Cocktails and Character

Fernie isn't much for scale; those of us who live here know this. A quaint 12 avenues and 16 streets, a mountainside subdivision, a serene river, and a four-block main street—just how we like it. Because what we lack in scale, we more than make up for with character. Good, old-fashioned, mountain town character. The kind that shines through in the white lights hanging from snow-covered trees, in a glowing fire overlooking the bright sparkles of town at the top of a black-sky cross-country ski, in the warmth reflected off aged red brick while sipping on a caesar as snow falls outside.

Lots of character—in parties and playtime, in cocktails and beer. It won't take you long to find the kind that suits you. And though an outdoor adventure with a flask of fireball inside a warming hut might just be your jam, for those of you who stick close to town, there are so many character cocktail adventures to find; here are just a few to keep in mind.

Nevado's in Fernie is one of my favourite go-to places for delicious food and even more delicious cocktails. Their classic margarita is the right salty and sweet, and their Ginger Beef Caesar pays homage to the old Chinese food restaurant that used to operate in the same building. A pepperoni stick, a pickle, and the right amount of spice to compliment a  pescado taco. Be sure to check out the old photographs hanging in their hallway—Nevado's was once Fernie's movie theatre.

If what you seek is sushi and saki, look to Yama Goya on Highway 3, open since 2003. I go there far more often than I care to admit, but I promise there's a million fabulous reasons for doing so. The Alpine Martini, Yama's signature cocktail, is a blend of Gekkeikan sake and plum wine served on ice, a local favourite. Their selection of Japanese and draft beers make it difficult to choose, and paired with sashimi carpaccio (or anything on the menu, really) you might find yourself returning every week. Or twice a week, but who's counting.  

A new flair to town is the Fernie Distillers, a small-batch distillery located in the Fernie Legion building. The owners have beautifully renovated the space, and with the perfect warmth and ambiance it's easy to set up here for a cocktail. If it's your first time, be sure to do a tasting and then try a Rusty Rail cocktail, a medley of their Fernie Fog liqueur and blended Scotch with hints of bergamot, honey and orange over a giant ice cube. The Distillery hopes to introduce a more extensive list of cocktails by February, and after a long day of powder turns I can think of few places I'd rather be for après.

If beer is more your style, find yourself lounging in Fernie Brewing Co.'s tasting room at 26 Manitou Rd. After a long day of skiing, hopping, snowshoeing, lounging, hot-tubbing (let's be honest, it doesn't matter what you did) a cold brew is a great way to relax. Choose from their beers on tap (seasonal brews are always a favourite), or ask for a flight. With four beers to taste and only $5 a pop, all proceeds from a flight go to FBC's Cheers for Charity Fundraising Program. They also have a fantastic merchandise selection. Finally, feel good about drinking beer (as if we ever felt bad).

The list goes on; so many incredible places to choose from, and really, so much quality winter time to do it. Thursday through Sundays, Island Lake Lodge has reservations available for a two-course winter lunch. Reserve a cat ride up, or Nordic ski to the top. Be sure to indulge in the specialty Smoked Sage cocktail; Makers Mark Bourbon, citrus sage simple syrup, and organic pear juice. Or dive into a glass of the Three Bears red blend while warming up next to the wood fireplace. L'wren Farkas, restaurant manager and wine director, says this new custom vintage is perfect for those chilly winter months in the mountains, and pairs smoothly with the mouth-watering chocolate torte dessert.

Whether it's beer, bourbon, whisky, or wine (or all of the above and more), remember that it's not Fernie's scale that counts. It's between those 12 avenues and 16 streets, up a snowy road aligned with old growth cedar or off the side of Main Street and hidden from plain view, where you'll find the cocktails to get you through the long winter ahead. When your belly is full and your head a little fuzzy, watching your breath float in the frozen air on your chilly walk home doesn't seem so drear. Mountain town life in the winter, but especially in Fernie, has all the character you'll need.

Jesse Bell is an avid writer and adventurer from Fernie. When she isn’t sipping cocktails, she’s usually getting lost in the woods on purpose.