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What it Takes to Craft the Perfect Fall Cocktail, According to These Expert Bartenders

What it Takes to Craft the Perfect Fall Cocktail, According to These Expert Bartenders

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Whether you’re in the mood for warm cinnamon flavors or seeking something more eccentric–think permission or even peanut butter whiskey!– these experts have you covered. Check out their tips, essentials, and hacks to create the perfect fall cocktail in the roundup below. 

Let’s be honest; I enjoy cocktails year-round, but I equally love a good-themed cocktail—mainly ones I can make at home and save a couple of bucks in the process. As the fall season is upon us, these expert bartenders – working behind some impressive bars across the country – are here to offer their insights for us to craft the perfect fall drink. 

For Okan Hazar, Director of Food & Beverage at Barnsley Resort, the perfect fall cocktail calls for infusions of buttery nuts. While his favorite fall activity calls for  a classic grubbing on chili and watching football.
Okan Hazar’s Perfect Fall Cocktail – Woodford Reserve bourbon, Eastern Black Walnuts or Georgia Pecans and Filthy Black Amarena Cherries for a garnish.
What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?
There are a number of ways that you can incorporate a fall feel into your at-home cocktail. One of our favorite ways is by infusing our liquor — and yes, there are more options than just pumpkin spice! We suggest infusing bourbon with walnuts or pecans, which adds layers of flavor and depth to create an enhanced classic craft cocktail at home.
 
Please include preferred liquor, sweetener, garnishes, etc. 
We recommend using small batch Woodford Reserve bourbon, Eastern Black Walnuts or Georgia Pecans and Filthy Black Amarena Cherries for a garnish.
 
Do you have any hacks to prepare / could help at home bartenders to avoid crafting watered down drinks? 
The larger the ice cubes, the better.  I usually freezes my own large format cubes well in advance of entertaining friends.  A rubber ice mold is easily available to purchase online or at Williams Sonoma (and the like).  I’ll freeze batches at a time, transferring into a large freezer bag so as to keep the ice from picking up any “leftovers” flavoring/scents.  This way, I have plenty on hand and keeps in glass for a good 30 minutes so I can enjoy sipping on my favorite
What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall? 
In our eyes, the perfect fall cocktail is our walnut/pecan infused bourbon, which follows a simple yet elevated approach to create an intriguing layer of flavors. For this cocktail, you’ll smoke either Eastern Black Walnuts or Georgia Pecans using your outdoor grill with smoking chips or a smoker. Those without a grill can roast their nuts in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes until golden brown. By smoking/roasting the nuts, it decreases the moisture content for better flavors for your at-home cocktail. After smoking/roasting, you’ll wrap the nuts and one peeled orange skin in a double coffee filter, which you’ll close with a twist tie to create a pouch. Once you’ve created your pouch, insert it into a large mason jar and fill your jar with your favorite bourbon, we recommend small batch Woodford Reserve. Then, cap it and let it rest for 24 hours at room temperature. Once you’re ready to serve, have your block clear ice ready and place one cube into the glass, pour the bourbon over the ice and top with Filthy Black Amarena Cherries.
 
What makes this cocktail special and how would you pair the cocktail?
This cocktail is special because it’s a simple, yet elevated approach. Plus, the fact that you can say you infused your own bourbon will likely impress your guests. Even more interesting is that you can repurpose the nuts into a paired culinary dish. At Barnsley Resort, we incorporate the nuts into a smoked pecan bourbon ice cream and after-dinner canalés, which are both crowd favorites.
What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall? 
Homemade chili for football and basketball weekends and enjoying a chilly afternoon in the backyard around a bonfire.  We entertain friends and family with a few shrub-based cocktails while occasionally stirring, checking and tasting what’s to come.  Game starts and we’re toasty warm for kick off!

 

For Ethan Anderson, Mixologist at Lumin SkyBar, the perfect fall cocktail and the season calls for rye whiskey paired with Cinnamon and apple. When not drinking, his favorite activity while the leaves change color is to grill. 

Luminary's Skybar Fall Cocktail - Snowbird
Luminary’s Skybar Fall Cocktail – Snowbird

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?

While pumpkin would be the obvious go-to for some, I enjoy using Cinnamon and apple. Those warm ingredients can add that instant “fall” feel, and they’re so fun to experiment with because of their versatility. A few other of my favorite fall ingredients are peach, raspberry (late summer/early fall), cranberries, and guava – because these are all easily accessible this season, and of course, taste delicious in any cocktail.

