The 9 Finest Whiskey Cocktails to Drink This Fall
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Fall is the ideal time for whiskey. Yes, we realize we’ve said that about summer and winter as well, but we really mean it this time.
This season is all about transitions, and not necessarily the happy kind. The days are shorter. The nights are colder. The leaves fall off the trees, which reminds you of the inevitability of death. It’s all about saying goodbye to another year, and it’s enough to make you want a drink.
But what to reach for? A great fall cocktail bridges the gap between the happy-go-lucky brightness of summer drinks and the dark intensity of winter ones, which happens to be a task for which whiskey is uniquely suited. The spirit’s fiery heart and textured oak is perfectly at home in the cold, while the cocktail treatment stops it from getting too broody. A little fruit, some citrus, or spice can create drinks that are simultaneously bright and deep, engaging and resonant, and help you welcome the season.
Whether it’s a bright drink with a dark twist like the Lion’s Tail, or a darker drink with some bright charm like the Monte Carlo, here are nine best whiskey cocktails to help you with the time change.
This classic from 1937 is the perfect autumnal whiskey drink, with half its soul in summer and the other half in winter. On one hand, it’s made refreshing with lime juice, and is totally suited for backyard barbeque sipping. On the other, the recipe incorporates a small but significant amount of allspice liqueur, which gives it an avalanche of textured spice that finds it a home by the fire. It’s a transitional drink, we write, “like if a Jamaican jerk chicken and a Whiskey Sour couldn’t keep their hands off each other.” Entertain the cocktail’s many mysteries here, or just skip right to the important part with the recipe below.
-2 oz. bourbon
-0.75 oz. lime juice
-0.5 oz. allspice dram (sometimes called “pimento dram”)
-0.25 oz. simple syrup
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake hard for eight to 10 seconds. Strain off the ice into a cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with a lime peel, a lime wheel, or nothing at all.
“Manhattan (the place) may be inimitable,” we write, “but Manhattan (the cocktail) gets imitated all the time.” This is where the Greenpoint comes from, an excellent neo-classic riff on a Manhattan that was invented at Milk & Honey in New York, and comprises the classic build of Manhattan—rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters—into which has been spliced the inimitable French herbal liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse. The Chartreuse charms the cocktail, giving it a bright herbaceousness and seductive spice, “playful and fascinating,” we say, “the liqueur’s full battery of gifts echoing into a long, ambrosial finish.” Find out why we feel the Greenpoint was inevitable here, or track down a bottle of Chartreuse to make the below recipe for yourself.
-2 oz. rye whiskey
-0.5 oz. sweet vermouth
-0.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
-1 dash Angostura Bitters
-1 dash orange bitters
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for about 10 to 15 seconds (if using small ice) or about 20 to 30 seconds (if using big ice). Take heed: This drink benefits from a slight bit more dilution than a standard Manhattan. Once perfect, strain off the ice into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon peel.
Mulled Apple Cider
The Hot Mulled Apple Cider cocktail is the most labor-intensive on this list, but even in this august company, it might be the tastiest. It’s also pure fall: Apples are at their very best right now, and we insist that juicing them, mulling the juice with spices and spiking it with Irish whiskey “warms you from the inside in a way you otherwise can only get by watching videos of soldiers coming home to their dogs.” It seems like everyone on the internet has a Mulled Apple Cider recipe and a lot of them get the main points wrong, so check out the instructions here, and then do yourself a favor and make it.
Designed for an 8 oz. mug—scale up as needed
-1.5 oz. Irish whiskey
-4.5 oz. hot mulled apple cider
-1 oz. unsweetened half-whipped heavy cream
Pour whiskey and cider into a pre-heated mug, leaving a little less than one inch of room from the rim. Gently pour half-whipped unsweetened cream so it layers on top. Garnish with a pinch of ground cinnamon.
“Some products—not many, but some—just work in cocktails,” we write of Bénédictine, the herbal French liqueur that gives the Monte Carlo its warming fall spice. The Monte Carlo is among the simplest drinks on this list or any other, but the complexity and charm of the Bénédictine, replete with honey, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron and so much else, makes it a crowd pleaser. That the liqueur sports a 513 year “history” that’s almost certainly made-up is immaterial. Find out what other spirits you can make this with here, or just sink into some tasty rye whiskey with the recipe below.
-2.25 oz. rye whiskey
-0.5 oz. Bénédictine
-2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir on ice in a rocks glass, the bigger the ice, the better. Garnish with a lemon peel. Sip slowly, and enjoy.
