Some of the world’s most visually stunning and luxurious ski resorts are located in the heart of Europe, thousands of meters above sea level, deep within the Alps. To see what life is like up there, we packed our camera and set off with CÎROC Ultra-Premium Vodka to sample some of these incredible places for Highsnobiety & CÎROC’s Guide to the Alps. First up: the low-key luxe of Lech, Austria.
Lech is already pretty famous for several reasons: it’s the home of skiing as we know it, and is probably one of the most desirable locations in the world. It’s secluded and has an air of casual luxury, which are probably some of the reasons why it's favored by the rich and famous (Tina Turner quite likes it up there, as does George Clooney and the Dutch Royal Family, apparently). Lying 1,400 meters up and nestled between southern Germany and Switzerland's eastern border, it’s also incredibly beautiful. In fact, driving into Lech is like descending into a postcard, except it's all real.
We arrived in the early evening and checked-in to legendary hotel, the Tannbergerhof, before celebrating our arrival in The Cottage Pub, an Irish-style bar located in the Tannbergerhof's basement where you can sample anything from CÎROC itself to local Alpine beer or English and Irish ale. As night sets in across the valley, we pass the guys at the outside après-ski bar celebrating an adventurous day on the slopes as we check out some of the village's famous restaurants.
In the afternoon, we head up the western slope of the valley to the brand new Schlegelkopf bar and restaurant. A sharp modern locale, the angular, sleek matte-black interior contrasts with the rolling brilliance of the snow-covered valley outside. The floor-to-ceiling and near wall-to-wall glass windows that overlook the valley below and out onto the 2,500 meter high Omerhorn mountain. Outside, terrace cozies up to Lech's famous ski route as hundreds of people fly past down the mountain side. Only opened December 8 last year, the place is already one of the best places to wine, dine and celebrate in Lech. Managed by local legend Robby Fuhrmann, a restaurant and bar pro who divides his time between the Austrian mountains in the winter and east Asian beaches in the summer, as we enter he leans across his semi-circular bar and offers us a CÎROC and soda to celebrate our arrival. He then gestures towards the neighboring sushi bar to offer us lunch.
Another place bringing it forward is Lech’s world famous Aurelio hotel. Opened in 2008 and closely partnered with CÎROC for five years, the chalet is one of the few large hotels in the world where guests and staff are matched one-for-one (meaning guests’ wishes are always taken care of). In their latest project together, CÎROC is intimately involved with Aurelio’s hosting of the World Class Master Class, an event educating bartenders about fine drinking. Attempting to break with the feeling of exclusivity, CÎROC and Aurelio want everyone to experience the bar. As evening descends, we sample one of Aurelio’s own cocktails from the hotel’s new bar manager. One of his signature drinks, the 'CÎROC Licca Tea' blends CÎROC, citrus, creole bitters, fresh lemon, raspberry and red tea together for a fresh and refreshing drink that references the ancient name of Lech.
The creativity of the bar then extends to the kitchen, who work closely together to create unconventional menus and food pairings. While normal food and drink matchings center on wine, three michelin starred head chef Christian Rescher takes a radical yet local approach to his menu, pairing his dishes with original, seasonal cocktails from the bar. In the summer months, his team also source all of their supplies from the surrounding area in preparation for winter. They then unite their creativity with that of the bar staff to create menus that bring Alpine Austrian food into 2017. It's also led Rescher and his team to become one of the top-ranking restaurants in the world.
Despite being in a village, later that night we visit the K-Club which has become a legendary place in its own right. Champagne bottles line the walls, smoke erupts from pipes in front of the bar and all four walls are covered in flashing LED screens – apparently the biggest LED screen in a club in the world.
The bar’s manager, a towering guy called Toshko, tells us he occasionally likes to open champagne bottles with a huge Roman-like sword. He keeps this proudly on display behind his bar. Originally from Bulgaria where he honed his bar skills, along with extended stays in New Zealand and the States, the guy's travels means he's seen a lot but not much of it compares to what happens at the K-Club. We finish the night with a CÎROC and tonic before prepping for day three, tomorrow...