Sitting in Bar Boheme at the Sky Lodge Hotel in Park City, on Easy Street, I'm doing something I've never done before: having a gin martini, straight up, very dry, right here in Mormon Utah. I didn't have to fill out an application and pay four bucks to join a faux "club" for the evening; wasn't legally required to order food with my cocktail; and didn't have to wait while my bartender furtively mixed the drink in a back room. The low-lit zinc bar is filled with happy adults, because it's happy hourthough here, at Bar Boheme, it's called "easy hour." As in, "It's sure a lot easier to get a drink in this state now that they've passed the new liquor laws."
I'm still a bit of a stranger to this world. I grew up in Ogden, Utah, in a large Mormon family in which alcohol was absolutely verboten. Drinking was something you did at a water fountain. I remember how my father used to raise a glass each evening at the dinner tablea glass of the finest tap water. Looking at his eight children, he'd say, "Water: best drink on the planet."
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I discovered something more exciting than tap water in the homes of my non-Mormon friends, whose gentlemen-sheep-rancher fathers knew a thing or two about fine Scotches and ryes, and also right here in Park City, then referred to as "Sin City," known more for its brothels than its bishops. I came to Park City for the first time in 1963. I was a young ski instructor then, and Park City was a funky old mining town high in the mountains above Salt Lake City. Skiers could board mining cars and make a three-mile journey into the mountain, through a black tunnel where the walls dripped water, then climb into a miner's elevator cage for a scary 1,800-foot ascent. Few people envisioned how Park City's ski scene would grow, or how its Sundance Film Festival would attract travelers from around the world. Yet the laws imposed by the good Mormon legislators of the state often left tourists wondering, How the heck do I get a drink around here?