Pumpkin Spice Martini? Fall drinks can be creative

Pumpkin Spice Martini?  Fall drinks can be creative

Apple pie! Pumpkin spice! Buttered rum! This is how we embrace autumn in our home bar.

Despite the drop in temperatures, autumn-flavored cocktails don’t have to taste deep, sweltering, or heavy. There are plenty of ways to use the ingredients we associate with the season to create cocktails that stay light and crisp, yet richly satisfying.

It is also an excellent opportunity to discover liqueurs that you are not normally attracted to. One of the fascinating aspects of cocktails is the unexpected ways in which liqueurs can be transformed depending on how and with what they are mixed.

These transformations give us the space to experiment and discover drinks we never knew we would enjoy. This is where “I don’t like rum” becomes “I like rum if…”

Think of the Pumpkin Spice Martini. Vodka can be harsh, but in this cocktail — flavored with apple cider, chocolate and orange bitters, and, of course, pumpkin pie spice — it’s as rich as it is sweet.

Or, if you don’t consider yourself a whiskey drinker, take a sip of the Spiced Apple Cocktail, which flavors naturally sweet bourbon with crushed fresh apple. It also delivers a push-and-pull of sweet vanilla and a hint of spice thanks to two liqueurs – one sweet, the other spicy.

And rum takes a luscious turn in a buttered rum that defies tradition. Most versions of this cocktail are served warm, a pool of melted butter that melds with the liqueur. But here it’s turned into a chilled drink using a simple and quick technique that adds the flavor – but not the fat – of the butter, along with a hint of nutmeg and hard apple cider.


This is your pumpkin spice latte of cocktails. A quick reduction of apple cider provides sweet and spicy notes that go perfectly with pumpkin pie spice. Of course, sweet bourbon is excellent in this cocktail, but vodka is also an excellent choice. Keep a close eye on the cider during the last five minutes of simmering. Because it reduces to a syrup, it can quickly go from thick and delicious to burnt and smoking. The combination of chocolate and orange bitters is great, but if you only have one, the cocktail will still be delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Martinic

  • 1 cup apple cider (see note)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 ounces vodka or bourbon
  • Splash of chocolate bitters
  • Splash of orange bitters
  • 6 to 10 grains kosher salt
  • ice cubes

In a saucepan over low heat, simmer the cider and pumpkin pie spice for 10 to 15 minutes until thick and reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let cool completely, then pour into a cocktail shaker (use a silicone spatula to scrape the pan to get all the syrup). Add the bourbon or vodka, chocolate bitters, orange bitters, and salt. Shake with ice cubes. Sieve into a compartment.

Makes 1 drink.

Editor’s Note: Can replace 2 tablespoons of cooked cider/cider syrup from last week’s Front Burner and skip the simmer step; just add the pumpkin pie spice with the syrup to the cocktail shaker.

Spiced Apple Cocktail (Callum Duffy via AP) Slices of fresh apple add both flavorful juice and smooth sweetness to this bourbon-based cocktail. Use apples with a high acidity and a lot of flavor, such as Honeycrisp or Macoun. Licor 43 is a Spanish liqueur with vanilla notes, while Ancho Reyes has mild chili heat. The combination makes for a sweet, savory and slightly spicy cocktail.

Spiced Apple Cocktail

  • 2 large, thin slices of fresh apple
  • ¼ ounce agave or simple syrup
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • ¼ us Licor 43
  • ¼ ounce Ancho Reyes chili liqueur
  • Splash of orange bitters
  • 6 to 10 grains kosher salt
  • Ice, cubes and crushed

Aggressively mix the apple slices and syrup in a stirring glass. Add the bourbon, Licor 43, Ancho Reyes, bitters, and salt. Stir with ice cubes and double sieve into a coupe half filled with crushed ice.

Makes 1 drink.

photo Buttered Rum (Callum Duffy via AP) Traditionally, a Buttered Rum is a warm cocktail in which a knob of butter is melted into a heated mix of rum, apple cider, and spices. To make this delicious flavor combination appealing all year round, I borrowed a technique often used with whiskey: fat washing. This includes adding a flavorful fatty ingredient, such as bacon or butter, to a liqueur. After a short infusion, it is cooled so that the fat can be easily sieved out, leaving only the taste behind. In this case, the result is buttery rum, the perfect foil for clear hard apple cider.

Buttered Rum

  • 2 ounces of old rum
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ¼ our orange liqueur
  • ¼ ounce agave or simple syrup
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • ice cubes
  • 1 ounce hard apple cider

In a small glass, whisk together the rum and butter. Let stand for 5 minutes and then place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Line a mesh cocktail strainer with cheesecloth and pour the butter-rum mixture through it and into a cocktail shaker. Discard the butter. Add the orange liqueur, syrup and nutmeg and shake with ice cubes. Strain into a compartment and top with the cider.

Makes 1 drink.

JM Hirsch is the author of the new book “Pour Me Another: 250 Ways to Find Your Favorite Drink” (Voracious) and editor-in-chief of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. He is the former Food Editor for The Associated Press.