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Interview: Mixologist Naomi Leslie Talks Après Ski Whisky Cocktails

The slopes are still packed with snow and those worn out from a day of skiing look toward a whiskey cocktail to warm them up.

Many look forward to their après ski, a loose term that describes the occasion where the ski boots come off and a cocktail delivers a moment of bliss.

As the popularity of après ski grows, makers of single malt Scotch have shared tried and true recipes to fit the occasion, makers like Glenfiddich and The Balvenie.

One mixologist is touting the après ski cocktail, The Balvenie’s brand ambassador Naomi Leslie.

She honed her skills in the bartending and craft cocktail industry in New York City before joining the vaunted Scotch brand. The Massachusetts native was part of the opening team for the acclaimed bar BlackTail. There, Leslie helped develop cocktail menus and lead staff training on whisky, rum, and bartending skill sets, which led to the bar winning Best New American Cocktail Bar in 2017.

As brand ambassador for The Balvenie, Leslie has learned the craft of whisky-making directly from craftspeople and hearing their stories, including renowned Malt Master David Stewart and Apprentice Malt Master Kelsey McKechnie.

She’s versed in topics ranging from rare prestige variants to new releases, encouraging diversity and advocacy for women in the cocktail and whisky worlds. And her inventive cocktail creations have drawn interest from magazines Forbes and Imbibe, Time Out, and Popular Mechanics, among others.

She recently visited with The Whiskey Wash to discuss her passion for the whisky world, along with her interest in photography, food and travel … and certainly her vigor for a great cocktail for that après ski moment.

Après Ski Whisky Cocktail
Mixologist Naomi Leslie discuss her passion for the whisky world, along with her interest in photography, food and travel … and certainly her vigor for a great cocktail for that après ski moment. (image via Naomi Leslie/The Balvenie)

The Whiskey Wash: Tell us a little about your path to whisky and the industry.

Naomi Leslie: “Before this role (as Balvenie brand ambassador), I worked on some incredible bar teams in Manhattan, including Dear Irving and BlackTail. The more I learned about whisky, the more The Balvenie’s incredible taste and storied distillery stood out. So of course, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the team. Since joining The Balvenie as a U.S. ambassador in 2018, I’ve led hundreds of whisky tastings, workshops, seminars, and dinners across the East Coast  – including the rarest of variants aged 50 years and older. I’m also a certified Cigar Tobacconist Sommelier and love speaking to cigar and whisky pairings.”

TWW: In your mind, what makes a whisky cocktail special?

NL: “Using a premium spirit in a cocktail is about showcasing the spirit in a new and creative way by using the ingredients to compliment and highlight nuances in its flavor.”

TWW: What about Scotch, in particular, allows it to be the star of cold-weather cocktails?

NL: “The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky is particularly a star in cold-weather cocktails due to its comforting, warm honey flavor notes. Especially our 12-Year-Old Doublewood, which has a smooth, nutty sweetness, notes of soft cinnamon, and a rounded vanilla spice that shines in a cocktail even on the coldest of days.

TWW: So what is après ski, and how does it factor into cocktail culture?

NL: “Après ski is the idyllic occasion after a long, ambitious, and invigorating day on the slopes … you finally are able to sit down for an elevated cocktail and relax.”

“Cocktail culture is enormous in après ski, with various mountain lodges having stellar cocktail menus in popular ski areas like Park City, Aspen, and Vail. It conjures the image of a warm, spiced hot toddy served fireside.”

TWW: What makes an “elevated” après ski cocktail, and do you have any tips or tricks when making one?

NL: “Using a delicious whisky like The Balvenie is a great place to start. For wintertime cocktails, I tend to focus on baking spice notes, such as ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, which all complement our 12-Year-Old DoubleWood beautifully.”

TWW: What is contributing to the rise in popularity for après ski cocktails?

NL: “I believe guests’ appreciation for high-quality cocktails is growing across the country, especially occasion-based celebratory drinks. An après ski cocktail is not simply a delicious beverage, it is a toast to the adventurous day you’ve had and the relaxing evening ahead.”


Naomi Leslie shared one of her favorite après ski cocktail recipes:

Roses and Chocolates


  • ¾ part The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old
  • ¼ part Red Wine Syrup*
  • 4 dashes Chocolate Bitters
  • Champagne


  • Add The Balvenie, red wine syrup, and chocolate bitters to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir briefly. Strain into a flute glass and top with Champagne.
  • *Red Wine Simple Syrup: Heat 2 parts full bodied red wine to 1 part cane sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool before use.

5 Sherried Whisky Alternatives

Here are my recommendations for those of you who want something sweet and luscious, but a little different in your glass this year. 

Gary Carter

Gary Carter has been at the helm of metro newspapers, magazines, and television news programs as well as a radio host and marketing manager. He is a writer/editor/photographer/designer by trade, with more than 30 years experience in the publishing and marketing field. Gary enjoys working to build something great, whether that be a novel project, a start-up, an organization, a fresh-face to the journalistic world, or even something as simple as a short story. A native Texan and a Pacific Northwest convert, he is a whiskey enthusiast who cut his teeth on it ... literally!

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