Cozy up with a warm cup

By Jefferson Geiger | Saturday, January 2, 2021

Colorado is known for receiving an abundance of sunshine, and a run through untouched powder or along freshly groomed trails becomes even more sublime when it’s combined with blue skies. But the sunshine can’t last forever, and sometimes blizzard conditions will force you to stop and warm up at the lodge. Other times, you might be looking for a soothing apres ski beverage to comfort aching muscles.

When those conditions arise, it’s the perfect chance to order a hot cup of coffee, tea, chocolate or cider at one of many spots in Summit County. Sure, you can get a piping mug of something just about anywhere these days, but these spots tend to put a unique spin on their drinks that make them worth the stop.
 

Cuppa Joe’s oatmeal latte is breakfast in a cup. A serving of house-made oatmeal swims in milk and espresso.
Photo from Cuppa Joe

Coffee

Coffee is often the first beverage for many people’s day, and it makes perfect sense to pair it with your first meal. That’s why Cuppa Joe devised its oatmeal latte as an all-in-one package. House-made oatmeal — consisting of coconut, nuts, cranberries, spices and oats — is served in a cup with your choice of milk along with two shots of espresso resting on the bottom.

“It’s great breakfast on-the-go for the gondola,” said Cuppa Joe co-owner Mateo Solanas, who added that the beans are roasted locally by sister company Breckenridge Coffee Roasters.

Though owner Erin Young argues that properly sourced and prepared coffee doesn’t need to be altered, Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea does make syrups in-house for the cafe’s seasonal lattes, including its lavender honey latte in the spring and pumpkin spice latte in the fall. But one signature drink you’ll find year-round is the signature Nutty Professor. The latte is made with Ghirardelli white chocolate and Monin macadamia nut syrups and is topped with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

One of Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea’s signature lattes is the Nutty Professor. The drink is made with Ghirardelli white chocolate and Monin macadamia nut syrups and topped with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.
Photo from Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea

For dessert, try chicory coffee from The Lost Cajun with a side of beignets. The Louisianan staple is a blend of regular coffee and ground chicory root direct from Baton Rouge’s Community Coffee. The Lost Cajun Chief Operating Officer Richard Berns said the French and Acadians used the root as a coffee substitute when blockades made getting beans difficult.

“It has a strong flavor profile to it, more smoky, so people would use it in place of coffee or added to coffee so they could use more of it,” Berns said. “It is a unique flavor; there’s no doubt about that.”

Get it with a half-cup of steamed milk — cafe au lait style — to feel like you’re in New Orleans.

Breckenridge Distillery's Slopeside Warm-Up is a hot toddy cocktail made with Slopeside Spiced Plum tea and bourbon. The tea is a blend of hibiscus, licorice root, cinnamon, dried plum, clove and vanilla bean that is steeped with goji berries.
Photo by Jessie Unruh / Breckenridge Distillery

Tea

Tea is frequently thought of as a relaxing beverage, which is probably why two bookstores in Summit County serve it — among other hot drinks — in their cafes. The Inxpot in Keystone has a variety of black, white, green and herbal teas available. Those looking to be a little more adventurous should order the Masala Chai Delight. It isn’t a regular chai latte made from concentrate. It uses loose-leaf masala chai, steamed milk and a bit of honey.

Meanwhile, Next Page Books & Nosh has a wall with more than 40 teas. Give the caffeine-free Red Rocks blend a try the next time you’re browsing and want to put the world on pause with your next favorite book.

Among its creative bar offerings, Breckenridge Distillery’s restaurant is also known to dabble in a few tea cocktails from time to time. Liquid Chef Billie Keithley frequently spotlights her favorite teas on the seasonal menus. The Slopeside Warm-Up, as the name implies, uses the warming Slopeside Spiced Plum tea from Teakoe for a primary ingredient.

The tea is a tasty blend of hibiscus, licorice root, cinnamon, dried plum, clove and vanilla bean steeped with goji berries. Joining that in the glass are Breckenridge Distillery bourbon, lemon juice, Colorado honey and an orange garnish.

