Photo Courtesy of Flintridge Proper Restaurant & Bar
How many pumpkin cocktails do you have? How many pumpkin beers? What about hard cider? Non-alcohol cider? Apple cocktails? Other autumn flavors?
If, like a lot of people in the part of the country that experiences a burst of color once the weather cools, you’ve hit the road to “ooh” and “aah” over rural foliage, you’ve also been seeing signs along the road promoting apple cider donuts and pop-up farm stands jammed with city folk scrambling to get pumpkins and picking over bushels of multi-hued apples. If apples are already a big culinary and drink deal, then pumpkin, as New York Times food columnist Mark Bittmann tweeted last week, could be the next kale - that is, something chefs are increasingly putting on their fall menus.
What about you? Cider, already on fire in this country, is a no-brainer and should already have a place on the menu of every bar, tavern, nightclub and fine dining restaurant, but now’s the time to add on some limited releases or unusual varieties, given that consumers are showing sustained interest in seasonal flavors.
Pumpkin’s a little different; however brewers consistently sell out of their pumpkin beers each fall. Their arrival in late August is so widely anticipated that loyal consumers know long before retailers when they are due to arrive in stores and any bar worth its beer mats should have placed their order for a couple of local pumpkin brews long ago.
A bartender might also be able to easily source freshly-pressed apple juice or cider, or even have it done on premise every day, if there’s a cooperative chef in charge, but processing fresh pumpkin is a bit harder (although in judging a recent cocktail recipe competition, I found there were a couple of entrants happy to cut corners and employ canned pumpkin puree for their concoctions.)
But if pumpkin is the new kale, there’s still time to get in on the trend, even though Halloween already looms close. Roast, peel, puree, season, sweeten - not a lot of work, and the yield from any large sized pumpkin will allow plenty of cocktail experimentation.
Looking for a few hot drink recipes to help make your late fall menu stand out? Pumpkin and cream or eggs with baking spices and brown sugar can form an outstanding base for hot buttered rums. Want to come up with some long drinks to go with those strong and stirred dark spirit cocktails so common as the weather cools? Pureed and strained pumpkin with Calvados, apple brandy, Cognac, bourbon, dark rum or Armagnac and ginger beer might be a good start, and pumpkin, it turns out, plays very well with some of the less astringent Italian amari, like Cardamaro.
There will be times of the year when creating seasonal menus perplexes rather than inspires, but that excuse won’t float with all those pumpkins and apples, just begging to be incorporated into your fall drink menu. It’s not too late.