It’s autumn, and for menus that means a range of ingredient changes: cranberries, apples, baking spices, even baked goods. Take what’s going on at PS 7’s in Washington, D.C., where “mixtress” Gina Chesevani is creating cocktail-cupcakes (or “Cuptails”) in anticipation of the coming seasonal celebrations. Featuring sweet cakes soaked in spirits, PS 7's will offer one monthly holiday themed cuptail. At the moment, Chesevani is serving the Headless Horseman, a pumpkin walnut cake soaked in Blanton's Bourbon and topped with spice cream-cheese frosting. November will bring the Pilgrim’s Pride, a hazelnut brown-butter cake, drenched in Wild Turkey Rye and topped with Frangelico whipped cream. Rotating cuptails will include Newton's Nip (apple spice cake featuring Auchentoshan 3 Wood Scotch and Calvados) and the Midas Touch (toffee pear cake with El Dorado 12 Year Rum).
At the Thirsty Crow in Los Angeles, you won’t get an actual piece of cake at the bar, but the ingredients of autumn goodies — baking spices, apples, ginger, pumpkin, et al. — are rampant. Manager Cooper Gillespie’s current menu includes the Apple Pie Manhattan (Leopold Brothers Apple Whiskey, Carpano Antica, bitters and a cinnamon-sugar rim), Gingerbread Lane (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, King’s Ginger liqueur, blood orange and ginger bitters, fresh gingerbread foam and candied ginger), Hot Spiced Cider (apples, cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Sailor Jerry spiced rum and butterscotch) and the Jack Skellington (St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Sapling Vermont Maple liqueur, fresh pumpkin and spices).
Searsucker's Health Food features Gin No 3, fresh lemon and housemade celery-arugula soda.
In New York City, Chrissy Hassel’s fall menu at the Press Lounge is equally autumnal: the Ottawa Sun (drinks here are named after newspapers as a nod to the location where New York papers once were printed) uses Ketel One Orange Vodka infused with dried cranberries and black peppercorns. The Kingston Chronicle uses Mount Gay Rum and housemade falernum, made by soaking lime zest, ginger, toasted whole nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom pods in Cruzan 151 rum for 24 hours. And the Jessamine brings in maple jack brandy in a version of the Sidecar. The inconsistent availability of cranberries makes attractive the recent release of the Perfect Purée of Napa Valley’s cranberry puree. But it, too, is only available for a limited time, so bartenders who intend to keep the cranberry flowing beyond December may have to start processing their own. (Perfect Puree’s version, though, blends a cocoa fruit puree in to sweeten the naturally tart flavor of cranberry.)
But there are other ingredients that speak of the season just as well. In Chicago, Luxbar’s new food menu includes such seasonal ingredients as Brussels sprout leaves, butternut squash, wild mushrooms, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds and beet chips. Matching drinks include the Pumpkin Spice Martini (ABSOLUT vodka, Amarula and housemade pumpkin-spice syrup), the Apple Cider Martini (Laird’s Apple Brandy, Seedling Farms cider, maple syrup and lemon), and the Cinnamon Fig Sidecar (Hennessy VSOP, Grand Marnier, mission fig and fresh sour).
Ember Room's Chrysanthemum Gin Fizz features Bulldog gin, fresh lemon, housemade baby chrysanthemum syrup and egg white topped with creole bitters.
Still, not everyone thinks fall deserves all the attention. In San Diego and New York, brunch cocktail specialties open another area of time-specific drinks. At Searsucker in the Gaslamp Quarter, featured are the Peter Rabbit (Pimm's #1, housemade basil lemonade and pickled Baby Globe carrots) and the Health Food (Gin No 3, fresh lemon and housemade celery-arugula soda). In NYC’s Ember Room, it’s the Cafe Tarik (freshly brewed coffee "pulled" in the Malaysian tradition with reduced coconut milk and vodka shaken with date honey) and the Chrysanthemum Gin Fizz (Bulldog gin, fresh lemon, housemade baby chrysanthemum syrup and egg white topped with creole bitters).