s dozen at 13,” Lang joked. “It’s wonderful for folks … tourists and locals alike to go to these venues all over town, giving local businesses a place to shine.”
This year’s cocktail classic is the second year that most events are free, including the seminars, grand tastings and parties.
“We made the move last year after we were at the Little Nell,” Lang said, adding that was the central location for ticketed events and VIP venues. “Then we said, ‘Let’s just make our grand tastings and seminars free.
“It turned into an ah-ha moment that we should make it a community event and make it a local celebration.”
This year’s “Taste of Après Experience” brings free samplings, seminars and access to brand ambassadors of the world’s most popular spirits.
Lang said there are around 40 brands being represented this year.
“The brand ambassadors that come in here for this are phenomenal,” he said. “They make it a party.”
And the party will happen at multiple venues around town and on top of Aspen Mountain, including the “Top of the World Popup” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings and the sunset skiing and Sundeck party from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
In town, venues include the Hao House where the opening party will be held on Thursday night with the David Higgins Band, along with the St. Regis, Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar, the Cooking School of Aspen and its associated property in the courtyard being dubbed the “Cocktail Cottage.”
That’s where seminars will be held. One not to miss, said Lang, is the “How to House Party: Cocktail Entertaining with the Party Boys!”
Bohlinger, a former bartender at the St. Regis’ Chef’s Club, said he’s been involved since the first cocktail classic held in Aspen.
“Now I’m coming back on a different plane,” he said, adding he is excited to participate in the house party seminar. “We are going to show people how to throw a proper house party where you don’t want your guests to do any work, or you, so you learn how to properly prepare.”
Schneider said the seminar will be geared toward the consumer learning tips and tricks to be a host with the most.
He said he’s not sure what he’ll be preparing for the seminar but “I’m always good for an espresso martini or a cosmopolitan.”
Both ambassadors, along with their counterparts, also will be on top of the mountain, and at the grand tastings and other events.
“I will be all over the place,” Schneider said. “And to have the backdrop of Aspen … it’s such a magical place.”
Bohlinger agreed, and said Aspen is the perfect place to celebrate the après scene.
“It’s about friends, family and community,” he said of what après means to him. “It’s bringing people together to enjoy each other over drinks.”
Beyond the dozens of free events, there are also a few ticketed ones such as the Après After Dark in which guest bartenders will get behind the bar at Hooch, or the cocktail paired dinner at the Velvet Buck at the St. Regis featuring Don Julio.
Lang said while most events are free, people do need to register for a ticket to gain access for capacity reasons. That can be done by going to the Cocktail Classic website.
“We have room for everybody,” he said.
He promised a weekend full of fun, especially since the cocktail classic was moved back a week from years past.
This weekend, it coincides with other free events, like the Aspen/Snowmass Bud Light Hi-Fi concert series. On Friday, March 15, electro funk band Chromeo will play onstage in downtown Aspen at the corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street.
“Where else in Aspen can you have another free event?” Lang said about the timing of the classic. “The idea is to get people moving to multiple venues around the core.”