Because it’s time to move past the frosé we’ve been quaffing since June.
We don’t go straight from wearing swimsuits to fuzzy sweaters, so why should the cocktails we drink this time of year immediately switch from light, shaken and refreshing to rich, spirited and stirred?
These options deftly combine bright with boozy, and mash up the ingredients of this fringe season when we’re just not ready to let go of the hazy days of summer but can’t quite submit yet to the chilly fall evenings ahead of us.
Recipe courtesy of Logan Bailey, Bartender, The Patterson House
Inspired by the Monte Carlo, a Manhattan riff with rye, Bénédictine and Angostura Bitters, this drink isn’t overly spiced, sweet or fruity and retains bitter, herbal, fresh summer notes, Bailey explains. The secret is muddling orange peels with a small amount of the flesh still connected, which – unlike juice or a cordial – add bitter, spicy oils instead of watery citrus. “I wanted to create a drink that captured a ‘feel good snuggled up next to the fire’ sensation, but could still be enjoyed while Jack Frost was vacationing to other parts of the world,” he says.
- 1 ½ oz. Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey
- ¾ oz. Carpano Bianco
- ½ oz. Campari
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- ¼ oz. Saigon Cinnamon Syrup (see Note)
- ⅛ oz. Honey syrup (four parts honey to one part warm water, stirred to combine)
- 2 orange slices
Add the orange slices to a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add the rest of the ingredients to the shaker, add ice, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass.
For the Saigon Cinnamon Syrup:
Simmer 1 quart water with 1 quart white sugar and 6 teaspoons of Saigon cinnamon on low heat until desired flavor is achieved. Strain through a fine cloth and store the syrup in the refrigerator.
Recipe courtesy of Trevor Landry, Beverage Director, NL Group; Image: NL Group
“A Sazerac is traditionally a fall or wintertime drink, straight from New Orleans,” Landry notes. “The Smoked Piña Sazerac employs slightly lighter spirits (compared to the traditional whiskey or Cognac) and the pineapple and five spice bitters ‘tikifies’ it, which makes it more appropriate for a transitional drink from summer to fall.” A dash of Peychaud’s Bitters and an absinthe mist keep it true to the original rye whiskey-based version.
- 1 ½ oz. Flor de Cana 7 Year Rum
- ½ oz. Banhez Mezcal
- ¾ oz. Pineapple-five spice syrup (see Note)
- Dash Angostura Bitters
- Dash Peychaud’s Bitters
- Absinthe mist
- Pineapple fronds, for garnish
Add the rum, mezcal, syrup and bitters to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over a large rock, and heavily mist the top of the drink with absinthe. Garnish with pineapple fronds.
For the pineapple-five spice syrup:
Peel and core a pineapple, then cut it up into small pieces. In a saucepan, add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a slow boil and add the pineapple. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, muddling the pineapple to break up the pieces. Remove from the heat, cover and let cool, then strain out solids. Add a few dashes of Bar Keep Chinese Bitters to the strained pineapple syrup, until desired amount of spice is achieved.
Recipe courtesy of Kari Cummings, Bar Manager, Vesta; Image: Vesta
What makes a great transitional cocktail? “Something that has all the flavors, textures, aromas and evokes that end of summer/early fall feeling of warmth, coziness, a little bit of sunshine, and just a dash of shadow that hints of cold to come,” muses Cummings. Here, a base of smooth and malty genever – which Cummings says has a spicy, earthy tone that really works in fall libations – is mixed with seasonal stone fruit and a tea syrup rounded out with bitters.
- 1 ½ oz. Bols Genevere
- 1 oz. Fig-Earl Grey syrup (see Note)
- ½ oz. Peach-ginger puree (see Note)
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- 2 Kumquats, sliced
- Dash Angostura Bitters
In a mixing glass, muddle one kumquat with the lemon juice. Add the remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Pour the entire shaker into a rocks glass and garnish with the remaining sliced kumquats.
For the Fig-Earl Grey syrup:
Rehydrate 1 cup dried figs with 1 cup boiling water and 1 cup sugar to make simple syrup. Add 2 Earl Grey tea bags and reduce for a few minutes. Remove from heat, let cool, and strain out solids when desired flavor is achieved, reserving fruit for snacking
For the Peach Ginger puree:
Simmer 1 cup peach slices and 3 tablespoons shaved ginger in 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool and blend until smooth.
This cocktail was created for the Washington, DC, hotel’s Room to Read initiative, which facilitates learning opportunities for today’s youth; a dollar from each drink will be donated to the cause through September. Staff chose to focus on the flavors of apple, using it in both an infused vodka and a rosemary syrup. Using lemon juice instead of cinnamon and baking spices keeps it on the lighter side, though.
- ½ oz. Apple-infused vodka (see Note)
- 1 oz. Apple/rosemary syrup (see Note)
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- ¼ oz. Cappelletti Aperitivo
- Rosemary sprig, for garnish
Add all ingredients except the garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with the rosemary sprig.
