Navigating the holidays during a pandemic, the Eagles injury report, and oh yeah, the most consequential election in modern history — we could all use a drink this fall. I’ve spent the better part of 2020 working with Lee Noble, Art in the Age’s resident mixologist, on The Cocktail Workshop, a recipe book for ambitious home bartenders, and it’s inspired me to flex my drink-mixing muscles in a way they haven’t been since I retired my professional shaker more than a decade ago.
These three original cocktails, one of which contains no alcohol, are tuned to autumn with flavors like apple, pumpkin, and brown butter. Mix one, mix them all, and steady yourself for a heady fall.
This foundation of this vermilion rum cocktail is the Boulevardier, a classic that came out of the Prohibition-era scene of American literati decamped in Paris. It’s a three-ingredient stirred drink: bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth — basically a Negroni but with whiskey.
When considering a fall riff on the Boulevardier, I thought about the name first: What famous Philly boulevards are there? MacDade Boulevard. Delco represent! Columbus Boulevard. We need fewer Columbus things, not more. Then: Roosevelt Boulevard, the surface highway running like a cockeyed seam through the quilt of Northeast neighborhoods. Turns out, there’s already a Roosevelt cocktail, heavy on rum with scintillas of dry vermouth and orange juice. To create the Roosevelt Boulevardier, I put them together, with the Roosevelt’s rum swapping in for the Boulevardier’s bourbon. Not just any rum. Brown butter-washed rum.
The process of fat washing a spirit sounds complicated but is dead simple: Combine alcohol and fat in a container, refrigerate for a day, then strain. The fat gives the liquid flavor and viscosity. For the Roosevelt Boulevardier, the nutty, buttered-toast notes of the brown butter go perfectly with the caramel qualities of aged rum. While the classic Boulevardier calls for equal proportions, I recast them here so that the rum has more presence in the cocktail. Sweet vermouth, Aperol (instead of Campari, in order to lower the overall proof), and a liberal lashing of ginger bitters play supporting roles. Be careful with this one: It drinks sweet but can be as deadly as the street for which it’s named.
1¼ ounces brown butter-washed rum (recipe follows)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
¾ ounce Aperol
4-6 dashes ginger bitters
Chill a coupe glass. Combine the ingredients with ice and stir with a bar spoon for 30 seconds. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Express an orange twist over the surface of the drink, rub it around the rim, drop it in the drink, and serve.
Brown Butter-Washed Rum
3 tablespoons salted butter (cultured preferred)
6 ounces aged rum
Melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Swirl it around in the pan until the butter is light brown and smells toasted and nutty, about 5 minutes. Pour the butter into a heat-safe jar and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Add the rum, screw on the lid, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
From the stiff gin sour to the glow-in-the-dark Midori sour, the traditional construction of any cocktail in the sour family is booze + acid + sweetener + egg white. The Appleseed Sour is no exception, with a split base of calvados, the suave barrel-aged apple brandy from France, and smooth, subtly smoky Oaxacan mezcal. Doesn’t sound like they would mesh very well, but in the glass they so successfully conjure vibes of a smoldering campfire in the middle of an apple orchard the only thing missing is a scary story. Tahini, an extra modifier (and the “seed” in Appleseed), gives the cocktail weight and a persistent sesame quirk, while buckwheat honey introduces acidic, medicinal footnotes in a Trojan Horse of sweetness.
A note on egg: If raw eggs freak you out, leave them out. The cocktail will be foamless but still delicious. For a vegan version, you can also substitute aquafaba, the protein-rich by-product of cooking chickpeas or straining liquid from cans..
1¾ ounces calvados
1¼ ounces mezcal
½ ounce buckwheat honey
½ ounce tahini
½ ounce lemon juice
1 egg white or 1 ounce aquafaba
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Combine the ingredients in a shaker and dry-shake (without ice) for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake for 10 seconds. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Express a lemon twist over the surface of the drink, run it around the rim, drop it in the drink, and serve.
Pumpkin Spice Flip
What, you thought you were going to get through this article without a pumpkin-spice encounter? Come on.
There are far more evil things afoot in this country than the union of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg and the people who drink it. And basic as they may be, these ingredients taste good together, especially in a flip, a nog-adjacent cocktail category that includes whole egg — and yes, this is a drink where you actually need the egg.
This is a nonalcoholic drink with cinnamon-flavored black tea (I used Bigelow for this recipe) standing in for a spirit base. It works well as a substitute because the tea has bitterness and tannins, in addition to the extra layer of spice. Once cooled, the tea joins pumpkin puree, coconut milk, maple syrup, salt, and an egg in a shaker and gets emulsified during a full-minute shake that will test your arm muscles. I serve the flip cold over crushed ice, but it would also be great as a warm cocktail. For that, whisk it over a double boiler as if you were making lemon curd or hollandaise so as to not scramble the egg. Whichever way you drink it, don’t forget a generous dusting of nutmeg and whole cinnamon stick, which complete the pumpkin-spice fit.
1½ ounces brewed cinnamon-flavored black tea, cooled
1½ ounces canned pumpkin puree
¾ ounce unsweetened full-fat coconut milk
½ ounce maple syrup
Pinch kosher salt
Garnish: grated nutmeg, cinnamon stick
Fill a clear mug or rocks glass with crushed ice. Combine the ingredients in a shaker and dry-shake (without ice) for 1 minute. Add ice and shake for 10 seconds. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Liberally grate nutmeg over the surface of the cocktail, garnish with a cinnamon stick, and serve.