While summer cocktails conjure up a specific image -- usually of tiny umbrellas and slices of watermelon -- autumn brings about libations that are, shall we say, less photogenic. The dearth of the fresh ingredients that make summer drinks such colorful beachside accompaniments force harvest season cocktails into a comparatively substandard role. But this seems wrong considering the other pleasures we gleefully anticipate with first nip in the air. People salivate on line at Starbucks eagerly awaiting their pumpkin spice lattes and delight in slipping on lightweight jackets to compliment the blushing foliage. Why too shouldn't lifting the year's first glass of Apple Brandy be part of the tradition?
The beauty of it is, cocktails that evoke the changing of the seasons don't have to be entirely new drinks. They can follow the same basic template classics cocktails do, just with seasonal substitutions. Here are a few suggestions.
The best place to start is swapping out the sweetener in a drink, it's the simplest and most effective way alter a cocktail. Take for instance a whiskey sour which we know is generally two parts whiskey -- bourbon, rye, Tennessee, your choice -- one part simple syrup, and one part fresh lemon juice depending on taste. Instead of simple syrup make it with maple syrup and bam(!), the autumn whiskey sour.
If you're feeling slightly more culinarily ambitious I recommend my go to fall cocktail modifier, cinnamon syrup. In a pot take a your regular simple syrup, equal parts sugar and water, throw in a handful of cinnamon sticks crushed up -- about 10 sticks per quart. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. After it's cooled strain out the solids. This stuff is incredibly versatile. It's basically bottled fall. In addition to whiskey sours and collins variations it works great with apple cider, hot or cold, spiked or not, egg nog, mulled wine, hot toddies you name it. Cinnamon syrup is so easy to work with when creating new cocktails for Clover Club's fall menu I have to stop myself from using it too much, it's that good.
Finally, while we may not have a lot of fresh fruit to go around these days -- at least locally -- there is still a way to have your fruit and drink it too (sorry, couldn't resist) to cope with the receding temperatures. The great apple brandy. Distilled from apples, this beautiful sprit takes on several forms, from the Calvados made in france to the applejack made next door in New Jersey. The latter is made by the Laird's company which, being founded in 1780, has been keeping Americans warm since before Washington was elected. It couples a sharp apple flavor with the bite of a good whiskey and should be the corner stone of every autumn liquor cabinet, it's also quiet affordable. Try it as the base of your next Old Fashioned. Use a small barspoon of maple syrup instead of sugar and add couple dashes of bitters, angostura works great and if you happen to have fee's aromatic bitters on hand even better, throw in a dash of that as well. Cuddle up by the fireplace with one of these and you'll never want winter to end.
Autumn Whiskey Sour
2 ounces Whiskey
1 ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
1 ounce Grade B Maple Syrup or Cinnamon Syrup
Shake with ice and serve on the rocks.
Garnish with a cinnamon stick or and apple slice. Or both! Or Neither.
Applejack Old Fashioned
2 ounces Laird's Bonded Applejack
Small Barspoon maple syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1 Dash Fee's Aromatic Bitters
Stir and serve on the rocks
Garnish with an orange Twist