Before diving into blogging about the trails and magnificent scenery of Glacier, we feel we must say a little about the food and drink. You may think us Philistines, but we have our priorities.
The food in Montana is be nothing to blog about – the vegetable section in the grocery store today had a narrower selection than our refrigerator usually does, and at the height of cherry season a scant 300 miles west, there is nary a cherry to be found in this state. (We’re considering driving west, loading up the truck, and driving back to make our fortune.) The beer is also a little suspect – the protocol for naming a microbrew seems to be to adopt the name of a prominent member of the charismatic local megafauna, followed by one of its numerous bodily fluids. However, the cocktails exhibit a charming balance between the recognition of tradition, and adaptation to local conditions. We might term it Critical Regionalist Mixology.
The Huckleberry Margaritas are quite fine (with the agave not being overwhelmed by the sweetness), but the clear winner is the Huckleberry Smash. It is served in all the lodges at Glacier, and I sampled a few at the Lake McDonald Lodge, and also at the Many Glacier Hotel. It is simple and elegant: whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup shaken with ice, then strained onto ice in a glass (a Collins glass on the west side, and a double rocks glass on the east). Then a tart huckleberry syrup is drizzled on (slowly settling towards the bottom), and garnished with mint. It is the kind of minimalist drink I like best, depending on a good balance among very few, high-quality ingredients. It manages to be refreshing, while also having a lot of body.
I can’t say that my perceptions of its virtues are uninfluenced by the context. I came to my fullest appreciation of it on our fourth day here, when we had been closed out of the hike we wanted to take by the overcrowded shuttle system, and substituted a hike which started out in a beautiful forest, but then devolved into carefully watching our step to avoid the hazards for the last two miles on what we later termed The Horseshit Trail. By the time we arrived at the McDonald Lake Lodge, we were hot, tired and slightly disgusted, and desperately in need a of a drink. I ordered a Huckleberry Smash with a hefeweizen chaser, and sitting at this table in the cool and dark lobby of the lodge, slowly sipping, all of my cares were washed away.
I became determined to replicate this drink at home, and after surveying the various huckleberry products for sale in the numerous gift shops, I asked our server if any of them would suffice. She said definitely not – those were just for tourists, and the bars order large and expensive tubs of minimally processed huckleberries from a distributor. Linda says she has a line on fresh huckleberries from a vendor at the Eugene farmers’ market, so we will start there in the fall.
If cocktails can be said to have a terroir, then it is most satisfying to drink one in the environment from which it sprang, and whose qualities are embodied in the drink. That peak experience came today, sitting on the deck at Many Glacier, after a couple of hikes in 80 degree weather. If the drinks arrived with some regularity, I could sit on that deck and look at the view all day.