Spice Up Fall with Easy Seasonal Cocktail Ideas

Seasonality is integral to a dynamic menu. It showcases freshness, quality and a chef who stays abreast of the original culinary trend — nature. Seasonality shouldn't only influence your restaurant's daily specials, but extend to the all — too — often staid cocktail list. 

It takes less effort than you might think to spice up fall with these easy cocktail ideas on hand. Well-chosen autumn spices, herbs, spirits and liqueurs create a smooth segue from drinks that chill on hot summer days to cocktails that offer warmth and comfort in the cooler months.

Incorporating Purées

Puree and strain — that's all it takes to turn a fall fruit or vegetable into a juice that can bolster cocktails and make liqueurs. Pumpkins, butternut squash, apples, cranberries and figs are all at the height of ripeness in fall, and each makes a fitting base spirit for your fall-inspired cocktails. 

Mix a 2-to-1 ratio of simple syrup and puree, simmer for 10 minutes, and let it cool to room temperature. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve lined with four layers of cheesecloth. Mix the syrup to taste with your liquor of choice and let it sit in a sealed bottle for one week before using.

In-House Specialty Drinks

Take the puree-infusion method a step further for a one-of-a-kind specialty drink. Puree a cubed and seeded sugar pumpkin in your Vitamix machine for a pumpkin-based fall cocktail. Add simple syrup, half a vanilla pod, a couple cinnamon sticks, ground nutmeg and a clove. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, let it cool and strain the syrup through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Add a spirit to taste — eau de vie works well here — and garnish with a whole cinnamon stick. 

Use the same technique with cranberries and figs, apples and butternut squash, or any locally-sourced fall fruit or vegetable. Let your mixologist or bartender experiment to determine what best fits your customer base. If it's received well, consider making it a part of the fall menu.

Herbs, Spices and Garnishes

Sometimes a few simple herbs are all it takes to give one of your restaurant's classic cocktails a fall flourish.
  • Steep simple syrup with toasted allspice, cinnamon, star anise or cloves for warming background notes that complement floral, woodsy spirits and liqueurs like apple brandy, bourbon, Crème Yvette, Midori and coffee-based liqueurs.
  • Muddle the cocktail shaker with fall-friendly spices such as peppermint, thyme, ginger and sage, introducing aromatics that pair well with the base spirit. 
  • Garnish fall cocktails with a sprig or two of the fresh herb used to muddle the drink. 
  • Rim the cocktail glass with sugars infused with herbs and spices that match the base spirit or secondary cocktail ingredients. Varieties of sugar including mint, vanilla, citrus and cinnamon go hand in hand with many fall-themed drinks. 
  • Make your own flavored sugars by mixing 1 teaspoon of freshly dried herbs with ¼ cup sugar. Mix well and store in an airtight container for 24 hours before using.

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