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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 12:10 am

Cocktails for fall

Tastes change with the weather


When it comes to cocktails, fall is a tweener season.

Not too hot, not too cold, autumn demands beverages that can, at once, warm and refresh the palate. It’s a time to get reacquainted with liquors of color after a summer spent guzzling gin and sundry frozen concoctions.

The deeper you go in the season, the more warmth you will need, and so hot beverages likely will enter the equation by Thanksgiving. Hot cider, fortified with a bit of booze, is almost always an appropriate choice, but do not fear a full-on mulled wine for those evenings where crisp tilts to downright cold. Not technically a cocktail, but hard to beat when settling down in front of the season’s first fire.

Cider Sangria
Perfect for early fall, the fruit evokes summer but is anchored to autumn, thanks to the cider. As with sangria blanco made from white wine, lots of room for experimentation – don’t be afraid to throw in pears or apricots or other fruits that strike your fancy.

  • One cup cored and thinly sliced apples (use red ones, they look best)
  • One orange, unpeeled, quartered, then sliced thin
  • One cup apple juice
  • Two tablespoons lemon juice (squeeze it yourself, there’s no substitute for fresh)
  • One-quarter cup apple brandy
  • Two 12-ounce bottles of hard cider, chilled
Combine all ingredients except cider in a pitcher, stir and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours, overnight won’t hurt at all. When thirsty, pour desired amount from pitcher into a chimney (that’s bartender-ese for tall glass) filled with ice cubes, then top with cider. You can also just dump the cider all at once into the pitcher, but we prefer a custom approach tailored to the preferences of individual imbibers.

A classic that, for our money, has “fall” written all over it. Properly made, a Manhattan has a complexity and depth of taste, plus a rich reddish tone, that you just can’t get from martinis made from gin or vodka. In a shaken-not-stirred world, you’ll want to do the latter with a Manhattan, and take your time. The goal here is to create a cold beverage that will not have benefit of ice to keep it that way for very long, so stir thoroughly. This might take three minutes or so, but perfection doesn’t happen overnight. Speaking of perfection, the perfect Manhattan is maddeningly elusive, and no two people will agree on the proper approach. Some prefer bourbon, we prefer rye, and let’s not start into debates about bitters and which sweet vermouth to use save to say that skimping on vermouth is no virtue when it comes to Manhattans. Every well-stocked bar should have at least a few different whiskeys (that’s with an “e” – so far as we’re concerned, Scotches are not appropriate), vermouth and bitters are both staples and inexpensive, and so there’s no excuse for not experimenting until you find what’s right for you.

  • Two ounces, or two parts, rye whiskey (we’re partial to Wild Turkey)
  • One ounce, or one part, sweet vermouth (Martini and Rossi works for us)
  • Healthy dash bitters (we like Angostura Orange Bitters)
Put all ingredients into a cocktail mixer filled with ice (cracked is best, cubed will work, don’t try crushed). Stir thoroughly. Strain into chilled martini glass and serve with maraschino cherry garnish.

Whiskey Sour
Best from early to mid-season, the whiskey sour is almost like the Harvey Wallbanger. Virtually no one drinks them anymore, and no wonder. The sour mix sold in plastic jugs, considered perfectly fine for mixing both margaritas and sours, is horrid stuff, perhaps excusable if you’re serving frozen margaritas in bulk during stupid-hot weather to a dozen or more guests who simply want to get drunk. But otherwise, no. It is absurdly simple to make a good whiskey sour from scratch. All it takes is a bit of effort in the stirring, then shaking the cocktail so that the sugar completely dissolves. The reward is worth it. Some, not us, might recommend a splash of pineapple juice here.

  • Two ounces bourbon (our preference is Maker’s Mark)
  • Three-quarters ounce lemon juice (fresh squeezed, please)
  • One teaspoon sugar
  • Tiny splash grenadine (optional)
Using a spoon, mix all ingredients in a glass thoroughly, then pour into a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake thoroughly, then strain into tumbler filled with ice. Garnish with maraschino cherry, lemon slice or both.

Angry Balls
We are not, generally, a fan of flavored liquors, but they have become almost impossible to ignore. Gussied-up hooch does have its place. Absolut Peppar, for example, makes a splendid Bloody Mary, but that’s another story. And there is no better season than fall for Fireball, a cinnamon-flavored whiskey that does best when frozen prior to use. Angry Balls is a concoction promoted heavily by Angry Orchard, thus the moniker, but you can use any cider you like, or any cinnamon-flavored whiskey, for that matter. This one is impossible to screw up. Easier to make than ice cubes, and a zillion times more delicious.

  • One shot Fireball or other cinnamon-flavored whiskey
  • One pint hard cider
Pour shot in pint glass and fill to rim with cider.  That’s it.

Brandy Alexander


Brandy Alexander

No, a Brandy Alexander does not have ice cream in it, contrary to popular notion, although blended BA’s are awesome in the summertime. When fall arrives, ditch the blender in favor of on the rocks (or with no ice at all) and you’ll have a more flavorful, and fuller, alternative to a White Russian. Cognac can be substituted for brandy here to great effect.

  • Equal parts brandy, crème de cacao and heavy cream
  • Tiny pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
  • Tiny pinch ground clove (optional)
Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice, then strain into a glass, either a chilled martini glass if you’re skipping the rocks or in a tumbler with a few cubes. Sprinkle with nutmeg and/or clove.

Rusty Nail
Not for the weak-hearted, Rusty Nails are powerful elixirs for folks in search of a strong one but with the whisky’s edge taken off a bit, which Drambuie does in fine fashion. No need for single malt, any decent blended Scotch will do. We prefer Dewar’s White Label. Another simple one here, but don’t let the Drambuie overpower the whisky. A little goes a long way.

  • Two parts blended Scotch
  • A bit less than one part Drambuie
Put a few ice cubes in a whisky tumbler, pour in booze, stir and enjoy.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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