What about your preferred liquor, sweetener, garnishes, etc.? 

A homemade cinnamon simple syrup is an easy-to-make sweetener that elevates your home cocktails to that of a high-end bar. All you need to do is boil some cinnamon sticks in water in sugar for about 10 to 15 minutes – that’s it! Those on the darker end of the spectrum of bourbons, rye whiskeys, and reposado or añejo tequilas. If you’re looking to add some apple flavor, I’d recommend using a local apple, such as from Watershed Distillery, local to Ohio. As far as garnishes go, it always depends on the ingredients in the drink. But for fall, go with a cinnamon stick or drizzle, an apple fan, or a frozen raspberry – all of which are attainable for any home bartending.

 Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down drinks? 

The easiest and most important tip that I learned in a cocktail book is to use big ice cubes when using a cocktail shaker. This tip helps to not dilute the drink too much as opposed to smaller cubes or ice chips. A must-have in my home fridge is always a couple of large ice cube trays. Then, when pouring the drinks, strain it over fresh ice in a glass to help with over-dilution.

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

One of my go-to cocktails for any menu I help create during fall or winter is what I call the Snowbird. It’s rye whiskey, apple brandy, simple cinnamon syrup, and cherry vanilla bark bitters served on a big ice cube with an orange twist or cinnamon stick for garnish. It is a boozy cocktail great for sipping and enjoying and reminds me of sitting by a fire pit at a ski lodge. If I am at home and want to make myself a simple, no-fuss drink, I add apple cider to a classic old-fashioned or whiskey-based drink to elevate the flavor a bit.

What makes this cocktail special, and how would you pair the cocktail? 

The Snowbird cocktail has hints of apple and Cinnamon, which are not overpowering, allowing the rye whiskey to shine through. It pairs well with steak, pork chop, or really anything that comes straight off the grill. Not to mention, it’s a wonderful nightcap.

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?

I’m not a chef by any means, so I keep it easy and simple with BBQ. Fall is my favorite time for grilling because the weather drops slightly, and the air is fresh. Add a drink in hand, and it’s the recipe for a perfect autumn night.

For Lauren Pierce Bartender at VASO, the perfect fall drink and fall season calls from seasonal produce like permission paired with bourbon. While her favorite fall activity calls for exploring Columbus city’s culinary culture.

Vaso's Fall Cocktail - Late Night Feels
Vaso’s Fall Cocktail – Late Night Feels

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?

Using in-season fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices make for a great cocktail in any season. For fall, I love rich, earthy, cozy, and vibrant flavors. Let’s be honest, I love all booze all year round, but deep spirits such as bourbon, scotch, and mezcal are my preferred spirits during this time of year. I think the garnishes should complement the cocktail and should pertain to whatever you’re serving.

Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down? 

Always build the entire cocktail in the shaker or mixing glass before adding the ice to avoid over-dilution. I also think having a good set of tools for your home bar is key. My home bar includes basics such as at least one bottle of each spirit, sweeteners (sugar, honey, agave, etc.), lemons and limes, and bitters. From there, you’re all set to make the most out of the classics!

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

My favorite fall cocktail I’ve created is called the Late Night Feels. It’s a bourbon cocktail containing amaro, lemon, a rich persimmon cordial, and garnished with a dehydrated persimmon and a rosemary sprig to add depth, color, and aroma.

What makes this cocktail special, and how would you pair the cocktail? 

This cocktail is special to me because I challenged myself for the main ingredient to be something that I wasn’t too familiar with and researched it thoroughly before I dived in. I chose persimmons because they are in season and not typically heard of around here. To incorporate the fruit into my cocktail, I made a cordial with the persimmons, turbinado sugar, orange peels, and Cinnamon. I also used Amaro Nonino, which is orange forward and very herbaceous. Those ingredients paired with bourbon make for the perfect fall cocktail. All of the ingredients and different flavors complement each other well. It’s is also a great introductory cocktail to bourbon for someone who typically isn’t into the spirit. I enjoy introducing and creating great experiences for guests. 

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?

I love to cook at home with the season’s ingredients. I’m an amateur cook, but my family loves it. I don’t think of it as a chore when I cook, but more of a therapeutic time and love introducing new foods to my son. Lastly, I love exploring Columbus city’s culinary scene. I appreciate our local chefs’ and bartenders’ love for their craft.

