Where to Drink in Vail, Colorado - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Where to Drink in Vail, Colorado

Romantic notions of après-ski aside, at bars in isolated mountain towns, the occasion often calls for shots and beer after a day on the slopes. “Ski bars tend to be rowdy party places, where people are ripping shots and having a wild time,” says Jeremy Campbell, co-owner and beverage director of Vail, Colorado’s Root & Flower, which eschews the party vibes in favor of a more laid-back, elevated wine and cocktail scene. The Portland, Oregon, native journeyed to Colorado’s winter resorts in search of larger-than-life mountains, and he ended up staying for the community. “Vail is the best of both worlds,” says Campbell, who shares some of his favorite local spots for everything from coffee to cocktails.

Bad Kitty Lounge

Campbell advises not to overlook basement bar Bad Kitty Lounge, where the kitschy patterned wallpaper, midcentury vibes, and ski boot–shaped mirrorball epitomize a mountain-town dive. Opened in fall of 2020, the bar eschews a proper cocktail menu in favor of custom-crafted drinks from a back bar that often includes single barrel releases and other special one-offs. “Everyone there is highly knowledgeable, definitely knows their stuff, and can elevate [a drink] if need be,” says Campbell. Get chummy with other snowboarders in the 24-seat capacity space, and let a conversation with the bartender guide you to the cocktail you were seeking.

Color Coffee Roasters

When the baristas at Color Coffee Roasters aren’t grinding espresso shots, they’re pouring lesser-known varieties of natural wine and craft beers. “Charlie is a natural wine fanatic and really goes out of his way to find interesting wines,” says Campbell of Charlie Gundlach, Color’s founder. On visits to the airy flagship café in Eagle, Campbell has sampled wines such as Spanish Verdejo from MicroBio. “I love going there after a long bike ride and getting some cool natty wine I’ve never heard of, chatting with Charlie, and hanging on the deck.” An intentional tea program by Song Tea & Ceramics matches the roaster’s coffee, along with a robust menu of breakfast sandwiches, wraps, and avocado toast with heirloom-grain bread baked in their in-house bakery, Amaza.

Root & Flower

Root & Flower has been mixing high-quality cocktails in Vail Village since 2015. Originating more as a wine bar, Root & Flower has since evolved to include a menu of inventive beverages and globally inspired small plates. Chef and co-owner Matt Limbaugh flexes his creative muscles at Root & Flower, where he tops pork belly with a sweet tea glaze and stuffs quesadillas with queso birria that accompany approachable, if lesser-known, wine labels. Co-owners Jeremy Campbell and Samantha Biszantz often make R&D trips to other cities or wine regions, with the goal of making their own drink menu comparable to those found in major cities. At Root & Flower, a day on the slopes can now be followed by a dirty Martini with olive oil–washed vodka and clarified salt-and-pepper tomato water, or a zero-proof butterfly tea horchata shaken with sunflower orgeat, pineapple, and orange blossom water.

The Rose

Campbell credits The Rose in Edwards, just 15 minutes west, as his source of inspiration for Root & Flower, and points to it as one of the first establishments to bring craft cocktails to Vail Valley. “They were using really cool ingredients and meticulous touches and builds, plus doing all this crazy back prep to make these cocktails,” he recalls, noting their attention to glassware (sourced from neighborhood garage sales) and presentation. Today, The Rose pairs wines and bespoke cocktails (like the playful Tea’s Knees, with jasmine green tea gin, lemon, and matcha honey) with fusion-centric provisions like elote-seasoned vegetables topped with Tajín aioli, and spare ribs dusted with five spice.

Vail, Colorado
Sweetbreads with pickled Palisade cherries and mustard aioli at The Rose. | Photo by Bryan Redniss

Two Arrows Coffee | Bar

“Two Arrows is a great place to get coffee in the AM, or a drink in the afternoon or night,” says Campbell of the café and cocktail bar helmed by Root & Flower co-owner Samantha Biszantz. The café’s tiny quarters, which previously housed Root & Flower’s original location, function as a morning hub for outdoor enthusiasts gathering for bites of lox bagels and house-baked quiche, with coffee beans sourced from neighboring Color Coffee Roasters. By night, it transforms to a post-slopes center for rotating beers, frozen matcha cocktails, and signature creations like the Bougie Beet (beet-infused tequila, Cognac, cacao, falernum, lemon). “In the wintertime, everyone’s in there in their ski boots and pants. During the summertime, everybody’s got their bike clothes,” describes Campbell. “That small space creates a strong sense of community.”

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