How to make autumn cocktails at home
Fall is around the corner which means it’s almost the season for sweater weather, apple cider, pumpkin everything and spicy autumnal cocktails. Although you could head to a cocktail bar for top-quality drinks, making fall cocktails from your home kitchen is easier than you may think.
With the right tools, ingredients, recipes and inspiration, you can make cocktails for your own summer send-off or autumn equinox party. By gathering ingredients that remind you of fall and making small tweaks to classic recipes, you can produce a cocktail menu to last through the season.
What you need to make fall cocktails
In order to make good cocktails at home, you need quality liquor, cocktail-making tools, fresh ice (preferably made with filtered water), fall ingredients and recipes.
Liquor, spirits and liqueurs
Every cocktail recipe requires at least one spirit, a high-proof liquor that has more alcohol than beer or wine. Common spirits are gin, whiskey, vodka, tequila and rum. Many cocktails also feature liqueurs, or cordials, which are sweetened lower-proof liquors that usually embody a specific flavor or blend of flavors. Popular cordials include triple sec (orange liqueur), Chambord (black raspberry), Kahlua (coffee-flavored) and amaretto (almond).
Many fall cocktails also feature amaro, a special liqueur named after the Italian word for “bitter.” Most Amari is variations on an herbal liqueur with their own unique recipes and ingredient lists, some of which go back hundreds of years. There is a wide variety of Amari available, and despite the different types, all Amari are bitter. An amaro of some kind is commonly used as a “secret ingredient” by bartenders and mixologists. If you use an amaro, make sure its flavor profile compliments the other ingredients in your drink.
Cocktail making tools
Making great-tasting drinks requires precision and the proper tools can make your experience easier and your cocktails delicious. If you plan on becoming an amateur mixologist, you may want to invest in a cocktail tool kit, complete with everything you need, and many kits even including a recipe book.
For simple cocktails, you only need a few tools, including the important jigger. With a small cup on one end and a larger one on the opposite end, a jigger provides the exact measurements you need for almost any single-serve cocktail ever created.
You also need a cocktail stirring spoon and shaker, which are the two tools commonly used to mix drinks. A stirring spoon is used to mix and chill drinks that are high in alcohol, like a martini, while a shaker is used to chill, dilute and texturize drinks with fresh juice or other low-proof and non-alcoholic ingredients. A large mixing glass is great for stirring drinks, as well, and a muddler is crucial for drinks with crushed fruit or herbs.
Punches are great to make regardless of the season, and they are easy to put together. Punches require a large number of ingredients, but once they are made, you have a convenient, self-serve beverage that serves a crowd. Some good punch bowl sets come with matching glasses to have unified decor.
Fall cocktails have similar flavor profiles to other, non-alcoholic autumn-themed drinks. While ingredients vary based on the recipe. Common ingredients include cinnamon, cloves, baking spice, apple cider, demerara simple syrup, pumpkin spice and ginger. Sour drinks call for fresh juice, so make sure you have a hand juicer handy.
Fall cocktails to make at home
This seasonal spin on the popular punch is a creative and delicious way to use both red wine and hard apple cider to capture the essence of the changing season, and it’s easy to make for a small crowd.
Ingredients: Spanish red wine, dry sparkling hard apple cider, orange peel, orange slices, apple slices, whole cherries, cinnamon sticks and demerara sugar
Combine one bottle of red wine, one large (750ml) bottle of sparkling cider, several orange peels, orange slices and apple slices, 1.5 cups of whole cherries, several cinnamon sticks and 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar in a 1-gallon pitcher. Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon and let them soak for an hour. Fill the pitcher with ice before stirring and serving sangria over ice.
Mulled Spice Apple Cider
Warm up with spiked, hot apple cider mulled with cinnamon, cloves and other tasty fall spices. It’s a great beverage to drink while gathering around a bonfire or just enjoying the changing color of the leaves.
Ingredients: One gallon of fresh apple cider, spiced rum, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, star anise, allspice, nutmeg, brown sugar and orange slices
Combine all non-alcoholic ingredients into a large saucepan and heat on a stove until boiling. Place the lid on the pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the ingredients and return to heat. Keep mulled cider hot either on the stove or in an insulated carafe. Add 1.5 ounces of spiced rum to a warm mug, fill with hot mulled cider and garnish with a whole cinnamon stick.
For a boozier autumn libation, try this riff on a classic Martini and Martinez. Chicago’s Letherbee Distillery makes a new “autumnal gin” every fall, and each year features a new combination of aromatics and flavors.
Ingredients: Letherbee Autumnal gin, Yellow Chartreuse and Dolin dry vermouth
Add 1.5 ounces of autumnal gin, .5 ounce of yellow chartreuse liqueur and .5 ounce of dry vermouth to a large mixing glass, then fill with ice. Using a cocktail spoon, stir the spirits for about 10 seconds before straining them into a chilled glass.
Pumpkin Spice Whiskey Sour
Pumpkin spice fans can enjoy this sweet, sour and spiced cocktail. It’s great for newcomers to cocktails and old-school bourbon fans alike, and optional egg whites create a smooth and irresistible mouthfeel.
Ingredients: High-proof bourbon whiskey, fresh lemon juice, pumpkin spice syrup and egg whites (optional)
Combine 2 ounces of high-proof bourbon whiskey, 1 ounce of lemon juice and .5 ounce of pumpkin spice syrup in a shaker tin. Shake for 5 seconds without ice, fill the shaker with ice and shake again for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass. If you prefer to leave out the egg white, skip those steps and serve the drink over ice.
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