Fall is Coming
It’s approaching the end of August, which means parking lots are starting to fill with pumpkin patches and the stores are starting to stock Halloween costumes. My Facebook feed is a-flutter with comments about Starbucks’ “new and improved” pumpkin spice latte being made with real pumpkin this year – not quite fresh ingredients, but a step in the right direction. Good on you Starbucks!
So while the stores start to stock their fall colors, it’s time for us in the drinks industry to take a second look at our drinks menu and consider making a few seasonal changes.
The fall is one of my favorite seasons for cocktail menus. I love how fall fruits like blackberries and persimmons go so well with aged spirits, and I will take any excuse at all to get figs on the menu. Below I’ve provided a list of fall flavors, grouped by type to get your creativity flowing.
Vegetables & Roots
Herbs, Spices and Nuts
Techniques for Incorporating Flavor
Looking at that list always gets me excited for trying new things behind the bar – but sometimes it can be tricky to figure out how to pull the flavor from a particular ingredient to get it into your cocktail. Here is a recap of some techniques you can use.
Juice is one of the easiest ways to incorporate flavor into a cocktail recipe. If you’re making your own, you may be interested in making juice without a juicer. If you’re choosing what to buy, take a look at our discussion comparing pasteurized vs. fresh juice in cocktails. Another idea is to make a juice concentrate and use that in your drink – it will add less water and a more concentrated flavor, and works well with drinks that you can’t afford to water down further.
Muddling: For fruit, muddling is often a good option- check out this video where I compared the results muddling an apple vs, using an apple syrup or an apple infusion.
Syrups: I’d probably say syrups are next on the “ease of use” scale. There are many ways to make syrups and the best way may depend on the flavor you’re working with. Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of a few ways to make mint syrups (which is probably applicable to any leafy herb). That muddling video above also discusses an apple syrup, and
Purees are a lesser used ingredient behind the bar, but I frankly think they are a really great way to go. You can make your own purees or buy them from a vendor, and they will often provide a near-fresh flavor right out of the freezer – and can keep for months to years while frozen. If you are going to use purees in your cocktail menu, check out the tips in this article for getting your recipe balanced and your systems / process ready for volume.
Shrubs are another very rare find on a cocktail menu but they are just perfect for the fall. In fact, shrubs were originally created to help preserve ripe summer fruits into the fall and winter. Consider creating and adding these “Drinking Vinegars” to your menu or creating a cocktail like our Spring version, the “Daylight Savings” Cocktail.
Infusions, Tinctures and Bitters: Infusing spirit with flavor is as old as spirits. Even beyond a simple neutral grain spirit infusion, you can use a different base spirit or leave the infusion longer to make a potent tincture, or take it another step further and use bitter ingredients to make your very own bitters.
Seasoned Rims: Even when your drink is finished, there’s opportunity to garnish with seasonal flavors as well. Creating seasoned sugar or salt rims are a great way to change the flavor – and sometimes aroma- of a cocktail even after the drink is made. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even season with meat!
I hope this post has given you some inspiration as you start to think about your own cocktail program and autumn menu. Have I missed any of your “go to” fall flavors? Definitely let me know in the comments below and I’ll update the list!