A handful of tastes are quintessentially fall. You know them—the ones that bring the warmth and comfort of familiarity when autumn rolls around each year. It’s almost like the flavors alone let us know we’ve progressed three-quarters through the calendar and that Christmas is around the corner.
The familiar apples, cinnamon, cranberries, maple, and caramel usher our taste buds into the season of flannel, blanket scarves, and boots. While it may feel like every food item at your local grocery store incorporates one or more of these autumnal staples, there is one place you can embrace them while feeling all kinds of festive: your cocktail.
One of my favorite things to do in the fall is gathering with friends and drink my husband’s famous mulled cider. The warm, tangy apple taste transports me back to our college days in Kentucky, where I first saw the leaves change. Sometimes our friends will add bourbon to the beverage, deepening the drink’s connection to the bluegrass state.
Even if you won’t hear the crunch of leaves underfoot or get lost in a corn maze this year, these 10 fall cocktails deliver autumn in a glass and a twist to your go-to drink.
Honey Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail
Even if you’re not a Kentuckian, this cocktail from Hello Glow’s blend of bourbon and apple cider will make you want to experience the Bourbon Trail. Recipe writer Ana Stanciu says the warming effect of the bourbon combined with sweet honey and cinnamon is “the perfect way to celebrate the season’s transition.” She recommends adding extra honey if you like it sweet and extra bourbon if your bones are looking for a little extra warmth.
Pomegranate Cider Mimosas With a Salted Caramel Rim
Give OJ a break and instead combine the autumnal flavors of apple and pomegranate in this festive cocktail by How Sweet Eats. Traditional caramel apples will look rather plain after experiencing this pomegranate infusion. Rim each of your champagne flutes with salted caramel, and you’ll be set for any fall brunch you host.
Spiced Persimmon Bourbon Old Fashioned
Tieghan Gerard from Half Baked Harvest recommends the sweeter Fuyu variety of persimmons for the spiced maple purée. Throw in some bourbon, sweet clementine juice, and a couple of dashes of bitters, and you’ll have an orange drink without any pumpkin. Top each glass with sparkling water or ginger beer for a toast-ready beverage.
Sparkling Fig and Honey Cocktail
For Stephanie Pollard from The Glow, fall is all about the figs, which come into a quick season in early fall. This recipe embraces the fruit and is best with a light, dry champagne and “smidge” of honey. Enjoy this fizzy drink before it’s too late.
Pumpkin Pie Bourbon Smash
This recipe from How Sweet Eats sees your average bourbon smash and raises it a pumpkin pie. Ingredients like pumpkin pie syrup, bourbon and bitters come together to make a drink Jessica Merchant from the blog says is “basically dessert, but not so sweet that your teeth hurt or that it ruins your dinner.”
Cozy up to a fire with a cup of mulled wine like this one from The Modern Proper. “A heavenly medley of wine and spices with a hint of fruit,” this drink is a prime example of the expression “some things are just worth waiting for,” the site writes. Steeped over the stove until it’s full of flavor, mulled wine is great for crowds and can easily be made ahead of time.
Smoky Harvest Apple Cider Margaritas
Transition from summer to fall with this sweet apple cider taste mixed with mezcal from Half Baked Harvest. The swap of tequila for mezcal gives the fall drink its smoky notes while apple cider brings harvest sweetness. Coat your rim in salted cinnamon sugar and enjoy!
Vanilla Chai Tea White Russian
If you’re looking for a cozy cocktail, try this vanilla chai tea White Russian from Half Baked Harvest. This creamy vodka drink is sweetened with chai tea syrup and Kahlúa—a perfect end to any holiday meal. Or do as Tieghan from HBH does, and consider leveraging the coffee component for a morning treat.
Nitro Mocha Coffee Cocktail
This after-dinner pick-me-up from A Couple of Cooks offers a taste similar to that of a White Russian but, as the author says, has different components. Instead, mocha-flavored cold brew is mixed with spiced rum, maple syrup, and a couple of dashes of orange bitters before being dusted with cocoa powder. Wait to add the nitro until the end for the full bubble effect.
Apple Butter Old Fashioned
Bourbon and apple butter go hand in hand in this cocktail from Half Baked Harvest. A combination of all things cozy, this beverage mixes homemade apple butter, cider, lemon, orange bitters, and bourbon before being topped with ginger beer. With so much natural sweetness, you won’t have to add simple syrup.