Kelly Liken has been lauded as one of Colorado ski country's best chefs with the muscular dishes – like Rocky Mountain Elk Carpaccio – that got her a spot on 'Top Chef' Season 7. But the bar at her Vail hot spot, Restaurant Kelly Liken, is also carving out a reputation for creative license, with a diverse cocktail menu by drink designer Ian Tulk that changes every three months to match the kitchen's seasonal dishes.
Headlining the current list is the Colorado Campfire, featuring the house's pine nut–infused Breckenridge Bourbon, one of the best on the craft market and winner of numerous gold medals, including the 2011 International Wine and Spirits Competition. The staff smokes ice cubes by melting them in a meat smoker, collecting the resulting water, and refreezing it. The extra step provides the most fitting aspect of the cocktail – like a campfire that shifts with each collapsing log, the drink evolves with every melting cube. "By the time you get to the end," says one local aficionado, "it's a different drink."
At first, the liqueur compensates for some of the lost sweetness of the grilled fruit (peach in early fall; apple in late fall) that is added as the final step, but the nutty tones of the bourbon stabilize the drink's hardy character. As the ice cubes melt and singed chips of the fruit drop into the glass, the essence of smoke fills the nose. Even when the liquid itself is gone, the smell lingers in the glass.
- 2 oz pine nut–infused Breckenridge Bourbon
- 0.5 oz Stirrings Peach Liqueur
- 1 slice of peach or apple (whichever is in season)
- 2 cold-smoked ice cubes
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
Grill the peach, then muddle it with a 1/2 tsp of brown sugar. Meanwhile, measure and pour the bourbon and liqueur, then stir and strain over the smoked cubes. Top it with the fruit.