If you’re like me, you’re loving the change of seasons. With it comes cooler weather, beautiful fall foliage, and an array of fall cocktails in new menus being rolled out across the metro. While pumpkin spice dominates the culinary scene from coffee to cereal and appetizers to desserts, many other ingredients and flavors are bringing their signature autumn touch to area cocktail offerings. I’ve gathered a few of these exciting cocktail creations along with thoughts from some of Kansas City’s most gifted mixologists on this year’s batch of potent potables and what they enjoy about the season and the flavors that come with it.
I first spoke with Jill Cockson, co-owner and bartender at Swordfish Tom’s, one of Kansas City’s coolest speakeasies, and Drastic Measures, which opened in the summer in Shawnee, KS as a self-described “neighborhood cocktail refuge offering drinks in a comfortable and lively atmosphere.” Cockson says she loves the cooler climes when it comes to crafting a cocktail menu. “I prefer fall and winter menus as they allow for some bolder flavors and base spirits. The addition of hot drinks gives me even more options,” Cockson shared.
- 1.5 Apple Puree
- 1.5 Titos Vodka
- .5 Fresh lemon
- Ginger Beer
Photo courtesy of American Reserve
Cockson loves pumpkin flavoring but has been unable to capture it from scratch. “I have tried and tried to come up with a pumpkin syrup made in house but have never had any luck extracting what I consider to be an authentic pumpkin flavor,” Cockson shared. “What I do make around the holidays are classic Tom and Jerry’s. It’s a cocktail made with a homemade eggnog batter of sorts. It is served hot with a base of rum and cognac with a ground nutmeg topping.” Cockson says the T & J drinks like a hot crème brulee! Now that says Fall to me. I can’t wait to try one. Here’s the recipe.
The Tom & Jerry consists of 1 oz Aged Rum, 1 oz Cognac, 2 tbsp homemade Tom & Jerry batter (egg whites, egg yolks, sugar, powdered milk, vanilla). Fill with hot water and sprinkle freshly ground nutmeg on top.
By the way, Cockson points out that the Tom & Jerry is only available from Thanksgiving till Christmas and only at Swordfish Tom’s!
- Hennessey vs Cognac
- Sazerac Rye Whiskey
- Dolin Carpano Blend
Photo courtesy of Amercian Reserve
Nick Boden knows a thing or two about cocktails, Fall and otherwise. Plying his trade at the newly re-branded American Reserve restaurant in the Ambassador Hotel in downtown KC, Boden was a recent nominee for best bartender by a local publication. I’ve known Boden for a number of years. He is never short on words, or cocktail inspiration. When I visited, he was in the middle of refining a new Fall cocktail menu, which had some exciting creations. Unfortunately, Boden didn’t have all the ingredients needed for me to try them, but they sounded fantastic and I shall return! “The first thing I think of is Pumpkin Spice, but when you say that, people think Pumpkin. That’s not what’s in it, though. It’s baking spices: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. Those are the kinds of ingredients I like to play with in the Fall and Winter,” Boden said.
Boden went on to describe some of the new creations like their take on an Old Fashioned featuring smoked sweet potato, pecan-infused whiskey, cinnamon-infused maple syrup, and black walnut bitters. He had me at Old Fashioned, but that does sound amazing! Then, there’s the creation of Boden’s partner behind the bar, Jake Phillips, who, as a huge fan of Harry Potter, researched and created a cocktail based on the Butterbeer featured in the novels. “He worked on this for weeks and came up with something truly delicious. It features rum, crème de banana that we’ll be making from scratch, crème soda from Polly’s Pop in Independence, and, of all things, Miller Lite. It sounds weird, but out of all the beers he tried, that worked the best,” Boden told me. The new cocktail menu rolled out at the end of September.
- 1.5 Sons of Erin
- .75 Honey
- Lemon Peel
- Boiling Water to the Top
Photo courtesy of American Reserve
Out in Johnson County, in Leawood’s Park Place, Pig & Finch was also polishing up a new Fall/Winter cocktail list when I checked in. General Manager Seth Welch is a beer expert, but he knows his way around a cocktail menu as well. Welch says he loves this time of year. It’s always fun transitioning from Spring cocktails to Fall cocktails. Spring cocktails are great, but there’s an expectation to be “light and refreshing” during the hot months. Once the temperature drops and the word pumpkin starts popping up everywhere, you know it’s time for some bigger bolder cocktails,” Welch stated.
Like Boden, Welch was working on a slew of new fall cocktails when I reached out. He was particularly excited about one that provides a twist on an old classic. “The Maple Brandy Old Fashioned consists of VSOP Brandy infused with green apples, organic maple syrup, and a blend of bitters. We didn’t reinvent the wheel with this one, but we did put some fancy new tires on it,” Welch shared. Welsh says Brandy Old Fashioneds are a forgotten treasure, and that Pig & Finch’s is perfect for fall.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to try some fall adult beverages! Cheers!
Apple Maple Old Fashioned
- Apple Infused VSOP Brandy (infused in-house)
- Maple Syrup
- Proprietary Bitter Blend