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Steamboat Magazine

Dare You to Pair – Four Food and Booze Pairings You Must Try

04/08/2021 04:05PM ● By Rachel Miller

Photo courtesy of Salt & Lime. 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO – Let’s face it, the year 2020 presented a massive upheaval in every aspect of our lives. Simple, ordinary tasks like going to work, socializing with friends and shopping around town were pulled to a halt. Businesses closed their doors and companies started working remotely while the world shifted. Among the biggest shifts? How we eat.

If you asked how long it would be until the next time dining resumed normalcy in a restaurant, no one would have guessed this would last more than a year. But here we are, over a year into it, and the restaurant industry continues to show its creativity, grit and compassion – especially in Steamboat Springs.

While driving through downtown Steamboat Springs, innovation is displayed across restaurants’ outdoor patios – and has been all winter long – with flashy dining yurts, extravagant greenhouses and creative use of gondola cars. Operating at various capacity restrictions, implementing vigorous cleaning routines and most restaurants being understaffed – the restaurant industry has been through it all.

As the end of winter nears, warmer weather rolls in, more vaccines are administered and restrictions lessen, there may just be a light at the end of the tunnel after all. Dining out with friends and family is resuming regularity, but this also became the year of carryout and curbside pickup – staying home is indeed the new norm. Whether you’re dining at home or ready to meet friends out for dinner, you must try these four local dishes and cocktail pairings. Staying home and crafting your own cocktails? Lo and behold, all ingredients can be picked up from Central Park Liquor, or any local liquor store.  

Dish: The Outlaw Burger from Carl’s Tavern

You can never go wrong with American comfort food and just about every burger from Carl’s is worth trying – their burgers are 100 percent Kobe beef. Prepare to indulge and maybe ask for a few extra napkins when ordering the Outlaw Burger – topped with barbeque pulled pork, pepper jack cheese, house slaw and pickles – it’s bound to get a little messy. Located at 700 Yampa Street, Carl’s Tavern is an easy-going pub, with a great menu of American fare and a nice patio to enjoy on a sunny, bluebird day.

Pair With: Classic Rye Old Fashioned

The Classic Rye Old Fashioned pairs well with burgers from Carl's Tavern. 

It’s no news that beer and bourbon pair great with most meats, especially burgers. Highlighting a bold bourbon with red meats makes this simple, yet classic cocktail a go-to when having burgers. Substituting this timeless cocktail with a rye whiskey adds a little bite but still finishes nicely with notes of fruit from the orange zest making for the perfect pairing with the savory flavor of meat. The High West Double Rye! is a great choice in flavor, with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, pine leaves, burnt sugars, mint and wonderful bitterness.


2 ounce rye whiskey (High West Double Rye!)

1 teaspoon simple syrup

3 dashes Angostura bitters

1 orange

How to Make:

1. Add one teaspoon of simple syrup and three dashes of bitters to a rocks glass.

2. Optional: Muddle orange slice and cherry for sweeter/fruitier finish

3. Add ice.

4. Add 2 ounces rye whiskey.

5. Stir gently until ingredients are mixed.

6. Zest an orange peel over the glass and then add to the drink as a garnish.

Dish: Tagliatelle Bolognese from Mambo

First things first: if you haven’t eaten at Mambo then you’re missing out. Located in the vibrant downtown of Steamboat Springs, Mambo brings a true taste of Italy to a Western ranching town. Mambo’s menu consists of modern interpretations of delicious Italian classics with hand-made pastas and exciting flavors all while utilizing locally sourced ingredients. A must-try item is Mambo’s Tagliatelle Bolognese. Delicious, flavorful Bolognese sauce made of local beef and hot Italian sausage is served over-top fresh, daily made tagliatelle pasta.

Pair With: Negroni or Boulevardier

The Classic Negroni or Boulevardier compliments Italian dishes like the Bolognese. 

