Wednesday, January 2, 2013

High Peaks Happy Hour: 2012 Annual Report

Whether measured as 9,375 square miles or as 6.1 million acres, we can vouch for the fact that the Adirondack Park is huge. We covered most of the main roads in the park, visited nearly 120 bars and clocked over 5,600 miles since we began our project in January, 2011, to find the best 46 “High Peak” bars in the Adirondack Park. The farthest distance traveled one way was 110 miles to Cranberry Lake. Many others were very close to that distance in any direction. Pam, a self-proclaimed excellent driver, logged most of those miles while Kim served as navigator, photographer and chief note taker.

In 2012, we visited and reviewed 57 more bars. After two years of what seemed like an endless list of establishments worthy of our review, we have selected our 46 “High Peaks”. Many of them have been notified and 14 have been revisited to verify our selection and double-check our facts. To date, only one that was targeted as a “High Peak” lost that status on an unannounced re-visit. To our knowledge, three bars have closed since our first review. Fortunately, they were not in the running as a “High Peak”.

Selecting the best 46 is much more difficult than it might sound. As much as longevity is critical, we do have at least one very new business, one we felt was destined to endure. We have a few more on our list that are worthy of our scrutiny and we’re willing to reconsider our 46 if they prove to be contenders. The bars in the Adirondacks are so very diverse and we have selections representing that diversity. Honestly, much of it was based on instinct and the Happy Hour in the High Peaks board (Kim & Pam) disagreed on very few. Of utmost priority, however, was that anyone would feel welcome and comfortable in any bar that was selected. This is where the instinct came in and where we sometimes had to plead our case to one another.

In July we celebrated a milestone, reaching a peak of our own with our 100th bar review. Trail’s End in Tupper Lake was the 100th bar, but we didn’t know it until we tallied up after our Tupper Lake tour. While on our second tour of Lake Placid in 2012, we visited what we have since dubbed our “biggest loser” bar. After much deliberation about writing what would have been our first scathing review, we chose to take the high road and just not write about them at all. Our final, toned-down impression was that they were in the business of taking your money and could care less if you ever visited them again. After all, the next sucker was walking in as we were walking out. We hope they’re out of business on our next visit to Lake Placid.

After last winter’s dismal snow accumulation, a general theme throughout 2012 was that some of these bars and restaurants were not going to make it if we had another winter like that. As we write this annual report in late December, with plenty of snow cover throughout the Adirondack Park, we foresee a very good winter ahead!

Throughout the spring and summer, Pammie’s Pub held several taste tests to determine the worthiness of some of our new drinks. In late summer, we held a very formal testing where five drinks were sampled and rated by our guests. The World’s Largest Garage Sale punch was, by far, the biggest winner. We hope to get some of our distinguished panel back for a few more tests before we finalize our recipe selection.

The top 5 most popular posts on our blog shifted a bit from 2011.  As of the end of 2012, they are as follows: 1) Dancing Bears Lake Placid, 2) Recipe Day! Rhubarb Margaritas, 3) Zig Zags Pub Lake Placid, 4) What Makes a Good Bartender, and 5) Captain Cook’s Bar and Grill Saranac Lake.

We have separated the Park into five regions and are finalizing the writings one region at a time. With a goal of having the book in hand by May, 2013, we are working hard to wrap up our reviews. We are also selecting, testing and perfecting the drink recipes that will be included in the book. Toward the end of 2012, much of our work has focused on the book design. We needed to decide what would be on each page and the format for each bar review. Earlier in the year we met with author, publisher, and Adirondack Almanack contributor Lawrence Gooley to go over our publishing plans and easily decided that Happy Hour in the High Peaks and Bloated Toe would be a good partnership.

The most prominent point we took away from reviewing bars in the Adirondacks is that we met some of the nicest people and we want to share that experience with our readers. Along with publishing Happy Hour in the High Peaks, we will also put out a High Peaks Passport for anyone who endeavors to visit all 46 bars and become a Happy Hour 46-er. This could easily be the biggest pub crawl ever attended!

Cheers, Bottoms Up, and Happy New Year!

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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.

4 Responses

  1. Craig Benoit says:

    Slickers in Old Forge is always a good time as well as the Wigwam in Forestport and the White Lake Inn. My favorite is the Naked Turtle in Plattsburgh, just outside the park but close enough for me. Great article, brings back lots of memories. Does anyone remember Dr. Y’s in Saranac Lake? Now that was cool place to knock a few back.

  2. Eagleye says:

    After a day hiking in the high peaks, winter or summer, heading back towards Albany, a stop at Sporty’s Iron Duke Saloon in Minerva is not only welcome, but welcoming; great folks.
    Ditto for George Henry’s in Warrensburg; always good beer and nice folks, and delicious homemade soup !
    So many choices, so little time……

  3. SwilliAm says:

    Dr. Y’s was indeed a fun bar, but I think the original Back Door (downstairs) was my favorite bar in Saranac Lake. Anybody remember the Alpine and The Store?

  4. chuck says:

    Baxter Mountain Inn between E-town and Keene has been a favorite of ours for years.

    Outside the high peaks, in Westport the Westport Hotel and the Essex Inn in Essex have friendly owners and good food to go with nice atmosphere.