Autumn is a wonderful time for a good drink — the temperature chills like ice in a mixing glass, the air gets crisp as a citrus twist, and all manner of rich, dark-brown spirits scamper down the shelf to take the place of the gin and tonics, lawnmower beers, and all-day rosés. Of course, if you're spoiling for a good fall drink, there are endless variations that showcase the richness of Scotch or the baking-spice flavors that call to mind apple pie and holiday parties — but they're all so brown: brown and shaken, brown and stirred, hot and...brown. Thankfully, there's a cure for the common cocktail, and gin is in. Give consideration to the following autumn sippers.
Alaska (Craddock, Savoy Cocktail Guide, 1930)
2 and 1/4 oz London dry gin
3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters
Directions: Add ingredients to a mixing glass over ice, stir until chilled and dilute, then strain into a coupe glass and garnish with an orange twist.
The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930, first edition - (Image by Sotheby's)
The Alaska cocktail predates the 50th state's entry to the union, when the mystique of the last pioneers evoked pristine wilderness for sportsmen and frontier prosperity for the enterprising soul. The cocktail itself is herbal and floral, a fine drink for the season of transition from flip-flops to cashmere. In choosing a gin, we suggest a classic London dry style so the juniper bite isn't lost in the mix. While Yellow Chartreuse can be as difficult to find as its more popular green sibling, you can also use the Italian herbal liqueur Strega to replicate the herbs and spices that make the monastic liqueur so potent — particularly the saffron that makes this drink really sing. Finally, orange bitters, a cocktail staple, can be found in various iterations; look for one that smells prominently of cardamom, with bitter orange as a backdrop. You'll get all the citrus oil you need from the twist.
Death in the Gulf Stream (Baker, Gentleman's Companion 1939)
2 oz genever
1 oz lime
1/2 oz simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Directions: Add ingredients to pilsner or collins glass, fill with crushed ice, add bitters and swizzle (a circular motion that quickly chills and dilutes the drink). Top with crushed ice and garnish with a lime wheel.
Baker, Gentleman's Companion 1939 - (Image by Etsy)
Genever, a Dutch liquor distilled from malt and flavored with juniper (among other botanicals), is the direct predecessor for what we now consider to be gin. English privateers and mercenaries fighting in the Federated Netherlands against Spain acquired a taste for the un-aged, flavored whisky, considering a dram before battle the source of the famous "Dutch Courage". After falling out of fashion outside the Netherlands in the 20th century, Lucas Bols and Old Duff have worked steadily to restore its profile in the cocktail world. Pair a nearly-overfull glass of genever with a nice crisp Pilsner for a koopstoot, a boilermaker with a Eurorail pass.
El Diablo (Trader Vic's, c. 1946)
2 oz blanco tequila
1/2 oz lime
1/2 oz crème de cassis
Directions: Shake, serve over ice in a collins glass, top with ginger beer, and garnish with a lime wedge.
Vintage Trader Vics Book of Food and Drink Hardcover 1946 - (Image by At Grandma's Table)
Tequila isn't particularly well represented in the classic cocktail canon, but this Trader Vic concoction combines baking spices (ginger), winter citrus (lime), and preserved fruit (cassis) in a very autumnal, holiday-friendly mix. Before pioneering the Polynesian fantastical aesthetic we call "tiki," Vic Bergeron experimented in his backyard with un-aged tequila and paired it with the newly available ginger beer that made the mule a staple in Los Angeles. In choosing a blanco tequila, look for something with no additives for a bright, vegetal expression of the agave — and make sure you use ginger beer, not ginger ale for maximum zip. Get a nice crème de cassis, as it also makes a great festive drink in Champagne or crémant as a Kir Royale.