Fact: I knew zero facts about drinking in Utah before writing this guide to drinking in Utah. I honestly wasn't 100% sure they had bars, and if they did, I was 1,000% sure they only served 3.2% ABV beers. And liquor? Hahaha, no. I had worked it out in my mind that the reason High West Distillery could even exist in Utah was either because: 1) it was on an Indian Reservation (sovereign land, yo!), or 2) they were part of some weird Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo amendment. Either way, I was positive you couldn't get the drinks you wanted in Utah.
But then I spent a week there doing EXACTLY THAT, and in the process, learned some stuff about: 1) Utah's drinking laws, and 2) the must-hit bars in Utah's best ski towns. Here's everything you need to know about BOTH.
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1. Shotskis are totally allowed 2. Grocery stores only sell 4% ABV beer (aka the mythical 3.2% ABW* beer) 3. Tap beers everywhere? Also only 4%. 4. Bottled beers at bars/restaurants can be whatever % they want (oontz, oontz, oontz) 5. Shotskis are TOTALLY allowed 6. If you're at a restaurant, you have to order some kind of food if you wanna drink 7. Cocktails can only have 1.5oz of their main booze, but you can get a sidecar provided it's not the same as the main booze. Basically get a shot of bourbon with your rye Old Fashioned.
To the Utah ski town drinking guides!
*Utah measures its beer by weight, not by volume (so ABW vs. ABV). Best way to figure it out: a 3.2% ABW beer is actually a 4.0% ABV beer, AKA a Bud Light.
Park City primer: 1) It's 35 minutes from the airport, 2) It's where Sundance is, and 3) this is where you're gonna be drinking if you're skiing Canyons, Park City, or Deer Valley (aka Ski Magazine's No. 1 mountain in the US, aka you should be skiing here).
Remember how you were just saying you wished more restaurants were located in remote, pine-tree-covered areas that you have to reach via a Snowcat-pulled sleigh, and were constructed like tented domes, and only did one 40-person seating per night, and served booze in badass viking goblets? Time to stop wishing that, 'cause that place totally exists, and this is it.
This is the one exception to the tap beer rule, mostly because you can get a 32oz schooner for $6.50 Wednesday-Monday, and THREE DOLLARS on Tuesdays. Bonus: You can also get free schooners full of peanuts and it's totally OK to toss the shells on the floor. Double Bonus: Burgers are $3 on Tuesday, too!
The only ski-in, ski-out whiskey distillery IN THE WORLD (it's at the bottom of Park City Resort's Quittin' Time run), High West is housed inside of both an old livery stable and an accompanying 100-year-old townhouse and features two bars, a restaurant, a chem lab, and a distilling room with ginormo floor-to-ceiling windows so you can watch the whiskey getting all whiskey-y.
Order whichever flight of whiskey features the Valley Tan -- it was the first aged whiskey distilled in Park City...
... and it rocks America's coolest whiskey label: a hand-drawn mugshot of Porter "The Destroying Angel of Mormondom" Rockwell, LDS founder Joseph Smith's badass, gun-toting bodyguard.
Ogden primer: 1) It's 38 minutes from SLC Airport, 2) It's an old railroad town that, during wartime, saw 120 trains a day roll through, and 3) It's where you'll be drinking if you're skiing Snowbasin, Nordic Valley, or Powder Mountain.
The oldest continuously operating bar west of the Mississippi (since 1879!), this just-outside-of-Ogden Huntsville bar is as throwback as they get. They only serve burgers. And beer. And only take cash.
The interior is... just... incredible, from the $15,000 worth of $1 bills taped to the ceiling to the taxidermied Saint Bernard (???) that memorializes a former world's largest dog.
And while they only serve beer, they get creative with it, including this Dark Side of the Moon -- a Black & Tan-esque combination of Guinness and Blue Moon.
