Cold weather requires more robust drinks, not just pumpkin spice

Just because it has rained, doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet, drought wise. But one massive storm, Halloween, and a time change, certainly does mean one thing: summer is over. And while we can argue whether or not California actually experiences an autumn, we know that whatever we are experiencing ain’t summertime. Sure, there are still blackberries in the grocery stores (and they are delicious) and leaves on the trees (evergreens be damned) but evening patio sitters will tell you, it’s getting cold out there.

And cold weather requires more robust drinks. The switch from clear cocktails to brown cocktails happens in bars every year (martinis to Manhattans), but the switch from the lighter refreshing drinks of summer to the other richer more complex cocktails of Fall often goes unheralded. Until now. With that thought in mind we humbly present four autumnal offerings all designed to warm the soul and fortify the spirit, and all localized for your consumption. Autumn doesn’t have to mean just pumpkin or pumpkin spice all the time.

            Espresso Manhattan

1ounce Redwood Empire “Pipe Dream” bourbon

1 ounce Irish cream (Baileys, Carolans, etc.)

1 ounce fresh brewed espresso coffee

3 coffee beans

Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold and then strain into a chilled martini/Manhattan glass. Garnish with three coffee beans.  

If an espresso martini can be vodka, Irish cream, and espresso (no vermouth), then an espresso Manhattan can be whiskey, Irish cream, and espresso (also no vermouth).

Note: Pipe Dream is named after the 14th tallest tree on the planet, one of those aforementioned pesky evergreen Coastal Redwoods.

            Macadamia Rum Sour

2 ounces Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum “Red Head” macadamia nut rum

1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/8 ounce simple syrup

1 egg white

1/8 ounce carbonated water

3 crushed roasted macadamia nuts

            Combine first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until foamy and then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Dust foam with crushed macadamia nuts.

            Note: a little bit of soda water will help egg white foam retain its shape longer. Aquafaba (the water canned garbanzo beans are stored in) can be substituted for egg whites as well, but in this drink the extra richness of the egg adds some necessary structure.

            Mandarin Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

1 ½ ounces Hanson of Sonoma organic mandarin vodka

¾ ounce good quality triple sec (Cointreau, Combier, etc.)

½ ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

1/8 ounce Sonoma Syrup Co. Grenadine

3 pomegranate seeds

            Combine first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until ice cold and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

            Note: Grenadine was originally a pomegranate syrup until mass production reduced much of it to sugar and red food coloring. Look for a high end brand made from real pomegranates and you won’t be sorry. Mandarins and Meyer lemons are both fall/winter citrus, and both offer deliciously different orange flavors.

            Gin Mary (Red Snapper)

1 ½ ounces Gray Whale gin

3 ounces organic tomato juice

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 drops hot pepper sauce with garlic (Tapatio, Cholula, etc.)

1 pinch cumin

King Floyd’s black lava rimming salt

1 lime wedge

1 lemon wedge

1 dill pickle spear              

            Moisten a spot on serving glass rim with lime wedge, dab moistened spot in black lava salt, fill with ice and set aside. In a mixing glass without ice add gin, tomato juice, horseradish, black pepper, hot sauce, and cumin. Stir until well combined. Pour combined mixture into serving glass and garnish with pickle spear and lemon wedge.

            The Red Snapper cocktail came right on the heels of the original Bloody Mary (1920s, 1930s) but eventually faded into obscurity, partly perhaps, due to the name. Made with gin a Bloody Mary is a much more robust and interesting drink, perfect for the Fall.

            Note: the California Gray Whale begins their annual migration down the coast of California in late October and early November. They escape the cold their way, and we escape it ours.

            Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender, Vol. IandII,” the host of the Barfly Podcast on iTunes and an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at and contact him at [email protected]