Blood & Sand
These days, if you hear about this scotch classic at all, you probably hear it maligned. It’s the cocktail bartenders love to hate: “Too sweet!” you’ll hear, as if that’s some kind of insurmountable problem. But reduce the quantity of the sweet ingredients and add a splash of citrus, and it becomes suddenly clear why the Blood and Sand has lasted in the canon for almost 100 years. To avoid it is really to miss out: “The Blood and Sand is one of those cocktails that synergizes magically into something completely new” we say, with flavors that “lock together so tightly you can’t find the seams.” Find out why all of those bartenders are wrong here, or just see for yourself with the recipe below:
-1 oz. scotch
-0.75 oz. sweet vermouth
-0.75 oz. Cherry Heering
-1 oz. fresh orange juice
-.25 tsp. lemon juice
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake hard for 12 to 15 seconds. Strain up into a coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel.
Morning Glory Fizz
We acknowledge, right at the top: “There is nothing—nothing whatsoever—about scotch whiskey that suggests it might be nice to have for breakfast.” Nonetheless, this excellent and unlikely cocktail was, astoundingly and as the name suggests, conceived to be enjoyed in the morning. It does so by bridging the gap between the dark intensity of scotch whiskey and the breezy vibes of a bubbly cooler, which also makes it perfect for the ambivalence of fall, for when it’s too warm for a jacket but too cold without one. Find out whether this “breakfast” business is merely because it calls for a fresh egg here, or just make one according to the recipe below.
-2 oz. scotch
-0.75 oz. lemon juice
-0.75 oz. simple syrup
-1 egg white
-2-3 dashes (about a teaspoon) of absinthe
-About 3 oz. of soda water
Add all ingredients, except for the soda water, to a cocktail tin. Seal tightly and “dry” shake, without ice, for five to eight seconds, in order to whip the egg white. Add ice, reseal and shake well for 10 to 12 seconds. Strain off the ice into a tall glass without ice, add the soda, garnish with a lemon peel or orange peel.
American Trilogy Cocktail
In hindsight, the American Trilogy is so obvious, it’s as if you asked for an fall-themed Old Fashioned from ChatGPT. When it was invented, though, in or around 2006 in New York, it was a revolution—at the time, no one was making split-based cocktails, so when Richard Boccato and Michael McIlroy combined apple brandy and rye whiskey into a single cocktail, it spread around the world. It’s not just novelty: “rye and apple brandy,” we insist, “are fast friends, the apple brandy adding an autumnal echo to rye’s grainy persistence.” Make one for yourself below, or find out how apple brandy became the first truly American spirit here.
-1 oz. rye whiskey
-1 oz. apple brandy
-0.25 oz. demerara syrup
-2 dashes orange bitters
Add all ingredients to a rocks glass with the biggest piece (or pieces) of ice you have. Stir five to 10 seconds (if you have small ice) or 15 to 20 seconds (if you have big ice). Garnish with an orange peel. Enjoy.
“Of the 10 million or so variations on the Negroni,” we assert that the Boulevardier “is probably the oldest and almost certainly the best.” A mixture of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth, the Boulevardier replaces the prickly gin with the broad oaky shoulders of a good American whiskey, bringing a welcome touch of vanilla to Campari’s orange. It’s branchy herbaceousness, ample fruit, and bittersweet character fit into the season perfectly, equally at home in both warm and cold weather, and either before or after dinner, Discover the story of its extraordinary inventor here, or perhaps first, make yourself one with the recipe below.
-1.5 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
-1 oz. Campari
-1 oz. sweet vermouth
Add ingredients to a rocks glass with ice. Stir for 10 seconds if the ice is small, 30 seconds if one big cube and somewhere between if ice is somewhere between. Garnish with an orange peel.
In 2004 in San Francisco, everyone who was doing “mixology” was leaning into the region’s year-round availability of fresh produce, so the city’s cocktails were full of things like satsuma mandarins and fennel bulbs and garnished with fistfuls of lemon balm. Jon Santer, with his Revolver, went a different way. This dark and broody Old Fashioned variation is, we claim, “among the best cocktails in the neo-classic pantheon,” and comes with a bonus kick of caffeine to help with the shift back to standard time, for when you go to Happy Hour and it’s already pitch black outside. Try one with the recipe below, or find out how Santer included pyrotechnics in his original recipe here.
-2 oz. bourbon
-0.5 oz. coffee liqueur
-2 dashes orange bitters
Add all ingredients to a rocks glass over a large piece of ice and stir. Garnish with a flamed orange peel or a regular orange peel.
Source: Robb Report