“Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower.” –Albert Camus
I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, in a small town near woods and creeks and other such facilitators of youthful exploration. Fall was always a riot of colors; a rich, tantalizing blanket woven from the soft sadness of summer’s quiet withering, and the sharp anticipation of stark days, snow and fireplaces. Imbibing back then was a choice between hot chocolate, spiced cider or hot maple syrup poured on freshly fallen snow (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!).
These days as the shadows lengthen and the air takes on the crisp immediacy of frost, I find my palate craves those touchstones of youth. I’m not alone — ephemeral trends in the cocktail world come and go, and though everyone is continually seeking the Next Big Thing, every year we honor those resplendent leaves with the traditional offerings of spice, dried fruit and smoke. Come along as we explore these timeless trends in our bars across the country.
Smoke is a classic fall element, and the Fireside Chat from Lead Bartender Kyle Darrow at Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia incorporates a house-smoked apple cider (made from local apples), along with rye, maple and lots of spices.
Fireside Chat: High West Double Rye, house smoked apple cider, maple shrub, spicy fall tincture
Autumn also means apples! And the Hendersonville Fizz from Lead Bartender Andy Nelson at Finch & Fork in Santa Barbara pairs Calvados (a French apple brandy) with housemade baked apple bitters and honey.
Hendersonville Fizz: Boulard Calvados, honey, baked apple bitters, sparkling wine
In Chicago, South Water Kitchen’s Dan Rook adds spiced honey and smoked apple-chicory bitters to spice up his variation of a classic Hot Toddy.
Leatherneck: Bourbon, ginger beer, spiced brown sugar honey syrup, smoked apple-chicory bitters, nutmeg
In Baltimore at B&O Brasserie, head bartender Brendan Dorr has unveiled a “Spice Box” section for his menu; each cocktail represents a focus on a different spice. His “Clove” cocktail features Becherovka — a clove-inflected Czech liqueur — and Velvet Falernum, which is a Caribbean liqueur combining clove, almond and lime.
Clove: Becherovka, Glenfiddich 12 year, Velvet Falernum, lemon, walnut bitters, ginger beer
Finally, wrapping the transition from fall into winter: Dawson City, from lead bartender Steph Teslar at Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails in Phoenix — not exactly noted for their winter wonderland, but nevertheless one still feels the call of the season. Batavia Arrack (a funky style of rum made with fermented red rice in addition to cane) forms the base, but pulls in fall flavors in the form of allspice, cider and molasses, with the soothing sweetness of carrots.
Dawson City: Batavia Arrack, allspice dram, carrot, apple cider, orgeat, molasses bitters
No matter where you find yourself this autumn, look for your friendly neighborhood Kimpton bartender to spice up your season and wrap yourself up in a warm, soothing whiskey (or brandy or rum) blanket.
‘Til next time —
National Manager, Bar Education