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Best Spirits for Fall – Autumn Cocktail Ideas

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Apartment Bartender is a column by Elliott Clark, Food52’s Resident Bartender and an avid at-home cocktail enthusiast. Elliott’s here to help us bring our favorite bar-worthy sips home—and with his spot-on guidance and expert tips, you’ll soon be stirring, shaking, and garnishing like a pro.


Of all the seasons, fall just might be my favorite when it comes to making cocktails.

This is the time when we trade in the light, bright flavors of summer for the warming spice notes of a slightly chillier season.

As we transition into the coming months, it’s good to have an idea of the prominent flavors we might encounter and how they fit in with the bevy of spirits available to us. Then, we can feel confident crafting seasonally relevant drinks.

Spirits & Liqueurs

Spirits are going to be the backbone of your cocktail. They are the base on which other flavors build, and when it comes to fall, aged spirits are the name of the game.

Spring and summer tend to highlight lighter spirits like gin, vodka, or blanco tequila. However, aged spirits bring a sense of warmth and coziness as the weather begins to shift. In the fall, look to incorporate spirits like whiskey (bourbon, rye, or scotch), aged rum, brandy, cognac, or tequila (reposado or añejo).

The reason the latter spirits are so fitting for the fall season lies in their production. These spirits go through an aging process as they’re placed in oak barrels for a designated period of time. So much of the flavor of an aged spirit comes directly from the amount of time spent in the barrel. As it ages, the spirit begins to mellow out, mature, and take on a lot of the characteristics of the wood—think notes of vanilla, chocolate, cherry, and warming spices like cinnamon.

Because of the aging process, it’s easy to see why they wonderfully complement the spices and herbs we’ll get into below.

Then, when it comes to using liqueurs in the fall, my favorites include St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur, Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, Cointreau, and Amaro Montenegro. Liqueurs like this pack a ton of flavor and spice notes that add another layer of depth to any cocktail.

Speaking of spices…

Warming spices are among the most interesting to mix with, not only because there are so many, but also because they bring so much flavor to a cocktail.

Among my favorites are cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, star anise, and ginger. Consider using any one of these spices—or a mix of them!—to create a syrup, infuse your spirits, or top your cocktails for garnish. You’ll find that a little bit of these spices added to your drink go a long way.

Herbs & Fruit

Fruit and herbs can really help to elevate your drink experience with fresh flavor and aromatics. Herbs like mint are great year-round, but look to incorporate others like sage, rosemary, and thyme more regularly. For fruit, some of my favorites to mix with this season are pear, pomegranate, apple, and cranberry. Just like spices, you can use fruit and herbs to infuse your spirits, as the base of flavorful cocktail syrups, or to garnish your drink at the end.

Without further ado, here’s a fall-inspired cocktail recipe for you to make. It’s simple, refreshing and very appropriate for the season.

Cheers!


What’s your favorite cocktail for fall? Let us know in the comments.

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