Crafting a Killer Cocktail

Mixologists around the Flathead Valley are finding new ways to showcase local spirits

There is no shortage of joy to be taken from a perfectly mixed martini, a refreshing margarita, a tangy bloody mary or a well-balanced old fashioned. But like in the diversifying world of craft beer, those on the cutting edge of making spirits are venturing outside the norm to satisfy every taste, and cocktails are following right along with that trend.

Nowhere are funky new drinks, and clever spins on old classics, easier to spot than at craft distilleries, including the three that have tasting rooms in the Flathead Valley. Glacier Distilling Co. in Coram is the most prolific, where founder Nic Lee’s creative spirit keeps his staff clearing more and more shelf space behind the bar.

Glacier has released more than 40 spirits in less than nine years of operation, and 26 different options are available right now, including six different whiskeys, European favorites like grappa, kirschwasser and slivovitz, and liqueurs infused with local huckleberries and cherries. Glacier’s newest spirit is an aguardiente — what would be called a pisco were it made in Peru — made from grapes grown at Spotted Bear Vineyards in Polson. 

To showcase all of those varied spirits, the staff’s mixologists have created a multitude of unique cocktails that they mix up daily at the distillery and adjacent restaurant, Josephine’s, including frozen Fireweed lemonade, three kinds of pisco sours, the spicy Mule Kick margarita and more. Glacier Distilling is open daily from noon to 8 p.m., and Josephine’s serves food and slings drinks from 4 to 10 p.m.

Glacier Distilling is not the only place getting frisky with its cocktail list, either. Here are four more spots with a drink list beyond the ordinary.

Cocktails

Spotted Bear Spirits
503 Railway Street, Whitefish
This cozy spot in downtown Whitefish features its own gin, vodka and coffee liqueur, and founder Lauren Oscilowski uses all three to come up with a one-of-a-kind cocktail list that creatively blends all of their house spirits.

Whistling Andy
8541 Highway 35, Bigfork
Bigfork’s award-winning distillery features a pair of flavored gins — one cucumber, another pink peppercorn and pear — along with a hibiscus coconut rum, and all three are showcased on the cocktail list here.

The Red Room
147 Central Ave., Whitefish
Head to the basement of downtown Whitefish restaurant Latitude 48 to find this trendy night spot that offers a huge list of craft cocktails, many of which feature local spirits.

The Belton Chalet
12575 U.S. Highway 2, West Glacier
Located just outside Glacier National Park, the historic chalet offers a contemporary menu and expansive cocktail list that features four different varieties of ginger-centric mules.