Words by Simon Difford
Photography by Dan Malpass
Summer is fading, leaves are starting to scatter the ground and the weather is turning noticeably chillier. It’s not yet time for full-on winter warmers, but crushed ice charged summer coolers are obviously no longer in season. It’s autumn/fall, so a time to appreciate those last few warm(ish) sunny days whilst sipping on an appropriate cocktail.
Here in Blighty it's autumn, hence these seasonal cocktails are 'autumnal'. However, in North America it's fall, so does that make these cocktails 'fallmal' or 'fallish'? No matter, it is a time to enjoy brownish coloured cocktails which at any other time of year could be considered drab.
It's harvest time so there's a bounty of ingredients, with cocktails tending to focus on the seasonally available fruit: apples, blackberries, pears and plums. (It's also sloe berry season - time to make sloe gin.)
Perhaps with a view to stocking larders (or pantries if you will), autumn cocktails often use maple syrup, honey and demerara sugar as their sweetener.
When it comes to base spirits, perhaps inspired by the colours of the leaves, brown spirits seem preferred - particularly whisk(e)y, calvados (apples again!) and cognac - are favoured.
Our 30 autumnal cocktail suggestions
With: Ginger, bison vodka, apple juice, apple schnapps and sugar syrup.
We say: Long and thirst quenching but also good served straight-up.
With: Whiskey, apple brandy, vermouth and herbal liqueur.
We say: A delightful apple, whiskey, vermouth and herbal combination.
With: Passion fruit, bison vodka, pear juice, passion fruit syrup, lemon juice and champagne.
We say: Suitably autumnal in colour with passion fruit, lemon and pear enlivened by champagne.
With: Bourbon, caramel liqueur, sweet vermouth, pineapple juice and Peychaud's Bitters.
We say: Bourbon's character shines through in this soothing, mellow cocktail.
With: Blanco tequila, Jägermeister, Yellow Chartreuse, sugar syrup, egg and nutmeg.
We say: Herbal, rich and creamy.
Detroit Athletic Club
With: Irish whiskey, a splash of sweet vermouth, clove rich falernum and monastic liqueur.
We say: A perfectly balanced cocktail inspired by the sport club.
With: Aged rum, Swedish punch and lime juice.
We say: Basically, a Swedish Daiquiri - tasty.
With: Calvados, white rum, Swedish punsch, orange Curacao, demerara syrup and lemon juice.
We say: A full-bodied blend with very appealing underlying flavours.
With: Calvados, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and cognac.
We say: An autumnal blend of vermouth and brandies.
With: Calvados, vermouth amaro and Angostura Bitters.
We say: A spiced apple brandy short boozy cocktail.
Harvest Moon (PDT's recipe)
With: Rye whiskey, Lillet Blanc, calvados, Green Chartreuse and Bob's Bitters.
We say: A stirred down boozy after-dinner sipper.
With: Rosemary sprig, bourbon, Yellow Chartreuse, ginger syrup, honey syrup, lemon juice and lemon bitters.
We say: Named after the animal that looks more like a polecat than a badger.
With: Dry gin, Ferro China and sweet vermouth.
We say: A negroni with a somewhat added smoothness, this punchy blend is a simple cocktail to be easily enjoyed.
With: Bone dry white wine and crème de cassis.
We say: The blackcurrants used to make crème de cassis were harvested back in summer so this aperitif is perfect for those rare barmy autumn evenings.
New York Sour
With: Bourbon, lemon juice, sugar syrup, Angostura Bitters, egg white and red wine.
We say: Best enjoyed whilst sat in Central Park but thought to have originated in Chicago.
With: Scotch, Speyside single malt scotch, Grand Marnier, Lillet Blanc, dry vermouth and black pepper.
We say: A dry and aromatic flavour enlivened by subtle black pepper notes, best enjoyed as an aperitif to spark late night autumn chatter.
Perfectly Paired Cocktail
With: Pear puree, cachaça, vanilla liqueur and champagne.
We say: Orchard fruit with spiced vanilla, grassy cachaça and invigorating fizz.
With: Fino sherry, amaretto, Peychaud's Bitters and absinthe.
We say: Named after the French game but with Spanish and Italian ingredients. Why here? It's the colour of autumn leaves.
With: Vodka, honey liqueur and apple juice.
We say: Dick Bradsell created this drink for his father-in-law and it's apple notes make it perfect for autumn.
Polish Pear Martini
With: Vodka, Bison grass vodka, spiced pear liqueur and pear juice.
We say: A riff on Dick Bradsell’s brilliantly simple Polish Martini but with a pear fruitiness also ideal as an autumn cocktail.
With: Bourbon, tawny port, maple syrup, Angostura Bitters.
We say: A riff on an old-fashioned both tasty and balanced.
With: Sake, bourbon, sweet vermouth, maraschino, cherry brandy, Angostura Bitters and Peychaud's Bitters.
We say: A Manhattan is a great drink any time of year, this one is served with sake complexity.
Sandy The Showgirl
With: Añejo tequila, mezcal, maraschino, agave syrup and lavender bitters.
We say: A hint of mezcal makes Sandy a somewhat smoky Showgirl.
With: Reposado tequila, Islay single malt, agave syrup and lime juice.
We say: It's a time of year for clearing gardens and having bonfires so a smoky Margarita seems appropriate.
With: Bison vodka, apple juice, lime juice
We say: Tatanka is a Native American word for buffalo and refers to the Bison grass flavoured vodka the cocktail is based on - can be equally served straight-up, is a simply and very delicious drink.
With: Thyme, cognac, orange liqueur, sweet vermouth, brown sugar, Peychaud's Bitters, Angostura Bitters.
We say: Aromatic thyme subtly influences this spirituous autumnal cocktail.
Thyme Will Tell Sour
With: Thyme, bourbon, maple syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
We say: This well-balanced blend has the right level of sweetness and tasty citrusy underlying notes.
With: Strawberry conserve, Hennessy VSOP, pinot noir, lemon juice, sugar syrup and Angostura Bitters.
We say: Short and boozy, this appetising blend has the perfect subtle fruity flavour which will have you sipping all through autumn.
With: Freya Birch Spirit, 10 yo armagnac and pressed apple juice.
We say: With faint pine and smoky notes, this cocktail is complex and very delectable.