Get with the Program
As recently as a decade ago, cocktails in Jackson Hole were mostly limited to the classics. Now inventive, well-crafted cocktails are the norm.
text and photography By Jr Rodriguez
BOOM-ASS COCKTAILS meticulously crafted by smartly dressed bartenders in a dimly lit, velvet- and chandelier-rich lounge wasn’t something the valley had yet seen when David Kaplan and Alex Day opened The Rose in downtown Jackson in 2012. But Kaplan, who grew up in Jackson, and Day thought the town was ready for it. And they had a pretty good idea of how to do a cocktail bar well. In 2006 in Manhattan’s East
Village, Kaplan and master bartender Philip Ward opened Death & Co., which, thanks to complete dedication to using only the purest of ingredients, was quickly recognized as “America’s Best Cocktail Bar” and as having the country’s “Best Cocktail Menu.” The tome Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails was published in 2014 (find it locally at Mountain Dandy). Yes, during the early years of The Rose, locals snickered at the pretentiousness of the phrase “cocktail program,” which was unknown in the valley in 2012. The snickering lasted only until those locals had their first cocktail from the program. In the years since The Rose kick-started the valley’s cocktail scene, other bars and restaurants have jumped aboard. Here are some favorite cocktails around the valley.
Glorietta’s Spicy Pineapple Margarita
You might have trouble finding Glorietta, with its white exterior that makes it look like a private residence. Once inside, though, you’ll find that it’s an obviously popular restaurant and bar. Have a seat at the latter and feel like you’ve entered a time capsule: tile bar, wood stove, and neon signs. Bartender Tony Berner says, “The [drink] menu is always changing. Every season is different and we don’t repeat our drinks.” That said, you can always order a Spicy Pineapple Margarita (fresh pineapple juice, infused jalapeño tequila, smoked Alderwood salt). The lights dim, I take a sip, and Berner asks, “Isn’t that smoked Alderwood salt the best part?” Open daily 5 to 10 p.m.; 242 N. Glenwood St., Jackson; 307/733-3888; gloriettajackson.com
Samurai Tide at Suda
Less than one block from the Town Square, ride a Samurai Tide (Roku Gin, JH Stillworks Vodka, Lillet Blanc, sea bean, lemon peel, salt) at the Japanese-inspired restaurant Suda. The sea beans come all the way from Hawaii’s largest island and the gin from a place even more distant: Japan. (The vodka is local.) The Tide’s simplicity is its strong suit, but don’t think simple means wimpy. Bartender Rob Denton says, “That thing doesn’t mess around. Lillet Blanc is a fortified wine, it’s 17 percent.” If the Samurai Tide doesn’t sound like your cup of alcohol—it’s definitely for the martini lover—Suda has a large selection of sakes. “We make cocktails out of those, too,” Denton says. “I’d recommend the Saketini with Grey Goose or the Pineapple Sake Margarita.” Open Monday through Saturday 5 to 9 p.m., closed Sunday; 140 N. Cache St., Jackson; 307/201-1616; sudajh.com
The Rose’s Ty Webb
“Inspiration can come from anywhere,” says Chad Taylor, a bartender who started at The Rose when it opened in 2012 and in 2013 was inspired to invent the Ty Webb (Hendrick’s gin, Darjeeling simple syrup, cucumber shrub, lemon juice, egg white) because of a personal drink preference. “John Dalys were popular at the time. I liked them but wanted to switch it up a little,” he says. Taylor swapped out vodka for Hendrick’s gin, made simple syrup with Darjeeling tea, added muddled cucumber, put in a smidge of lemon juice, and used just a bit of egg white to give the drink a silky texture. It was good, but not great. After feedback from other Rose bartenders, Taylor swapped the muddled cucumber for cucumber shrub. “That was when it became a home run,” he says. “The shrub makes the cucumber much more present; muddled, it got lost.” The name is a home run, too: Ty Webb is Chevy Chase’s character in the movie “Caddyshack”. Open Sunday through Tuesday 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., Wednesday 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Thursday through Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; 50 W. Broadway Ave., Jackson; 307/733-1500; therosejh.com
Tequila Last Word at Teton Tiger
Teton Tiger, a Pan-Asian restaurant heavy on Indian dishes, made a misstep when it opened in 2014: Its name wasn’t “Teton Tiger” but “The Indian.” While it took three years for it to course-correct its name, its cocktail menu has always been on point. If you’re lucky, your drink will be crafted by Rene Woody, who, when not at the Tiger, runs the mobile cocktail enterprise Bar-SIP-Bar. “Bar Sip lets me be creative outside of work and I bring new drinks to Tiger,” Woody says. One of those new drinks is a remake of the gin-based Prohibition-era cocktail Last Word. Woody’s version uses tequila instead of gin. In keeping with the spirit of Prohibition, Tequila Last Word (lime juice, green chartreuse, tequila, Luxardo maraschino cherry) isn’t on the menu. But, says Woody, “I’m trying to teach all the other bartenders these off-menu drinks because word gets around.” This cocktail is worth a try even if you’re not the biggest fan of tequila. “If it’s too much, the cherry cuts everything,” Woody says. Open Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m., closed Sunday; 165 Center St., Jackson; 307/733-4111; tetontiger.com
The Paloma Sloshie at Rations
You don’t necessarily think “cocktail” when you hear “converted mini-mart,” but that’s only if you haven’t discovered Rations, at the base of Teton Pass in Wilson. Occupying a portion of the Basecamp convenience store/gas station, Rations has its own sloshie mixologist. Yes, sloshie mixologist. Rations manager Jimmy Fraser hired The Rose’s former manager, Mckenzie Weinhold, to make Rations’ sloshies—frozen drinks (think ICEE or Slurpee) with alcohol added; they’re a Jackson Hole summer staple—the best in town. And Weinhold has obliged, with an interesting variety of flavors and alcohols available. (There’s always at least one each of a tequila, whiskey, rum, and vodka sloshie.) Weinhold says her sloshies are “not too boozy but packed with flavor from our housemade syrups and freshly juiced citrus.” I’m always torn between the cucumber lime (fresh lime juice, tequila, spicy cucumber tequila) and paloma (fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, tequila, lime juice); but I usually settle on the paloma. I’ve heard the argument that sloshies are not a cocktail, but I don’t go for it: They’re served chilled and mixed with liquor and fruit juices and are between 7 and 10 percent alcohol. Sounds like a cocktail to me. While it’s tempting to start drinking right away, do not break the tamper-resistant tape applied to the cup until you get to your destination; breaking the tape makes the drink an open container, which is illegal to have in your car. Sloshies available daily 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 5720 Wyoming State Highway 22, Wilson; 307/201-1995; rationswilson.com JH