For the apple-infused vodka:
Cut up 5 green apples and combine with 1 liter of vodka. Let set overnight and then fine strain to remove solids.
For the apple/rosemary syrup:
Combine 32 oz. fresh apple juice, 1 cup sugar and 7 oz. Moscato wine in a pan. Simmer on medium heat until the liquid clarifies and becomes a yellowish/clear color. Strain the syrup, add several rosemary sprigs, and let cool. Remove the sprigs when the desired flavor is achieved.
Recipe courtesy of Ruven Muñoz, Beverage Director, Copine; Image: Copine
Copine’s take on the Aperol Spritz, this drink takes the quintessential summer aperitivo into autumn with notes of burnt orange peel and dry sparkling wine. Three ingredients with grapefruit flavor – liqueur, juice and bitters – provide floral and citrus notes that are decidedly more September than July.
- 3 dashes Grapefruit bitters
- ½ oz. Contratto
- ½ oz. Pamplemousse Liqueur
- ½ oz. Grapefruit juice
Build the ingredients in a glass over ice, topping with the Cava.
Recipe courtesy of Gareth Howells, Head Bartender, VNYL; Image: VNYL
Howell wanted to use an American ale and spicy liqueur to present a drink that “was still reminiscent of long, warm days and good times.” His drink takes a big brew, spicy rye and herbal Jägermeister and marries them with the flavors of mint and orange. “The egg white brings everything together and helps create a drink that reminds you of the summer whilst wrapping you in the warm embrace of the blanket that is fall,” he says.
- 1 oz. Jägermeister
- 1 oz. Rye whiskey
- 1 tsp. Sugar
- 2 oz. Arrogant Bastard Ale
- 1 Orange segment
- ½ oz. Fresh lemon juice
- ¾ oz. Simple syrup
- 2 dashes Orange bitters
- 8 mint leaves
- Egg white
- Mint sprig, for garnish
Muddle orange, mint and sugar in a glass. Add egg white, lemon juice, simple syrup, rye whiskey and Jägermeister, and shake without ice to emulsify. Add ice and shake again until well chilled. Add the ale, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the mint sprig.
Recipe courtesy of Nancy Kwon, Bar Manager and Cocktail Curator, Emmerson Restaurant; Image: Emmerson Restaurant
When Kwon moved from California to Colorado, she had to adapt her expectations of using fresh produce in drinks, as she had been accustomed to having access to basically anything she wanted, any time of year. One surprising local ingredient that really blew her away, though, were Colorado peaches, which are usually best in August and the first few weeks of September. “I chose bourbon not only for how well it always goes with peaches, but also because being a dark spirit, it can oftentimes be relegated to just the fall and winter months when people think of wanting a spirit to warm them up,” she explains. “[It] finishes off with a great spicy kick of ginger beer that can give you a nice, warming tingle inside, but is also super refreshing."
- 1 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
- ½ oz. Rothman & Winter Orchard Peach Liqueur
- ½ oz. Aperol
- ½ oz. Freshly pressed lemon juice
- ¼ oz. Simple syrup
- 4 oz. Maine Root Ginger Beer (or substitute another brand)
- Fresh peach wedge and mint sprig, for garnish
Add the first five ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until chilled. Using a Hawthorne strainer, strain the contents into a Collins glass filled with large ice cubes. Top with the ginger beer and garnish with a fresh peach wedge and sprig of mint.
Recipe courtesy of Russ Bergeron, Beverage Manager and Sommelier, The Sazerac Bar; Image: The Roosevelt New Orleans
It can be tricky to come up with transitional cocktails in a city like New Orleans, which doesn’t stick to traditional seasons and stays hot right through October. “We have to weigh fall flavors with the reality that guests are not ready to drink heavier drinks because of the weather,” he explains. “Rosé is very popular this year and we wanted to feature it in a tall glass drink, but without masking the flavors of the wine with other spirits.”
- 3 oz. Elouan Rosé (or another rosé wine)
- 2 oz. Ginger beer
- 6 Mint leaves
- Lemon twist, for garnish
Build in a Collins glass, add ice, and stir. Garnish with the lemon twist resting on top of the glass.
Recipe courtesy of Ross Hines, Bartender, Stirr; Image: Stirr
Named for the iconic, cannabis-loving comedy duo, this sip is smoky, sweet, herbal and spicy. “The Yellow Chartreuse has a bright and lighter taste, while the lemon juice adds a refreshing citrus note to the drink that is perfect for summer,” Hines says. “The smokiness of the mezcal is normally found in fall cocktails, making the Cheech and Chong a perfect transitional cocktail.”
- 2 oz. Mezcal
- ¾ oz. Lemon juice
- ¾ oz. Honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water, stirred to combine)
- ½ oz. Yellow Chartreuse
- 2 Serrano pepper slices, 1 reserved for garnish
- Lemon slice, for garnish
Add mezcal, lemon juice, honey syrup, yellow Chartreuse and one serrano pepper slice to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until chilled. Fine strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with the pepper and lemon slices.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.