Halloween is admittedly a kitschy holiday, but that’s no reason to throw sophistication out the window. By serving a classic cocktail with a slightly morbid name (like Corpse Reviver #2 or Blood and Sand), you can subtly allude to the spirit of the holiday without sacrificing taste.
Ingredients like blackberries or squid ink can also create a dark mood without venturing into cheesy territory (I’ll have no plastic spiders in my drink!). You can also bring seasonal flavor to your cup by using pumpkin; something as simple as a pumpkin bellini (pumpkin puree and champagne) is foolproof, or you can get more complex by making a pumpkin Old Fashioned with puree and maple syrup. Any double-strained cocktail can instantly be given a spooky-chic vibe with the smoke and fog effects of a couple of cubes of dry ice—just wait until it has fully evaporated before sipping.
Excited to mix a drink yet? Read below for a few sophisticated Halloween cocktails that get our sip of approval.
The Corpse Reviver #2 is a classic cocktail from legendary American barman Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930 (and it’s a little more palatable than its predecessor, Corpse Reviver, which dates as far back as 1871). The drink includes dry gin, orange liqueur, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice, an absinthe rinse, and a brandied cherry garnish. In his famous book, Craddock wrote, “To be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed.” One or two are a surefire hangover cure, but “Four of these taken in swift succession will quickly unrevive the corpse again,” he warned.
RECIPE: The Life Styled
Alcohol is its own special kind of poison, so the title of this cocktail is doubly fitting. I love this one because the juices (apple cider and pomegranate juice) are especially seasonal, and tequila adds a bit of smokiness, so it’s perfect for fall. Toss in a couple chips of dry ice for a theatrical element.
I recently attended a Halloween cocktail master class at one of London’s premier cocktail bars, 69 Colebrooke Row. The watering hole is owned by Tony Conigliaro, who founded Drink Factory, an experimental research lab for cocktail and drink development. One of the most fascinating drinks we made was the Nosferatini, a gin martini made with a red food coloring-dyed iron supplement. Not only do a couple drops of the red liquid in a clear martini look like blood, but the iron actually tastes like blood, giving you a slightly unnerving sensation. The drink is aptly named for the 1922 German Expressionist horror film, Nosferatu.
RECIPE: Tony Conigliaro
I’m a sucker for Pisco drinks, and this lime and lemon juice concoction has the delicious addition of Angostura bitters, which pairs perfectly with the Peruvian brandy. According to Mexican folklore, La Llorona was a beautiful yet unstable woman who drowned her children to be with a man who wanted nothing to do with her. In her afterlife, she wandered through the water, wailing in search of her children. That’s certainly spooky enough for me.
A touch of squid ink makes this black-as-night drink truly terrifying, and flavorful ingredients like spiced rum, crème de cacao, and chocolate stout are sweet and certainly enough to mask the brininess.
RECIPE: Honestly Yum
As costume trends suggest, there are certainly plenty of people looking to “get lucky” on Halloween night. This drink was created by Scott Teague of acclaimed New York City cocktail bar Death & Co. “This drink comes from me not taking myself too seriously. I wanted to make something that looks like it could come from TGI Fridays, but tastes like a Death & Co. drink,” he says. Made with white rum, blackberries, several syrups, and Peychaud’s bitters, it has a deep hue and a gradient that’s sultry and moody.
RECIPE: Death & Co.
Another staple from the famed Savoy Cocktail Book, you’ll find this whisky cocktail on menus year-round. Made with equal parts Scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry liqueur, and orange juice, shaken and strained into a coupe, it is one of a very few cocktails made with Scotch and has a rich, plasmic hue.
Ernest Hemingway’s favorite way to kill an afternoon was with a cocktail made with a shot of absinthe topped with Champagne. In somewhat of a publicity stunt, he named his favorite drink Death in the Afternoon, the same name of his 1932 novel, and submitted it to a celebrity recipe book in 1935. In his instructions, he suggested three to five of these drinks at a time—that’s certainly one way to send you to an early grave.
What will you be serving this Halloween? Tell us in the comments.