A Texas winter might not be much colder than a Texas summer, but area bars are still getting in the spirit of the season by offering cocktails full of the ingredients so desired this time of year, from whiskey and aged rum to food flavors like apple, pumpkin and even sweet potato.
Here are a handful of cocktails from six Austin bars that will get you in the mood for our coming cold front.
Punch Bowl Social: Pumpkin Spice Libation
Pumpkin might seem like a tired ingredient in seasonal dishes and drinks, but the chef at Punch Bowl Social in the Domain has revived the fall treat by juicing real pumpkins for this bourbon punch, rather than by having the bartenders add pumpkin spice. The result is that pumpkin has returned to its roots, imbuing the punch with a vegetal flavor, surprisingly low on sweetness, that pairs easily with the remaining ingredients of apple and lemon juices, citrus syrup and allspice dram.
Jacoby’s Restaurant & Mercantile: Sweet & Toasty
Jacoby’s head bartender Mike Paulus was able to relive his childhood Thanksgivings growing up in the mountains of Washington State with this bourbon drink featuring Cognac, sweet potato, molasses, smoke and toasted marshmallow.
“My sister always cooked up this dish with sweet potatoes, molasses, and toasted marshmallows, a flavor that will always remind me of home,” he said. “With help from chefs Austin Ewald and Albert Gonzalez, we were able to recreate a truly reminiscent experience.”
Vox Table: Bear Rug Cuddles by the Fire
The restaurant that likes evocative cocktail names — Tom Selleck’s Mustache, with rye whiskey, might be my favorite — keeps the creative christening coming with this riff on the sherry cobbler, a classic cocktail made with the Spanish sherry, muddled citrus, sugar and lots of crushed ice. Head bartender J.R. Mocanu, like Paulus, was able to play around in the kitchen and came up with an autumnal version: apple brandy, cherry-spiced Pinot Noir and Bittercube Trinity bitters. Taste it and it’ll feel as cozy and comforting as bear rug cuddles by the fire.
The Hightower: Gold Coast
Although it might not have felt like fall, the technical change of the season marked a big spike in bourbon cocktail sales at the East Seventh Street restaurant. The obvious result? A couple of additional whiskey drinks were added to the menu, including this one, to answer the demand. The Gold Coast has bourbon, Hoodoo chicory liqueur, curaçao and house cocoa bitters — a winningly boozy combination for lovers of chocolate and coffee. Let the stirred potion sit for a bit and those flavors, particularly the dark roasted notes of chicory, shine through.
Barley Swine: Apples to Ashes
Another Austin bartender has crafted a drink based off her memories of somewhere else: living in Boston, where she and her friends in the bar industry would treat a clarified milk punch as “a welcoming aperitif.” But Barley Swine’s Kasey Pierce — used to adapting to the seasons at the venerated farm-to-table restaurant — brought “a whole new dimension to the experience. The Apples to Ashes begins with smoked apples infused in El Dorado 12-year rum, a black tea concentrate, baking spice syrup and lemon juice. Then, boiling milk is added to clarify the cocktail as a whole.” Drinking it, she says, promises a unique experience.
Freedmen’s: Black Manhattan
The recent addition of barrel-aged cocktails to the bar menu at the barbecue spot turned out to be timely. Though the drinks will be available for ordering year-round, the Black Manhattan in particular will feel suited for this time of year. The warming blend of Angel’s Envy Rye, Nonino Italian grappa and fresh orange is full of citrus and spice and serves as the perfect accompaniment to brisket and the cold blast of winter we’re still hopeful will come.