5 Autumn Drinks to Add to Your Menu

As of September 23, the season finally changed. Here in Chicago, we started seeing glimmerings of cooler weather almost a month ago, when temperatures started dropping into the 40s at night. Hopefully your weather is better than ours here in Chicago (really, I hope it is—the weather here is just dreadful) but at this point, I’m sure your restaurant has stopped serving gazpacho and your pina colada sales have dropped off. It’s time, so here are five delicious autumn drinks you should add to your menu.

Pumpkin Old Fashioned

Nothing says autumn like pumpkins. Pumpkins are all over the menu at restaurants and coffee shops: Dunkin’ Donuts has a whole selection of pumpkin-flavored offerings, and Starbucks has now turned their essential autumn latte into its own acronym (their signs this year advertise the PSL, I suppose next year it will be the #PSL). This pumpkin drink for your menu, though rich, serves as the perfect finish to a delicious autumn meal. This recipe was created by Sahar Siddiqi, and was featured on Saveur’s website.

2 tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 ½ oz. bourbon
1 oz. maple syrup
½ oz. Grand Marnier
dash of orange bitters
orange peel twist, for garnish

 Combine everything but the orange peel in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into an once-filled glass. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain, so that you keep stray pumpkin bits out. Garnish with the orange twist. By the way, you could also create your own pumpkin spice latte, spiked with bourbon, or you could create a honey bourbon chai latte to get in on the cool weather drink craze.

Smokin’ Apple

With this drink’s apple cider, whisky, fig, and sage leaf blend, just reading the recipe makes me want to layer on another sweater and crunch through some leaf piles. Your guests will be hard pressed to resist this drink, so feature it prominently on your advertisements, menus, or table tents. This recipe is courtesy of Drew Zechman of Boom, and was featured on Cosmopolitan’s website.

2 oz. mid-quality whisky
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 oz. apple cider (don’t skimp on this, get the good stuff, and try mulling it yourself using the recipe below)
2 fresh figs
2-3 sage leaves
1/2 oz. simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, but reserve one sage leaf for the garnish. Shake mixture thoroughly, then strain into a glass. Garnish with the remaining sage leaf.

Autumn Bellini

Bellinis are so spring and summer, who wants them in the fall? Well, until now it was only the die-hard peach fan who would seek out a cool-weather bellini, but with this great twist featuring fig vodka, who can resist? This recipe is courtesy of New York’s Caffè Storico, and was featured on Saveur’s website.

2½ oz. mulled cider syrup (see directions below)
1 oz. figenza (Mediterranean fig vodka)
12 oz. chilled prosecco

Combine cider and vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, then shake and strain into two champagne glasses. Top with prosecco. Note that this recipe makes two drinks.

To make the mulled cider syrup, bring ½ cup apple cider to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until cider is reduced by half, which will take about 2 minutes. Add 2 cloves, 1 whole green cardamom pod, 1 whole star anise, 1 stick cinnamon, and ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and strain. Yes, this is extra work, but for the figenza, it’s worth it.

The Afterlife

This Halloween-friendly blend is guaranteed to provide a unique flavor for your guests’ palates. The sweet and spicy flavor of the syrup is smoothed out by a high-quality tequila, but spiking the recipe with wormwood makes it not only an insiduously potent drink, it also adds a touch of tongue-tickling bitterness. This recipe is courtesy of Jorge Guzman of Ofrenda, and was featured on Cosmopolitan’s website.

1 1/2 oz. good tequila
1/2 oz. Frangelico
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. chile piquin-cinnamon syrup
2 dashes wormwood bitters
Lemon twist for garnish

Shake all ingredients (except the lemon twist) together. Strain over ice into a glass, then garnish with the reserved lemon twist.

Hot Coconut Milk Punch

In fall, the smooth, silky, creamy texture of coconut seems like a miracle against the harsh, brittle weather, so I had to include this sinful, eggnog-like drink. Since this one is so thick and rich, it will probably be best after the leaves drop, but it is sure to be a star on your menu. This recipe is an adaptation of mixologist and writer Toby Cecchini’s recipe. It was featured on Saveur’s website.

¾ cup milk
¼ cup coconut milk
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 oz. bourbon, such as Pritchard’s
Grated nutmeg, to garnish

Heat both milks, sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan over high heat.  Cook, whisking, until frothy and steaming. Don’t boil, because that will destroy the milk. Stir in bourbon, then pour into a coffee mug and garnish with nutmeg.

In conclusion

Whether you add some, none, or all of these drinks to your menu, you should make sure add novelty and then advertise the fact that you have a new selection of autumn drinks. ’Tis the season to cozy down with a comforting beverage, but ’tis also the season to go home early to avoid getting caught in the fast-falling darkness and the crisp weather. Unless your neighborhood and city know that your restaurant or bar is the place to go for great drinks, they won’t stop in. Instead, they’ll just hurry by with their faces hidden behind warm hats and scarves, and coat collars turned up against the gale-force wind.

Or maybe that’s just what they do in Chicago’s weather.

Photo licensed by Cathy Danh