When it comes to creating fall cocktails, as strange as it sounds, I often start by first picturing the warm colors of the season. The flaming reds, burnt oranges, and deep yellows of New England’s changing leaves suggest apples, pears, pumpkins, cranberries, and spices to me. Those ingredients come together to make what I like to call “cozy cocktails” that will see you through to Thanksgiving, at the very least.
As the weather gets colder, I like to add layers (just as you would with clothing) and complexity to my drinks. The easiest way to do this is to start with a mature spirit, such as spiced rum or whiskey, that already has plenty of rich flavors. (Gin can work too, but you have to play up its spicy side.) You can also take an unaged spirit and pair it with a taste of autumn, like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, vanilla, or ginger. And if you have some time, you can even infuse the liquor with these spices, or with fresh seasonal fruit.
But just because there’s a nip in the air doesn’t mean you can’t use citrus fruits or fresh juices in your creations. I find that flavorful Meyer lemon, blood orange, and tangerine work really well at this time of year. Pomegranate juice is another fall favorite, and the fruit’s seeds are a great garnish that can make a clear or white drink immediately festive.
If it's a specific fall flavor you're craving, whether fig, pear, or pumpkin, you're sure to find what you're looking for. A few of those favorites appear below, along with several more that epitomize the season's best elements.
This seasonal flip combines several autumnal elements into one rich cocktail that epitomizes the best of fall flavors.
Add the pumpkin ale, apple brandy, rye, maple syrup and whole egg into a shaker and dry-shake (without ice) vigorously. Add ice and shake again until well-chilled Strain into a chilled Fizz glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
The one-two punch of wine and pear liquor gives the drink a fruity and floral character. To complement those components, Saunders adds zesty orange curaçao and rich honey syrup, plus five dashes of Peychaud’s bitters, which lend their trademark gentian and licorice notes to the mix. A star anise pod garnish enhances the aromas and further channels fall.
To enjoy the full effects of this autumnal drink, put on a cozy sweater and shake one up as the leaves begin to change colors and litter the ground. That act won’t change the flavor any, but it should put you in the right mood for each flavorful sip.
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a star anise pod.
Perhaps the ultimate classic cocktail employing apple brandy, this drink reached peak popularity during the 1920s and ’30s. It combines the spirit with lemon juice and grenadine, resulting in a rose-colored drink that perfectly walks the balance between sweet and sour, and seasonal and timeless.
Add the applejack, lemon juice, and grenadine into a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled. Fine-strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.