Fall cocktails… Once upon a time, that just meant drinks with heavy cream. No more, thanks to some brilliant mixology (my waistline is thankful too).
I’ve been sampling some luscious fall drinks. Everyone is rolling out menus featuring autumnal tastes – apple, pear, cinnamon, pepper, rosemary, cardamom – oh my. Spice has cream beat! Mulling and infusion are everywhere. It’s a good season for sipping slowly, admiring how flavors change and deepen over the course of your evening. Sigh.
Another fantastic benefit of all these freshly squeezed juices and housemade sodas and herbal infusions is that many bars are now offering non-alcoholic versions of their cocktails. With lots of parties and events in the fall, if you don’t feel like imbibing or are not able, you should always feel unabashed to ask. A good bartender should be able to respond without making you feel like a second-class citizen.
So let’s get down to it, shall we? Some of my favorite fall cocktails, with the usual quirky candlelit odd-angle photographs…
#5: Monaco, at Marvin
It’s just two ingredients – champagne and Aperol. But Josh Volz’s riff on the classic Venetian spritz allows you to slowly enjoy the complexity of that bitter Italian aperitif featuring gentian. Bonus points for being the color of fall leaves.
Runner-up? The Sidecar. Seriously, I can’t drink cognac except in autumn, and it certainly makes one feel like an adult. Josh’s Sidecar was the perfect balance of cognac, cointreau, lemon and sugar.
#4: Torch Singer, at Bourbon Steak
This dangerous little beauty by Kevin Diedrich is meant to be sipped. Rittenhouse rye whiskey, calvados, spice syrup, and bitters served short – I was in love at first scent. The slow mellowing of the spice syrup into the rye is so decadent. This cocktail has sparked my interest in learning more about rye whiskey!
Runner-up? Spiced Marmalade. Plymouth gin, toasted cloves, orange marmalade, orange, lemon, and bitters – there’s a lot going on here, but it’s very delicate and enjoyable. A sort of Mad Hatter’s Party drink for the Dormouse, after the tea runs out.
#3: Hot Peanut Buttered Rum, at POV
Peanut infused rum, butter, clove, cinnamon, whipped cream, crushed peanuts. One whiff and you’re five years old again, thanks to Justin Guthrie’s nostalgic cocktail whose peanut perfume is just amazing. I mean, really, this combination could’ve been cloying, but it works here, every flavor in perfect harmony. Not to mention, warming hands and hearts with hot rum is an autumnal tradition.
#2: Dry Pepper Martini, at Quill
Hendricks gin, dry vermouth, simple syrup, pepper, rose oil. Alex Holzer has created a very sophisticated combination matching pepper and rose. I love the use of florals in cocktails. This was like the last perfect petal falling into your herb garden. More, please.
Runner-up? The Master Mind, a bartender’s choice. I asked for a riff on the Dry Pepper above, and the result matched vanilla syrup, vanilla bean, and a red pepper. Sweet and hot – so delicious.
#1: “Ale” ments, at PS7
Oh yes, this is what fall is all about. Another deceptively simple concoction, with just warm apple ale, rum, and cardamom. Just?? That’s all you need to involve your senses. There’s something almost Colonial about this cocktail, I felt like Martha Washington by the time I got to the apple bits at the bottom. If I get sick this season, I’m heading straight to this bar to be cured of what ails me. Gina Chersevani does it again, she’s a mixtress genius.
Honorable Mention: Old Fashioned, at Tabard Inn
Honestly, there isn’t a better place to spend a dreary night than in front of the fire at Tabard. Every bartender seems to have their own way of making this drink, one of the oldest on record. Here I had one with rye whiskey added to muddled orange and cherry in simple syrup. I can see myself there as a little old lady someday, nodding off with an Old Fashioned in hand.
I’d like to note that the Bourbon Steak and POV cocktails were sampled at events gratis. All others were on my own dime. And as always, this is just a sample of all the libation goodness out there, so please leave your favorites in the comments for others to enjoy!