BOTTLING THE SPIRIT OF TAOS

LIBATIONS AND LEGENDS THAT GROW ON TREES

In the early days of Taos Ski Valley, a woman found herself midway down the Snakedance Trail and too nervous to continue skiing. Frozen by fear, she refused to descend the steep slope any further. To coax her downhill, her ski instructor—Taos Ski Valley founder Ernie Blake—sent his son, Mickey, down to his mother, who knew just the antidote.

Mickey returned with a “pouron” filled with a dry gin martini, and Ernie matter-of-factly informed the anxious woman, “You will drink, or you will die.” One swig from the glass-blown drinking vessel and she finished the run like a goddess. It wasn’t long before Ernie began squirreling away pourons of martinis in the woods for other skiers, helping visitors swallow their fear of the mountain mid-run, one nip at a time.

Depending on who you ask, some Taos skiers and riders will slyly admit to carrying on the martini tree legacy, and they’ll wholeheartedly agree that the longevity and originality of this tradition lends a one-of-a-kind spirit to the slopes of Taos Ski Valley. So what, exactly, is this spirit and, more importantly, what does the spirit of Taos taste like?

Pouron (pourŸ • on)

WHAT IT IS

A blown glass vessel with a long spout and a corked top used to serve stiff drinks in a shot-like manner. (Think: a glass decanter meets a Moroccan teapot, poured straight to the mouth.)

WHERE IT CAME FROM

The pouron is a Spanish innovation, but the glass container and its contents are a symbol for Taosonian charm and Ernie Blake’s way of doing things differently, and making strangers feel like family.

WHERE TO FIND THEM

Once hung from tree branches and later nestled deeper in the woods, pourons at Taos Ski Valley are inconspicuous at best. The tradition is rumored to live on under lock and key, emerging for special occasions like the last day of Ski Week or during the Freeride World Tour. Empty pourons, however, line the shelves at the Martini Tree Bar, setting the vibe for Taos-style après ski.

HOW TO USE IT

Everyone has their own technique to drink from the pouron, but the most popular method is to tilt the pouron from above and pour a stream of liquor into an open mouth. The higher the pour, the more dramatic the celebration.

WHAT’S IN IT

It started with a gin martini, but the contents of a pouron are a personal choice. Some opt for tequila, others for Fireball. Of-age athletes on the Freeride World Tour in Taos guzzle a vodka martini from trophy-engraved pourons, while minors chug their winnings in the form of cranberry juice. For a more classic rendition of the original libation, the Martini Tree Bar serves up a half-dozen different martinis, like the Martinez (recipe below).

THE MARTINEZ

  • 1.5 oz Old Tom gin
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth  
  • 1 tsp maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters. Stir until very cold then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over cocktail to express its oils. Rub rim of glass with peel and discard. Drink up.