BY NATHAN ROBINS
Autumn is a season of transition, perhaps more so than any other; Spring maybe noted for signs and symbols of rebirth and renewal, but Autumn’s most notable symbol may be the changing of the leaves. As we progress from the brightness of summer to the more somber retreat of winter a number of holidays pass, each carrying with it different emotions and flavors. Autumn’s transitional nature in fact made it difficult to come up with drinks for the season, so many things seemed either too evocative of summer or winter: too much allspice and one hears sleigh bells, too much citrus and tropical memories may be brought to mind.
Despite the challenge, I think the drinks presented here strike a good balance and represent distinct aspects of the season, certainly not all aspects, but a few commonly held touchstones on the path toward winter: Seasonal fruits, our culturally sanctioned annual sugar binge, and festive desserts.
As always, I try not to use any ingredients that are too obscure, and I encourage experimentation. Recipes are not Platonic Ideals, but merely a starting point, an inspiration. You never know what may emerge in trying new things. I’ve said this before, but in this instance I can provide an example. One of these drinks was completely redirected during the photo shoot. When the prepared drink didn’t fill the vessel of choice it was altered on-the-fly to look the correct color and shade while filling the glass. This led to the addition of ingredients never intended for inclusion but which were on hand and rendered a correct looking drink. On a whim the doctored drink was sampled and declared better than the original. No one can tell you what you’re going to like, no bartender knows your taste better than you, so have fun, drink safe, drink well.
Being recently transplanted to the East Coast a number of regional differences have come to my attention. The latest is the phenomenon of apple picking. Having grown up with grandparents who had an orchard I fail to see the recreation in this. Sure the first few were fun, but then it just became a chore, and here people pay to do this? Despite declining numerous offers to participate I have had apples and other fruits on my mind. The center liquor of this cocktail is Applejack, a brandy-like spirit derived from apples and popular since the American Colonial period. If you don’t have any Applejack I recommend picking up a bottle, it’s inexpensive and is worth trying as a substitute for Cognac in drinks such as a Side Car, which becomes a smoother Apple Car. Admittedly oranges aren’t a typical autumn fruit, though some variants are, but the flavor compliments the tartness of the cranberry juice. If Orange Curaçao is unavailable, Triple sec can replace it, though I would avoid Blue Curaçao as it’ll make the drink a muddy brownish- an autumn color, but not the one intended.
2 oz. Applejack
1 oz. Orange Curaçao
1 ½ oz. Cranberry Juice
½ oz. Orange Juice
Dash of Grenadine
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a rocks glass neat or over ice.
I knew I wanted to use candy in a drink and initially tried using candy corn, and then I remembered that candy corn is horrible; the nostalgia covers the taste for the first few pieces and then you realize you are chewing on little more than sugared wax. Following the candy corn I turned to vodka. Then I turned to Skittles. Infusing vodka with Skittles takes very little time; the colored coating dissolves in a few minutes and given a few hours the vodka acquires more of the candy’s taste, a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter can be used to separate the candy pieces from the vodka. Combining all of the colors results in a red-brown hue, so I opted for using only the green (about three per oz. of vodka for two hours), liking both the taste and color. This drink is a modification of the classic cocktail the Melon Ball, though sweeter and with heightened citrus notes.
1 ½ oz. Skittles Infused Vodka
1 oz. Citrus Vodka
1 oz. Midori
1 oz. Pineapple Juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and into a martini or cosmo glass.
Falling in late Autumn Thanksgiving, brings memories of turkey, potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and other dishes. Absent extract of turkey I aimed for a drink highlighting the spiced flavors of autumnal deserts, in particular: cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cardamom. To incorporate these flavors place one cinnamon stick, five or so allspice berries and cloves and a dash of cardamom in three oz. of Irish Cream, refrigerate overnight and strain when ready for use. This flavored cream can be used in other drinks as well, and makes for a lovely way to start a morning as an addition to coffee. This drink could be portioned out and served as shots (leaving out the milk), but is lovely served over ice, and is deceptively strong enough to keep you feeling warm as the temperature drops. It is rather rich, but after all, winter is coming.
3 oz. Spiced Irish Cream
1.5 oz. Butterscotch Schnapps
1 oz. Dark Creme de Cacao
1 oz. (Skim) Milk
Combine all ingredients in a tall glass or mason jar with ice, stir well.