Wednesday, December 28, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: 2011 Annual Report

What began as an offhanded remark while on a Tennessee road trip has culminated in our quest for the best bars in the Adirondack Park.

Pam innocently inquired whether the Adirondack mudslide, her own creation, actually already existed. Kim, chief navigator, fact-finder and Google junkie, immediately launched a search. When her query yielded no valid results, we began the crusade to put it on the map, so to speak. Before we reached our destination, the idea had grown from one tasty cocktail to a year-long (and continuing indefinitely) pub crawl. Happy Hour in the High Peaks was born.

Since our first review of Trapper’s Tavern at the Copperfield Inn in North Creek last January, we have diligently worked (yes, it’s work), traipsing from bar to bar, interviewing, fact checking, photographing, writing and blogging, and consuming countless calories that have stubbornly taken shape in the form of various bulges on which we will not dwell.

In late March, we were contacted by John Warren at the Adirondack Almanack, inviting us to contribute weekly reviews to the Almanack.

The Almanack introduced us and our first review, Flanagan’s in Schroon Lake, in April. Publishing weekly for the Almanack has proved to be very helpful in disciplining us to research and write regularly. As much fun as the research is, with full time jobs and families and other such distractions, it isn’t as easy as you might think to visit at least one bar a week, but the Adirondack Almanack has kept us on task. (That is not John Warren on the right.)

Toward the end of April, we were contacted by The Free George requesting an interview about our project. That interview was published in May. By then, we thought we were pretty hot stuff. We worked diligently through spring and summer, visiting as many bars as we could. In an effort to reach more readers, we added a Facebook page and Twitter account (ADK46barfly) and now have followers from coast to coast, as well as blog followers in countries all over the world.

We have traveled 1,688 miles to and from bars in the Adirondacks since last January. To date, we have reviewed 60 bars throughout the park. Our record for bars reviewed in one day was set in Old Forge this summer, when we visited and researched eight bars between noon and midnight on a Saturday in August. Visiting them was the easy part, but writing eight reviews with equal zeal was a challenge. While the 167 mile round trip to Old Forge was the greatest travel distance, the longest distance to review a single bar was 156 miles to 20 Main in Au Sable Forks. At least we stayed for two drinks!

Including this Annual Report, we have published 130 posts on our blog. Mostly reviews, with lots of recipes in between and even an assortment of general ramblings, we’ve tried to keep our readers interested enough to come back to us every week. Four out of five of the most popular blog views were reviews of Lake Placid bars. The Dancing Bears has garnered the most views, ZigZags second, The Cottage third, and the Great Adirondack Brewing Company fourth. Interestingly, our fifth most popular blog is Recipe Day! Rhubarb Margaritas. The tenth most popular blog, Tail O’ the Pup, is a mystery to us. We do anticipate that at least one Old Forge venue will sneak into the top ranks once they get a good snow.

Pam’s favorite signature drinks are the Grape Crush, compliments of The Barking Spider, Trapper’s Tavern’s Pumpkin Martini, Sporty’s Bloody Mary and the most recently discovered Friends Lake Inn’s Espresso Martini. We have created and published many of our own drink recipes, but they’re too numerous to count. Pam, in an effort to keep Pammie’s Pub stocked with ingredients for Recipe Night, has spent close to two thousand dollars on liquor, but refuses to do that math, nor calculate the total spent while on location.

What we have learned… It’s a big park! We covered a lot of it, but we know there are still some towns and some special bars we haven’t seen yet. We will carry on for as long as it takes. We got rid of the black notebooks. We each used to carry a black portfolio containing paper, pen, a place to put our business cards and carry our questionnaire.

Early on our quest, we began to consider that we might look like health inspectors or sales reps upon entering a bar, so we did away with that perception. Happy Hour has been undermined by the State of New York. Some places have done away with it entirely, fearful of the regulations. Others feel confident that they are within the laws by not offering drinks for less than half price. The most rewarding fact we’ve learned? There are a lot of nice people in the Adirondacks! We have met so many people, both owners and patrons, locals and tourists, who continue to show us that Adirondackers are a friendly bunch. They like to entertain (and are often entertaining), are especially proud of their hangouts, and love their bartenders. We have featured some of them here.

Thanks to all of our readers and followers who have supported us all year. We can’t possibly find every bar that exists in the Adirondack Park and we encourage recommendations of bars to visit. Please tell us! Thanks to all of the pub and tavern owners for trusting us, answering our questions and making us feel welcome. Thanks to all of the patrons who have added insight to our reviews and also made us feel welcome. Thanks to Kim for her photography and eloquent writing. Thanks to Pam for Pammie’s Well-Stocked Pub, her attention to the facts, and for getting each review started for Kim’s finishing touches.

If you see us out there, please be sure to stop and say hello!

Cheers, Bottoms Up, and Happy Hour New Year to All!
Kim & Pam

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.

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Kim and Pam Ladd

In 2013, sisters Kim and Pam Ladd self-published Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide and a companion Happy Hour Trail Passport. As they continue to market and distribute their current book, they are back on the trail doing research for their next project – a guide to breweries, wineries and distilleries in and around the Adirondack Park.

In 2014 they created their own drinking event, a bartender competition they call “BARRED!”, which they expect will become an annual event held in the early spring in collaboration with Basil & Wick’s in North Creek.

With the lofty goal of becoming the Adirondack "Drinking Authority," Kim and Pam report on drinking-related topics and events inside the Blue Line here at the Almanack and at their own blog. You can also visit their website, follow them on Facebook, and Twitter.

The pair have spent most of their lives in Warren County. Pam has a degree in Computer Science, but her passion is mixology. She and her family live in Warrensburg. Kim is a freelance photographer with a degree in Advertising Design and lives in Thurman with her husband.

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