For much of the country, fall begins with the first cold front of the season, usually in September. There's a chill in the air, the leaves begin to change color and everyone starts looking forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In Houston, we know it's fall when Starbucks rolls out the pumpkin spice lattes. Well into October (and, this year, November) it's still hot and sticky outside, and the live oak leaves stay as green as ever, so we have to rely on other means to denote the changing season. But who wants a hot pumpkin drink when it's 85 degrees outside? Not me.
I want a cool, refreshing cocktail. But, you know, maybe with some pumpkin in it.
I asked bartenders around town to suggest their favorite fall cocktails so we no longer have to be stuck in this PSL/caramel apple cider cycle, and they came up with some great ones. Henceforth, you shall know it's fall when the Screamin' Banshees or the Junmai Cobblers return to menus.
You heard it here first.
Anvil Bar & Refuge Anvil isn't launching its winter menu until December 1, and the current one is still a list of late-summer drinks, but the bartenders there immediately knew what to serve when I asked for something evocative of fall. The "bourbon and brandy milk punch" is a decadent cocktail made with whole milk, bourbon, cognac, vanilla extract and a little turbinado sugar. It's shaken with ice for what seems like an eternity (though not as long as the Ramos Gin Fizz) to break up the ice and make it light and frothy -- almost like a milkshake. It's served in a tall, skinny Collins glass and sprinkled with a bit of fresh nutmeg for a little extra spice.
Milk punch is a traditional Southern drink always made with brandy or bourbon and milk and usually served during the holiday season. Egg nog is a type of milk punch to which an egg has been added, so Anvil's drink tastes a lot like egg nog. But somehow better, sweeter and smoother.
Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar and Spirit Lodge The new fall/winter menu for Bad News Bar is coming out next week, but I got a special preview of one of the drinks created by bartender Cheryl Gibbs. It's called a Riverboat Bobsled, partially because it contains bourbon, which was often transported on riverboats on the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers, and partially because owner Justin Burrow thought the image of a riverboat sliding down a snow-covered mountain was pretty funny.
The drink is made with Elijah Craig 12-year bourbon, a bit of Casoni (an herbal liqueur), walnut liqueur, a dash of orange bitters and a dash of angostura. It's stirred (not shaken!) and served with ice. It's a fairly strong drink -- everything in it is alcoholic, even the bitters. I asked Gibbs what makes it a fall drink, aside from the fact that it's on the fall menu, and she explained that the walnut and orange combination is very indicative of fall and winter flavors. Pair it with a malty bourbon, and you've got a sweet cocktail that will warm you up from the inside out.