Spice is Nice: Ushering in the Scents of the Season

During the cooler months, lead bartender Brendan Dorr of B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore, Maryland, reserves a section of the cocktail menu for what he dubs Spice Box Cocktails. “When I think fall, I think baking spices,” he explains. “Summer is over, the leaves are changing, the weather is cooler and that smell of baked goods is so warming and cozy.”

For sure, what guests crave in July is not the same as in November, so Dorr thinks about that autumnal feeling, as well as seasonal flavors, when building the drinks list—and the sky’s the limit. “Nothing is really taboo as long as you keep the cocktail balanced,” he notes. “Not too much sugar and enough acidity from fresh citrus or bitter from other ingredients to keep it balanced.” His rule of thumb is two parts spirit, one part fresh citrus and one part sugar (either syrup or cordial), which can be tweaked according to ingredients used as well as guests’ preferences.

He uses this methodology for the five Spice Box sips, which cost $11-$12 each. Cinnamon mixes Papa’s Pilar Rum with Sherry, apricot cordial, lemon and both cinnamon mead and a grated cinnamon garnish; Star Anise has St. George Pear Brandy, absinthe, honey, lemon and Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters, served warm; and allspice dram and lime go into a Milagro Anejo Tequila- and  Byrrh-based libation aptly titled Allspice.

A friend once joked with Dorr one fall that he was “entering his brown period,” a reference to his propensity for shaking and stirring whiskey during the cooler months. “It definitely has some truth to it. Fall arrives and suddenly the desire to use more whiskey in cocktails begins.” Hence the two whisk(e)y-based cocktails on the Spice Box menu. Clove gets its spice note from Becherovka Liqueur, mixed with Scotch, velvet falernum and walnut bitters, topped with ginger beer; Maker’s Mark Bourbon is mixed with Banane du Brésil Liqueur, lime, Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters and the namesake Chinese 5 Spice Powder.

When winter arrives, Dorr will again spice up the menu with different drinks, but he is always open to the whims of the clientele. “The Spice Box is for that season only, but if we have the ingredients still behind the bar we are always happy to accommodate.”  



Recipe courtesy of Brendan Dorr, B&O American Brasserie, Baltimore, MD

1 oz. Papa’s Pilar Rum

½ oz. Lustau Amontillado Sherry

1 oz. cinnamon mead

¼ oz. apricot cordial

½ oz. lemon juice

Egg white

Grated cinnamon, for garnish

Add all except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Ade ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with grated cinnamon.



Recipe courtesy of Brendan Dorr, B&O American Brasserie, Baltimore, MD

1 ½ oz. Becherovka

½ oz. Glenfiddich 12 Years Old Single Malt Whisky

¼ oz. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum

¼ oz. lemon juice

Dash walnut bitters

Ginger beer

3 apple slices, for garnish

Build the drink in a Collins glass filled with a Collins ice spear, and garnish with the apple slices.

Beverage trends are in constant flux based on season and new innovations in the industry. Make sure to attend the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Show to stay up-to-date on all the latest trends.  Registration Now Open! 

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