By Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef
I have been asked time and again to submit recipes for magazines and other articles for the Autumn/Winter Season utilizing pumpkins and cranberries, but these seasons are so much more than pumpkins and cranberries. Granted cranberries are amazing to work with as you can make them into a compote or a shrub, but I enjoy focusing on other seasonal ingredients and having them be the star of seasonal cocktails that I create.
Some of my favorite seasonal ingredients to utilize are apples, beets, celery, fennel, concord grapes, figs, pears, pomegranates, guava, kumquats, and kiwis. Also some great herbs that can pair well with these fruits and vegetables and that I enjoy mixing with are cilantro, thyme, parsley, sage, and mint. Now combining some of these ingredients is where the magic is. For example: concord grapes with vanilla, apples and celery, beets and ginger, figs and grilled grapefruit, pears and sage, pomegranates and blood orange, and kiwi with thyme, or kumquat and mint. These combinations blend very well with dark spirits such as brandy, bourbon, tequila reposado or anejo, aged rum, scotch or you could always go with crowd faves such as vodka, white rum, or tequila blanco.
One of my favorite things to also do in the colder months with cocktails is to pair cocktails with tapas styled food. The fun sharing portions of tapas sets a great mood when paired with cocktails, becoming an instant party. For example, at a tasting I did at the James Beard House in which we served small tapas sized portions, I paired a braised short rib with guava chipotle barbecue sauce with a cocktail with rum, kumquats and basil. The fattiness of the meat with the refreshing, minty, citrusy mix in the cocktail blended great as it cut through the heat and sweetness of the sauce.
Another pairing I enjoy in the fall is cocktails with cheese & charcuterie plates. Cocktails can be such a creative way of pairing a variety of cheeses and meets to again become a social gathering. Cocktails such as brandy with concord grapes and vanilla go excellent with creamy cheeses, while cocktails such as the fig, grilled grapefruit and bourbon pair excellently with dry aged cheese.
Your imagination is your only limitation when combining seasonal ingredients and quality spirits.
One of my favorite winter cocktails is: (click the link for the full recipe)
2 oz Hudson Valley Baby Bourbon
1/4 oz Xtabentun liqueur (
1/2 oz grilled empire apple juice
1/2 oz Dainzu Elderflower & Ginger Syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
3 droppers of Junior Merino Armagnac and Apple Bitters