An Ideal Fall Cocktail

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Seasonality. It’s been a buzzword in cocktails for nearly as long as it has in the culinary world. And buzzword couldn’t be a more apt adjective for the term; it’s been used and overused to the point that it’s been co-opted by fast food joints these days. Along with the word “local”, there aren’t many words that have been more stripped of their meaning by the voracious horde of foodies and self-appointed cocktail geeks.

I’ve always thought of seasonality in two ways when it comes to cocktails. Sure, there’s the very textbook definition of using ingredients that are only in season. There are many mixologists out there who have built successful careers out of muddling half the farmer’s market in a glass, and good for them. 

But what if you don’t necessarily want muddled pear in every drink this time of year? And what if you live somewhere that doesn’t have a bounty of autumnal ingredients that are also delicious in cocktails? How do you account for citrus juice in your whole “seasonal” cocktail program? And how do spirit-driven drinks factor into all of this?

I like to think of seasonality as an opportunity to capture the essence of the season in a glass. Sure, sometimes that means a fresh ingredient or two. But often, for me, that means invoking memories or gesturing to the spirit of a particular time of year through flavors. 

I was always impressed by the work of German bartender Charles Schumann and his approach to fall flavors with his modern classic cocktail, Fallen Leaves. A subtle reminder of Fall, with calvados and vermouths, it was the basis for my own drink, the Autumn Leaves.

A decidedly American twist, where we hit you over the head with flavors, this one contains a local apple brandy, American rye whiskey, and in case you didn’t get the Fall memo, a dash of cinnamon-y bitters to forgo any subtlety. It’s always been a popular tipple at our bars this time of year.

Autumn Leaves

3/4 ounce Wild Turkey rye
3/4 ounce Clear Creek apple brandy
3/4 ounce Cinzano Rosso vermouth
1/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic bitters

Combine ingredients with ice cubes and still until cold. Strain over fresh, large ice in an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with an orange peel.

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