For Fabian Cleopa, Co-Founder, Ochenta Cocktail Bar, Curaçao the perfect fall cocktail includes lots of maple flavors. While the perfect fall activity calls for culinary gatherings.

Fabian
Cleopa / Co-Founder, Ochenta Cocktail Bar, Curaçao

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?

The essential ingredients to create a fall cocktail are pumpkin, maple, cinnamon and rosemary. For the spirit, I always recommend Bulleit Bourbon. The Maple flavor reminds me of pancakes and lazy Sundays, which is what Fall represents for me. The smell of the cinnamon also brings memories of my grandmother and I drinking warm tea on our lazy Sundays.

What is your favorite liquor for the season? 

For the holiday season, whiskey. It’s versatile and pairs well with seasonal flavors like maple, spices, etc. It is the ultimate holiday season spirit.

Do you have any hacks to prepare / could help at home bartenders to avoid crafting watered down?

I prefer to use one large cube of ice for my recipes.

 What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall?

At Ochenta Cocktail Bar in Curaçao, the perfect fall cocktail is the Maple Old Fashioned. We wanted to create something nice that is still easy to make at home. And everybody has most of these ingredients in their house —  60 ml of Bulleit rye whiskey, 15 ml of maple syrup, three drops of orange bitters, half a cinnamon stick, and an orange peel.

What makes this cocktail special and how would you pair the cocktail?

The process of burning the cinnamon stick in the glass to ensure the cocktail catches as much of the smoke as possible, makes this drink unique. Doing this allow the cinnamon to absorb both the flavor and the aroma, making the most impactful experience upon the first sip. I would recommend pairing the drink with a nice pumpkin pie, making it the perfect dessert combo.

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?
For fall I love to host dinners. I’ve been working for so long in the restaurant industry and it gives me great satisfaction to see that people can enjoy a nice dinner during the holidays with their families.

For Carlos Figueroa of B&F Director at W Fort Lauderdale the perfect fall drink calls for Whiskey paired with chocolate and cinnamon. While his ideal fall activity calls for indulging in the local spots. 

See Also

W Fort Lauderdale Fall Cocktail - The Sweet Sinner
W Fort Lauderdale Fall Cocktail – The Sweet Sinner

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season? 

Whiskey, fresh orange, cinnamon sticks, chocolate. 

Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down drink?

A can’t miss tip – always mix ingredients in a mixing glass, then transfer to a rock glass with fresh ice.

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

Even when the winter months roll in and the temps begin to drop, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cocktail on the rocks. To still give those fall vibes, pair it with warm fall flavors/ingredients for a bold balance. At W Fort Lauderdale, The Sweet Sinner is the perfect libation for when South Florida temperatures turn cool and crisp. You can find most ingredients in your typical kitchen cupboard, making this festive cocktail, so simple to make and the perfect way to toast this holiday season.

What makes this cocktail unique, and how would you pair the cocktail?

Ingredients are the key to what makes this cocktail special. We pair chocolate bitters/powder with a fresh cinnamon stick and add an orange peel for that citrus kick to create the perfect fall drink. Of course, Mitcher’s unblended American Whiskey completes the cocktail. Nothing pairs better with Whiskey than red meat, dark chocolate, or cheese. 

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?

I love to see what other bartenders are doing. It’s great to indulge and explore new cocktails by other local spots during the season. 

Daniel Grisales, Bartender at Aruba Marriott Resort, his perfect fall cocktail call for the Old Fashionista, a peanut butter whiskey mixed with chocolate bitters.

Aruba Marriott Resort - Old Fashionista
Aruba Marriott Resort – Old Fashionista

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?  

One of the crucial ingredients to make the Old Fashionista is cacao shells, which add an earthy touch for curating the perfect fall cocktail. Adding cacao liquor to a cocktail allows the drink to open up with a captivating aroma.                     

 Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down / weak drinks? 

Everything depends on the drink, but the quality of the ice is paramount. Ice spheres are a popular hack because they don’t dilute drinks as quickly as other types of ice. 

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

 I believe the ideal fall cocktail should be a drink that makes you think of home. The Old Fashionista is an excellent example of incorporating a nostalgic and cozy feel in a cocktail. It’s a mix of Peanut Butter Whiskey and chocolate bitters.  

 What makes this cocktail unique, and how would you pair the cocktail? 

I recommend pairing this unique cocktail with a variety of different cheeses. 

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