Montana Ski Resort – Bright Lights, Big Sky
The Manhattan cocktail gets a Montana makeover
By Erica Duecy

Skiers don’t come to Big Sky for shopping or nightlife; they come here for the epic terrain. After a long day traversing more than 220 ski runs on 5,532 acres at Big Sky Resort and neighboring Moonlight Basin, a little pampering may be in order. That’s where Rainbow Ranch Lodge comes in.

The rustic luxe retreat on the Gallatin River is the place in Big Sky for a sophisticated dinner—and, perhaps unexpectedly, a cutting edge cocktail. The signature libation? A barrel-aged Manhattan called the Montana Sky. The cocktail is made from Buffalo Trace whiskey, Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port (which replaces the standard sweet vermouth), and Angostura bitters.bl_3

Five gallons of the cocktail at a time are mixed and aged in used whiskey barrels from a local distillery. After six weeks, the cocktail is ready for its place as star of the lodge’s cocktail menu. Bartenders serve the drink in a wide-bottomed glass with one oversized ice cube and submerged, brandied cherries. “Guests just love it,” says Mollie Eckman, general manager of Rainbow Ranch Lodge. “It’s a great conversation piece.”

The Montana Sky is part of a recent trend of bartenders aging their cocktails in charred oak barrels. The treatment infuses the drink with toasty vanilla flavors, and smoothes out rough edges, giving high-proof spirits a velvety mouth‑feel.

Since the Montana Sky debuted at Rainbow Ranch Lodge two years ago, it has been the property’s most popular cocktail. Fortunately for après-ski revelers in other locales, the Montana Sky is easy to make—and delicious even without the barrel-aging. For those added toasty accents, just drink it while lounging by the fire.