The Negroni is arguably the most popular of Italian cocktails and the recipe is quite simple: equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and gin, or substitute bourbon whiskey to make it a Boulevardier. This sophisticated sipper is served on the rocks with an orange twist providing bitter, refreshing and complex flavors. Whether you’re making a Negroni or Boulevardier, choosing the right brands of booze is important for enhancing all the flavors. Gins with higher Juniper content – think Bombay Sapphire – will complement the bitterness of the Campari perfectly, and selecting a bourbon with a high proof, like Four Roses Single Barrel, will give a well-balanced cocktail.


1 ounce Juniper Gin (Bombay Sapphire)

Or 1 ¼ ounce bourbon (Four Roses Single Barrel)

1 ounce Campari

1 ounce sweet vermouth (Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino)

Garnish: Orange peel

How to Make:

1. Add the gin/bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth into a mixing glass.

2. Add ice and stir until well-mixed.

3. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube (one large ice cube doesn’t melt as fast and water down the drink as quickly).

4. Garnish with an orange peel and enjoy!

Dish: Street Tacos from Salt & Lime

Photo courtesy of Salt & Lime.

 Salt & Lime’s progressive Mexican menu features a modern twist on classic Mexican fare. With an emphasis on tacos and locally sourced ingredients – and a killer rooftop patio – this is the place to be while in downtown Steamboat Springs. Located right in the heart of Lincoln Avenue, Salt & Lime provides a bright, vibrant atmosphere and a delicious menu with quite the variety of flavors. Enjoy a margarita on the rooftop on a gorgeous, sunny day or take some tacos home for the family – whatever your dining comforts are, Salt & Lime has something for everyone.

Pair With: Paloma

If you’re dining at Salt & Lime, then it’s a must to try their Paloma with just about any taco on the menu. Taking pride in natural ingredients and fresh juices, the cocktail menu alone will have you thinking about margaritas every sunny day. The Paloma is a simple, refreshing tequila cocktail that is often overlooked for the almighty margarita. Mixing grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice and tequila makes this cocktail delicious and thirst-quenching, especially when eating spicy foods.


 2 ounce tequila (Blanco tequilas go great in Palomas)

½ ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed

Grapefruit juice (Simply Grapefruit Juice)

Soda Water or Sparkling Water

Garnish: lime wedge

Garnish: salt rim (optional)

How to Make:

1. Rub a lime wedge around the edge of a highball glass and dip the rim in salt (optional).

2. Fill glass with ice, then add the tequila and lime juice.

3. Top with equal parts grapefruit juice, soda water (or flavored grapefruit soda water) and stir briefly.

4. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy!

Dish: Shrimp and Grits from Yampa Valley Kitchen

Shrimp & Grits | Courtesy of Yampa Valley Kitchen.

Fairly new to town, Yampa Valley Kitchen sits back on the corner of Ninth and Oak in downtown Steamboat Springs. Sister restaurant to Bésame and Mambo, YVK offers a wonderful selection of breakfast and lunch items on their menu. The use of local, organic, and sustainable foods makes every item on the menu refreshing and highest of quality. The menu changes a bit due to their commitment to use organic or local foods when available. If you come here hungry, then you must try the shrimp and grits. Organic anson mills grits, shrimp, bacon, andouille sausage and tomato broth sit beautifully in a deep bowl with a perfectly poached egg on top.

Pair With: Gin Martini

This savory dish paired with a gin martini will leave you feeling full and satisfied in the afternoon. Gin pairs exceptionally well with seafood items, especially the briny sweetness of shrimp. The buttery, savory grits balance so well with the piney flavors of gin and a splash of olive juice in the martini really ties it all together. Secret tip: rinse the glass with the dry vermouth and then dump out excess before straining.


2 ½ ounce gin (Hendricks is a great option)

½ ounce dry vermouth

Optional: Splash olive juice

Garnish: olives or lemon twist

How to Make:

1. Optional: Pour dry vermouth directly into martini glass, twirl glass while dumping out excess vermouth.

2. In a mixing glass or shaker tin (gin martinis are recommended to be stirred not shaken), fill with ice and gin.

3. Stir or shake for at least 30 seconds.

4. Strain into a martini glass.

5. Garnish with a lemon twist or olives.