Farm-to-table cooking, has been a movement in cuisine since the 1960s, and slowly but surely the cocktail community has been catching up. As the popularity of craft drinks has risen, so has the desire to elevate them. Enter the use of seasonal fall produce and garden-to-glass cocktails.
Honestly though, pumpkin spice lattes and apple cakes aside, what better way to celebrate the fall season than sourcing seasonal produce for all your boozy beverages? And, as it happens, apples, cranberries, pomegranates, etc. actually make for great drink flavorings. And, moreover, creating a craft cocktail is much easier than it seems.
First and foremost, consider the state of your fruits and veggies before shaking things up. According to Leah Moss, expert mixologist at speakeasy-inspired The Up & Up in New York City, when it comes to choosing fresh produce for your cocktail, it might surprise you that you don’t want your fruit to be as fresh or perfect as you would if you were eating it. “The reason for that is that as fruit ripens, the sugars develop, she says to TZR. “So, while the texture might not be ideal for like munching on, those sugars are going to lend themselves to a cocktail better. It's always nice to be able to buy fruit to enjoy. But, when it's a little bit past where you want to eat it, that's when you want to make it into a cocktail.”
Moss also recommends choosing fruits that will yield the most flavor for your cocktail. “You want something with a high sugar and water content,” she advises. “Because those sugars are going to be the easiest to transfer flavor wise.”
Ahead, the pro gives more direction on how to bring the best of fall into your cocktail glass, as well as the fall garden-to-glass recipes she swears by.
Best Fall Flavors For Cocktails
While pumpkin spice may dominate coffee and sweet treats in the colder months, fall has its own unique craft cocktail trends — and some of the ideal fall fruits for beverages are the opposite of what you’d expect. “In the fall we're going to start moving towards darker spirits in general, more towards darker rums [and] brandy,” says Moss. “We're going to move away from those summer fruits and towards things that we can source more throughout the winter. More pineapple and mango stuff.” While those fruits are tropical and may have more of a summery connotation, Moss explains many varieties actually ripen in the fall and winter.
And other ideal fall cocktail-making fruits are a bit more obvious. “I really love using fresh cranberries,” Moss shares of the Thanksgiving staple. “Apples go really well with whiskey and brandy, [and they] pair with gin. I really love a layered apple brandy with a really nice, bright apple flavor that pairs well with an apple cider or with even fresh apples.”
If someone is totally looking to change the vibe of their drink, using fall vegetables is also an option. Carrots and bell peppers are two of the easier vegetables to work with for cocktails, but they do require a touch of prep work for the at-home mixologist. First, the vegetables need to be juiced before they can be experimented with.
Moss has her own favorite method for adding vegetables to her cocktails: acid adjusting. “That's a really easy thing to do, even though it sounds super fancy,” she encourages. To acid adjust vegetables for a cocktail, you need citric acid. (The white cooking powder is readily available online or at most grocery stores.) “Add [citric acid] to the juice of say a bell pepper or a carrot until it reaches the sourness of a lemon juice. And then you can use it instead of lemon juice in whatever you're making, but it's [also] going to add the flavor of that vegetable to it.”
While most people think about fruits and vegetables when they think about a garden, Moss reminds cocktail lovers not to forget about herb gardens. She likes to use everything in her herb garden before the frost kills it. “You should never underestimate the value of aroma in your cocktail because you taste it,” she says. “So, whatever you put on top of [your drink], you're going to be smelling [that] as you drink; it is going to add to your experience. So, grating on a little nutmeg, a little cinnamon, hitting a piece of basil on top, those are all going to add to your experience while you're drinking that cocktail.”
Ready to whip out your shaker? Ahead, Moss’ four recipes for her favorite garden-to-glass cocktails for fall. Hit that farmers market instead of hitting the bar and create a festive drink at home.
Best Fresh Fall Cocktails
This is a light, easy taste of fall, perfect for the holidays and cooler nights ahead, or those late afternoons in the garden.
- 2 oz cranberry gin, which can be made with 1/2 cup fresh cranberries and a quart of gin in a Mason jar. (Use a London Dry or a Plymouth; Moss recommends Tanqueray, Plymouth, or Sip Smith). Put it in the fridge for two to three days and then strain.)
- 1 oz apple lemon juice, which can be made by chopping an apple and covering it in lemon juice; then, muddle the apple thoroughly. Let it sit for 10 minutes and strain.
- 1 oz apple cider
Combine the ingredients in a shaker, pour into a coup glass, and top with a couple scrapes of fresh grated cinnamon.
Tepache is fun because it’s so easy to customize and will really wow your friends. It’s great on its own and nice with a splash of soda if you don’t want to go hard on the booze.
- One whole pineapple, chopped into cubes. (You don’t need to use much of the fruit inside, but the rind has the yeast so make sure you use all of that.)
- 1 1/2 cups of white or brown sugar
- A sprinkle of your fall spices of choice: cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, allspice, turmeric, or cloves
- Any additional fruits you enjoy or have on hand: a pear, apple, or apricot. Chop them up and throw them in. Also delicious, a couple chunks of ginger, which is also in season.
Toss all your ingredients into a container, and pour in enough water to just cover everything, with no bits sticking out. Moss likes to use a pot with a lid, but you can use anything that does not close tightly. Important pro tip: Do not fill your container more than 2/3 of the way. If you don’t have a good container, try a large jar and rubber band a dishtowel over the top.
Put the container in a dark spot at room temp, do not refrigerate. It will start to ferment within 24 hours. If and when you see a white foam in that first day, give it a stir and re-cover.
After another day or two, but no more than 48 hours, strain the liquid out. Discard the solids. It should be producing a couple of bubbles and taste delicious. Store the drink in the fridge and it will last a couple weeks after straining.
Spicy Mango Madness
This is a great tropical drink to deliver warm-weather vibes in the fall. A little heat goes a long way with this fruity and spicy concoction.
- 2 oz. spicy mango tequila, which can be made by putting diced mango in a mason jar, then filling it with with tequila. (Use a 100% agave, blanco if you’re making it spicy, or a reposado if you want to skip the spice.) Put the jar in the fridge for three days. On the third day, chop up a jalapeño and toss it in. Time it for two minutes and taste the tequila to ensure your liking. Strain when it’s as spicy as you want.
- 1 oz. simple syrup or mango syrup (mango syrup will give you a fruitier cocktail). Make a simple by mixing 16 oz of white sugar and 16 oz of water in a small saucepan under medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. For the mango version, blend your cooled simple with the fruit of a ripe mango (without the pit or skin). Immersion blending works best for Moss. Blend until it’s nice and smooth.
- 1 oz. lime juice
Combine in a shaker and strain over ice. Garnish with fresh basil.
This is great because it’s so adaptable and quick to make. You don’t have to do much planning and can work with whatever you have.
- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 2 oz dry whiskey; Moss suggests Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon or Rye
- Your favorite fall fruits you have on hand, from a quarter lemon and some pomegranate to berries or oranges.
Throw your fruit into a glass with the simple syrup, and muddle. If you don’t have a muddler, use a pestle or a potato masher in a pinch. Add the whiskey and let it sit for a minute or two before you strain it over ice. Garnish with fresh mint or some leftover fruit.