“It just screams winter, which is nine months out of the year in Summit County,” Keithley said.

Turtle on a Hot Rock takes the flavors of turtle candy and transforms it into a piping hot beverage.
Photo from Dillon Dam Brewery

Chocolate

A limited menu often is a sign that a restaurant has found a niche, and Mimi & Pin is a prime example. Here, you can get a coffee or waffles, but its Spanish hot chocolate is perhaps the perfect pool in which to dip a freshly made churro. Thick, rich and decadent, it is as far removed from store-bought, powered hot chocolate as you can get. It’s also the same chocolate used for the mochas.

Likewise, Gyros Delish’s Grecian hot chocolate is another European treat that goes well with the food stand’s baklava.

“It’s not a normal hot chocolate,” chef and owner Michael Halouvas said. “It’s quite thick and creamy. It’s different than the rest of the hot chocolates.”

If you’re searching for spiked hot chocolate, grab a Turtle on a Hot Rock from Dillon Dam Brewery. General Manger Kim Nix created it more than 20 years ago in Minnesota and brought the cocktail recipe with her when she moved to Summit County. The recipe combines butterscotch schnapps, Irish cream and hot chocolate into a mug that is topped with whipped cream, caramel and chocolate syrup.

“It’s a perfect, warm, sweet, cozy winter drink,” Nix said. “I’ll even drink it on a cool night if I’m on my deck. Instead of dessert, I’d rather have something like that.”

Visit Downstairs at Eric’s for a hot apple cider cocktail made with tequila.
Photo from Downstairs at Eric’s

Cider

Apple cider can span the seasons being served hot or cold. Cool River Coffee House has a standard hot cider but also offers a caramel hot apple cider. If that isn’t enough, saddle up to Jack’s Bar at Copper Mountain Resort for The Big Apple: apple whiskey, hot cider and a cinnamon stick.

Downstairs at Eric’s offers a similar drink but with a twist. Called Mexican hot cider, the bar takes reposado tequila and hot cider and serves it with a squeeze of orange, a cinnamon-sugar rim and a cinnamon stick.

“People love it,” bartender Samara Oakleaf said. “It’s a nice change from the norm.”

 Coffee codex
Coffee has been consumed by many cultures for centuries, touching all corners of the globe. As its reach grows, so too does the countless preparations crafted by various countries. Consult this handy dictionary if you ever find yourself perplexed at a cafe’s menu.
  • Americano: Espresso diluted with water
  • Breve: Espresso with half-and-half or cream
  • Cafe au lait: Coffee with milk
  • Cappuccino: Equal parts espresso, milk and foam
  • Chemex: A glass vessel used in making pour-over coffee
  • Cold brew: Coffee brewed with cold water over a long period of time, creating a concentrated drink
  • Cortado: A shot of espresso cut with a small amount of steamed milk
  • Cuban: Espresso made with blended sugar
  • Drip: The common way of making coffee with boiling water dripping over the ground beans and a filter
  • Espresso: Finely ground coffee brewed with steam pressure. Can be pulled short (ristretto) or long (lungo) for less or more water.
  • Flat white: Espresso with microfoam creating a texture different than a latte
  • French press: Ground coffee brewed with hot water in a carafe that uses a plunger to filter the coffee
  • Latte: A shot of espresso, steamed milk and foam. Usually flavored with syrups and other ingredients like matcha or chai tea.
  • Macchiato: Espresso marked with splash of foam
  • Mocha: Espresso, steamed milk and chocolate
  • Nitro: Cold-brew coffee served with nitrogen on draft or in cans to give it a creamy head
  • Pour over: A manual form a drip coffee with water steadily poured from a kettle over the beans and a filter
  • Romano: Espresso with lemon
  • Vienna: Espresso with whipped cream

Editor’s note: This story previously published in the winter 2020-21 edition of Explore Breckenridge & Summit County magazine.

About the Author Jefferson Geiger
Summit Daily Arts & Entertainment Editor