Back to those burgers: Go with the iconic Star Burger, a double-pattied monstrosity with cheddar, a KNOCKWURST SPLIT IN TWO, and all the fixings.
They settled on the decor for this cheap, drink-slinging, 1940s dive after watching a Bill Murray "Saturday Night Live" rerun. But somehow, that's not the most notable thing about the bar: the access hatch to Ogden's underground prohibition tunnels is (wait, what????).
Named such because it's "alleged" to be a former house of ill repute (cathouse), this new addition to the Ogden drinking scene features three stories worth of boozy booziness, including this picturesque rooftop bar, the middle floor "Brothel," which features an open design and unisex bathrooms (hey now), and first floor dance club Moxie.
It's been regularly voted as one of the (if not the) best restaurants in Ogden, so order a round of Naughty Fries (Me. Ow.) and get in on the beer they brew behind the front bar via a sampler trio, or fillable growlers. Also awesome: they make their own root beer, and you can order it straight up or "loaded" (so... loaded).
Little Cottonwood Canyon primer: 1) This is basically All-inclusive-ville, USA. Most of the places you'll stay in LCC have meals (we're talking everything from steak dinners to brunch buffets) included with your stay, 2) You'll be drinking here if you're partying at Alta or Snowbird, and 3) Stay at Alta -- it's one of the most unique places you can stay in Utah snow country, a sort of Norwegian loft without a bad view in the house.
The General Store
There's only one place in alllllll of Little Cottonwood Canyon that will sell you bottles of liquor, and that place is The General Store. Maybe one of the coolest liquor stores in America, it's inside of Alta Lodge's ski locker room, is about the size of a walk-in closet, and fifths will run you between $20-$30. Need mixers? Either buy them there or ask one of the hotel staff really, really nicely -- everyone who works there is super chill.
This place is a legitimate throwback. Located a level up from the Alta Lodge lobby, it has a bar with a sunken drinking living room, and a cozy above-the-bar area that has the aprés thing down.
And even though we've kind of stressed the whole "cocktails are sorta weak here" thing up until this point, let's just say you should get Sitzmark's "Party Marg." It just. Tastes. Boozier. (Oh, and these aren't them. Don't get these, get the Party Margs.)
For three months a year, the grounds at Snowbird Resort turn into one of America's 10 Best Oktoberfests, according to Men's Journal, which is a magazine some people read.
The event draws 60,000 prost-ers, who take part in everything from Strongman Hammer Contests to a whole shload of biergartens, plus the whole thing is kid friendly.
Big Cottonwood Canyon primer: 1) It's only 19 minutes from the airport, 2) The canyon used to be a big gold/silver mining area, and you can still spot old mines while you're winding down the slopes, and 3) This is where you're gonna be drinking if you're skiing Brighton or Solitude.
The dude running the show at this Solitude mainstay has some legit bartender chops, and he'll use them when serving you in any of three places: actually inside Library Bar, inside 30-steps-away St. Bernards, or in the living room between the two. All three are honestly awesome, but just make sure the last drink you have here is in that living room, and make sure that last drink is an Irish coffee, which will be topped off with hand-whipped cream the bartender will make IN FRONT OF YOU.
If you're gonna drink before/during/after/way after skiing at Brighton, you're gonna want to do it at Molly Green's. Located in the top floor of an A frame building between the Majestic and Crest lifts, this is sort of a throwback aprés spot with burgers, PBR tallboys, and a taxidermy adorned-fireplace you're basically required to drink next to.
The bar here is nothing special, but the balcony damn sure is. Grab a bottle at their detached bar downstairs, head up to the second floor and to the double doors at the way back of the room. They'll open up to the balcony you see to the right in the pic above, which will give you prime people-watching territory, plus an opportunity to watch dudes finish their runs down the mountain since this spot is right at the base of the runs.
Grant Marek is a Senior Editor at Thrillist and he did at least one shotski while writing this. OK, maybe two. Follow him on Twitter at @grant_marek.