Things To Drink This Fall: The Chisos Chimney

by Anne Helen Petersen

The Chisos Chimney is named for the Chisos Mountains, the exquisite, rugged range that defines Big Bend National Park in Middle of Nowhere, Texas. (Serious middle of nowhere: it’s so far from civilization and its lights that it apparently has the best stargazing of any of the national parks in the lower 48). If you’ve been to Big Bend, which is to say if you’ve driven the ten hours from Populated Texas to Big Bend, then you’ll understand.

I grew up in the Northwest, so when people say mountains and backpacking, I think of luscious, green forests, glacier lakes, and the smell of wet polar fleece. But mountains and backpacking is something different entirely, filled with low scrubby trees, plants appropriately called “All-Thorns,” and the complete lack of natural water sources. We had to “cache” water — a completely foreign concept in the Northwest, where you can usually wring sufficient drinking water from your wool hat.

So when you’re backpacking and a day away from your next cache, you know what’s a great idea? Drinking whiskey. Whiskey backpacks well, mostly because you can put it in a flask. You know what doesn’t backpack well? Ginger Beer. Ginger beer in 700-pound glass bottles. But people will make crazy, back-breaking sacrifices for a reward after a day of lugging half their body weight; hence, a few precious bottles of Ginger Beer made their way into the backcountry.

And thus was born the Chisos Chimney, a smoky, earthy, fireside concoction that you can do at home, absent thorns, salt-condensation patterns on your clothing, and the agony of an extra pound on your back. The how-to:

1. Buy a six-pack of Ginger Beer. They sell it all hippy stores, broadly defined. I prefer Reed’s.You can decide for yourself how gingery you want your Chimney to be. On the trail, these were obviously lukewarm, even mildly hot. I was pretty into it, but you might not like drinks the temperature of body fluids. It’s good either way: that’s the magnificent dexterity of this drink.

2. Buy some whiskey or, if you’re a real class act, scotch. I wasn’t going to tell what kind to buy, because then suddenly trolls would emerge from the sweaty folds of the internet to insult the fact that a WOMAN would DEIGN to suggest a MASCULINE LIQUOR. But those trolls can go to hell, and you can use whatever whiskey your budget allows — these days, I’m into Gentleman Jack and Maker’s.

3. If you are feeling high-brow, then, by all means, pour that whiskey into a glass. Or don’t, and do what I did: drink four generous swallows of your ginger beer (so good!) and then replace that newly free real estate with whiskey. Swirl around in a way that prevents carbonation explosion. (Note: this is a particularly savvy strategy for mobile partying and/or sloth-like solo partying.)

4. Enjoy your Chisos Chimney, pleased with the knowledge that the only heavy packing you’ll be doing is from the recycling container to the curb.

Previously in Falling Down: The Great Pumpkin Beer-Off

Anne Helen Petersen writes Scandals of Classic Hollywood when she’s not thinking about backpacking booze.