Create Perfect Fall Cocktails

November 02 2012 - 3:00 PM

Autumn means weather forecasts that include the word “brisk” and digging out that hoodie from the back of the closet, but it also means the return of the fall cocktail. As the air starts to crisp, drinks get darker, spicier and more full-bodied, and it’s no longer good enough for something to quench you thirst. It better cozy up a whole warming feeling, too.

To help you keep warm as the season’s first frost warnings set in, here are a few of my personal go-tos when the leaves start to fall.

Apple brandy. Perhaps more than almost any other spirit, apple brandy embodies the season. Laird’s bonded apple brandy represents the standard for American versions and is crisp, bold and dry. A mid-level French Calvados can provide a delicate base if you plan to mix, while older expressions can deliver a complexity that rivals or surpasses aged Cognacs if you prefer to sip.

The Beaver Trap

Blackstrap rum. We associate rum with the tropical Caribbean, but the spirit is far more versatile than that warm climate suggests. Blackstrap rum is the thickest and most viscous variety and is made with blackstrap molasses, the leftover dregs from normal sugar production. In summer, it mixes well with ginger beer and lime to make the Dark and Stormy, but a far more autumnal drink is the Corn n’ Oil which brings it together with falernum, an almond and spice syrup. Gosling’s is a good option, but the version from Cruzan is out-of-this-world and an amazing bargain at $11 a bottle.

Root and Snap. Philadelphia’s Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction makes two spirits that straddle some border between base spirit, amaro and liqueur. But regardless of classification, they pack a punch of old-timey flavor. Root is a blend of birch bark, sassafras, tea and baking spices that conjures up an adult root beer, while Snap brings together blackstrap molasses, ginger and rooibos to build a gingersnap dream. Both are warming and strong.

Ovis AriesPimento dram. Pimento dram is an allspice liqueur that packs a powerful baking spice burst. I have been adding a barspoon to nearly everything in recent weeks, to excellent effect. The flavor is punchy, so a little goes a long way. Try it in a Manhattan or a rum old fashioned. St. Elizabeth is the most popular brand, but I use a simple homemade formula.

Oloroso sherry. Nutty and raisiny, Oloroso is a dark, aged style of fortified wine that is neither salty like manzanilla, nor syrupy sweet like Pedro Ximenez. Fans of sherried Scotches such as The Macallan or Dalmore will instantly recognize the nose and flavor. Consider swapping it in where a recipe calls for vermouth, though sherry is much less sweet and will lead to a drier drink.

Dry LeavesMaple syrup. Alternative sweeteners can be an easy way to play around with your favorite drinks. Honey and agave can be subbed in for simple syrup in many recipes, but an especially fall swap is maple syrup. Pair it with rye for a rich whiskey sour.

Tellicherry pepper. Fresh cracked pepper doesn’t mix well in drinks, – Who wants little floaties? – but consider adding some of that spicy flavor in other ways. It’s easy to make a peppercorn tincture* or simple syrup**. Try flavoring gin drinks for a complementary accent or add to a simple aperitif of dry or bianco vermouth and soda over ice with an orange peel.

*Toss whole or lightly crushed peppercorns into 100 proof vodka for a few days or a week, then strain.

**Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and heat to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Add a few whole or crushed peppercorns and allow to warm on low heat for 10-15 minutes, then cool and strain.

Check out one of these three original autumn cocktails next time you step outside to watch the leaves fall:


— David McCowan