As Booze Traveler fans know, when the trees are bare, you need a drink that will bring a bloom to your cheek. Pull on a coat, wrap a scarf around your neck and salute the season with a bit of fall in a glass.
Having a hard time letting go of backyard barbecues? Say your goodbyes in Boston with a creamy cocktail that makes the most of the harvest. “This late-summer punch infuses tequila, saffron, cilantro and lime with sweetcorn,” Post 390’s beverage manager, Jason Percival, explains. “Topped with lime, agave, Horchata, milk and egg whites, this is the perfect clarified cocktail to celebrate the end of summer and start of fall.”
Kina Kir: Harvest, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvest in Cambridge spans the seasons with an elegant, cava-based twist on a French classic; with Ketel One vodka, St. Germain and Lillet Rose, this sparkling cocktail is a crowd-pleaser. “I think the Kina Kir is a great fall drink because it acts as a bridge between summer and winter cocktails, refreshing and floral but also with enough body to stand up to colder weather," beverage director Brahm Callahan says.
Pear Mon Frère: Bourbon Steak at Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Head bartender Torrence Swain serves fall-fruit-forward cocktails beside the fire pits on Bourbon Steak’s brick patio. Elementary apple this ain’t: the Pear Mon Frère combines Pear Calvados with apple cider, clove and cinnamon. “Pears and apples have similar profiles that work to complement each other—the clarity, purity, earthiness and slightly tart citrus taste make for a truly harmonious sip. The Pear Calvados is subtle and doesn’t overpower the notes of apple, creating a truly fantastic and slightly sweet blend of the harvest season fruits.”
Fall Gimlet: Standby, Detroit
Opihr, a cardamom-heavy Oriental spiced gin, updates Raymond Chandler’s cocktail of choice (along with grapefruit sherbet, nutmeg, lime and salt) at Standby in Detroit. A “real gimlet,” as one of his characters noted in The Long Goodbye, “is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else”—but this gimlet has character to carry it through a Michigan winter.
Ain’t Nobody Got Thyme for That: Cook & Brown Public House, Providence, R.I.
Prepare to impress early fall cocktail-party guests by whipping up a batch of thyme simple syrup (bring equal parts granulated sugar and water to a simmer, add a few sprigs of thyme, remove from heat and steep for an hour); then shake ½ an ounce of said syrup with 1½ oz. Barr Hill gin, ¾ oz grapefruit juice, ¼ oz lemon juice and 3 dashes of grapefruit bitters, pour over ice in a Collins glass, then top with ginger beer. “This drink hits all the proper notes—acidic, slightly bitter, with a touch of savory sweetness that is rounded out by a ginger beer spiced finish,” Cook & Brown Public House beverage director Ryan Kennedy says. He uses Barr Hill Gin for its subtle honey notes, which “really start to evoke the upcoming longer nights but still remind you that summer was just a few weeks ago. This is as refreshing-early-fall as it gets.”
Golden Fang: Death & Co, New York City
In the Big Apple, nothing says “autumn” like a long, contemplative walk through Central Park, catching a subway train downtown and warming yourself with a roaring...tiki drink. With lime and orange juices, and a trio of tropical syrups (ginger, passionfruit and vanilla), this gin-based shared cocktail sounds like a stowaway from a more tropical place—but New York City is a melting pot, after all, and a scorpion bowl is a fine way to stave off the cold. The drink is finished with cardamom bitters and a showstopping dash of cinnamon that catches fire tableside: “What’s unique about the flame is that it’s not only the visual appeal, but when the grated cinnamon hits the flame, the toasted aroma really fills the room and enhances the entire olfactory experience of the cocktail,” Death & Co head bartender Tyson Buhler says. Vastly preferable to a Yankee Candle.
Caribbean Milk Punch: Brennan’s, New Orleans
Fall cocktails have a Caribbean flavor, in turn, for French Quarter brunchgoers at Brennan’s in New Orleans (where milk punch has been served for 70 years). With Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, Maker’s Mark, heavy cream, vanilla and nutmeg, Caribbean milk punch anticipates (and is vastly superior to) the eggnog that’ll appear at holiday parties around the country a few months later. For another taste of New Orleans, try Ojen, a Jack-Maxwell-approved licorice liquor.
The Phantom Regiment: Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, Nashville
Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery’s director of operations, James Henley, suggests “bringing the campfire to [your] cocktail” by using a smoky spirit (like mezcal or scotch), a smoked glass (a vessel that you’ve infused with aroma), or using a smoky ingredient—like Ancho Reyes, the smoked spice in the distillery’s Phantom Regiment, which also features Belle Meade Bourbon, Carpano Antica (an Italian vermouth), Nux Alpina Black Walnut liqueur, Angostura bitters and an absinthe rinse. “It’s like reading a mystery novel in a dimly lit study on a cool autumn night.” (Check out Jack Maxwell's visit to the distillery here.)
Brute Force: The Dead Rabbit, New York City
Jillian Vose’s Brute Force at The Dead Rabbit is genteel and lethal in equal doses. Each well-mannered ingredient (like green-tea-infused Tapatio Blanco Tequila and Merlet Poire) has a counterpart with an ulterior motive (like Wray & Nephew overproof rum and two dashes of absinthe). Garnished with nutmeg, it’s a family holiday: sweet like your nana and sneaky like that uncle no one mentions.
Fig & Whiskey: Pizzeria Vetri, Washington D.C.
With High West double rye whiskey, Amaro Della Sirene liqueur (which builds herbaceous flavor on a caramel base), fresh lime juice and fig-and-acacia-honey jam, the Fig & Whiskey at Pizzeria Vetri bids farewell to fig season, which winds down in October. “As we get into fall and the colder months, guests tend to enjoy warmer spirits—whiskey in particular. The jam presents texture along with some richer fall-type flavors,” beverage Manager Rah-Jah Kelly says.
Pine Needle Margarita: Loa Bar, New Orleans
Loa Bar’s Pine Needle Margarita is, quite literally, a taste of New Orleans in the fall: “Spirit Handler” Alan Walter forages in City Park for ingredients like Spanish moss and pine needles that he cooks down à la minute for cocktails. This particular harvest features añejo tequila, pine needles, thyme, Cointreau, bay and sassafras. Jack's paid a visit to Loa Bar; click here to follow in his footsteps all over the city.
Falling in Love: Babbalucci, New York City
At Babbalucci on Harlem’s Lenox Avenue, bar manager Bruno Molfetta combines herbaceous Gin Mare with mild, sweet yellow Chartreuse, citrus, thyme and a red Bordeaux syrup; it’s the perfect cocktail for an autumn date night.
Clarified Bloody Mary: Plum Bar, Oakland, California
Oakland's Plum Bar makes magic with jewel-bright local ingredients. Adam Chapman’s Clarified Bloody Mary starts with sea bean, a seaweed with a salty, acidic flavor; he pickles it lightly with vinegar and coriander, then combines it with barrel-aged Tito’s, Early Girl tomato, spices and black pepper oil. It’s quite possibly the loveliest Mary in town.