In L.A. new cocktail menus, not changed leaves, signal the arrival of a new season. That’s how we roll. And by the looks of all the new fall cocktail menus now debuting, it’s time to fold up your beach towels. But the great thing is that even though the rest of the nation is seeking out comforting hot toddies and spiked coffees, L.A. bartenders can still showcase refreshing and bright drinks due to our extended summer-like weather.
This year’s menus feature a cornucopia of favorite fall flavors like pumpkin, apple, pecan, and baking spices but in tropical drinks and smashes. Instead of highlighting my picks, however, I decided to ask the drinkmakers themselves to choose the one cocktail off their new lists that best represents the new season to them. It was like pulling teeth making them only choose one cocktail each, but here are their fall favorites.
AOC’s head bartender Christiaan Rollich is especially proud of his Three Sisters cocktail. Naturally everything is made from scratch, as that’s Rollich’s M.O. The drink is a creamy mix of Flor de Cana 7-year rum, housemade pumpkin mix, lemon, and housemade pepita syrup. “The title is a reference to the Meso-American agricultural system which was based on squash, maize, and beans,” said Rollich.
For Brilliantshine’s Mrs. Edna Krabappel cocktail, mixmaster Julian Cox decided to spotlight apples. “Apples are a fall staple on cocktail menus every year. I love to add different kinds of apples together to get some more complexity from the fruit in the drink.” The cocktail has Auchentoshan Classic Single Malt, lemon, crabapple, Angostura bitters, and Red Delicious shrub.
Great news, everyone: Caña Rum Bar’s Pumpkin Colada is back! This blender cocktail is made with Knob Creek 100 proof rye, Lemon Hart 151, organic pumpkin puree, house coconut cream, and pumpkin butter. “The Pumpkin Colada has developed its own set of dedicated followers and I am one of them,” said General Manager Danielle Crouch. “I find it to be one of the most addictive things we serve and it is fitting that our quintessential fall cocktail is frozen since fall in L.A. veers toward summer weather for most everywhere else.”
Corner Door head bartender Beau du Bois can’t get his new Keytar Solo cocktail out of his head. “This drink has haunted my dreams since its recent completion. The flavor balances the bold aromatics of the rum with the festive dry fruit notes found in the Gran Classico and sweet vermouth. With just a touch of hickory smoke and pecan, this Negroni variation tastes like being home for the holidays.”
At Tal Ronnen’s vegan restaurant Crossroads, barman Jeremy Lake thinks his The Hard Times is indicative of “autumn in L.A.” with its dark spirits (bourbon and apple brandy), maple and seasonal spices, but on the rocks. The cocktail also features housemade Ras El Hanout. “I chose to use housemade Ras el Hanout because, that particular blend is traditionally made to showcase a spice trader’s premium spices. It’s his industry calling card. So, my thought is, if you’re not selling your own blend, then what’s the point, right?” he said.
Bartender Mike Lay of Faith & Flower, which is still celebrating last week’s accolade as one of Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants, is a big fan of the Whiskey Smash. So for the new season he did his own spin, the Orchard Smash. “Into this cocktail I throw in Baked Apple Bitters and some spicy ginger,” he explained. “The whiskey, Clyde May has a touch of apple essence in it. All these apple ginger flavors remind me of ingredients my family uses during the fall in our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It reminds me of the mulled wine and apple pie we’d always make when it gets to be this time of year.”
Gracias Madre bartender Jason Eisner describes his Last Caress creation as “pecan pie in a glass.” It’s a nutty, sweet mixture of smoked vanilla-infused tequila reposado, housemade candied pecan orgeat, maple, muddled cranberry, house aromatic bitters, and house pecan bitters. “It’s for all those expats living in L.A. who want to experience a taste of nostalgia from their youth,” he said.
Kyle Ackley of Harlowe claims his The Beets to the Rhyme drink is the perfect celebration of that shift from hot summer temperatures to the milder weather of fall/winter. “It has some refreshing qualities that are conducive to L.A. all year long, while capturing some lovely baking spices and Tiki notes that work well throughout fall,” he explained. The beet-focused cocktail is comprised of Capurro Pisco, Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal, Falernum No. 2, fresh beet puree, golden balsamic, lime, and Miracle Mile Bitters.
In celebration of its three recent L.A. Weekly Reader’s Choice wins, Harvard & Stone dubbed its milk punch riff, Hat Trick. The cocktail is a very autumny mix of Pierre Ferrand Ambre cognac, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, horchata, and nutmeg. “Although the October heat doesn’t feel like fall, this combination of cognac and chile topped with nutmeg does,” said bar manager Yael Vengroff.
Mohawk Bend bar director Lauren Reyes offers up the Total Betty, a cocktail of Tru Organic Gin, Grujer Glogg, Fruitlab Orange Liqueur, cranberry, lemon, and orange peel. “Made with all California spirits, the first sip is a rush of citrus thanks to the orange liqueur, lemon juice and orange peel,” she said. “Following the burst of California sunshine, the spicy cinnamon and clove Grujer Glogg complemented by housemade cranberry syrup hint delicately at the gloomy days and cool breezes to come… or not to come.”
If you’re dying for something that gives you the warm fuzzies like freshly baked cookies does, check out Short Order’s Snap Krackle Cold Brew made with Art in the Age Snap, Lemon Hart 151 rum, Strauss half and half, 24-hour Verve cold brew, and cinnamon. “It’s a boozy version of the spiced latte phenomenon that seems to sweep the country this time of year,” said Bar Program Director Courtney White.
“In the fall you always want a savory cocktail,” Sotto’s head bartender Brynn Smith said. So she did up a Fernet Branca and Mexican Coca-Cola egg cream, which is appropriately called The Real Thing. “Having Coke and Fernet is very common and I wanted to elevate it a little and make a fancy more delicious version.”
Warwick‘s Green Glove cocktail (Four Roses bourbon, fresh green apple juice, ginger, vanilla, and lime) is inspired by the warm apple-spiced drinks which usually pop up this time of year. “In fall, everyone is so pumped about pumpkins, but I really love what apples bring to the season,” bartender Jason Bran said. “Since it is a cold cocktail, however, the dimensional warmth is created by the spice and bourbon.”
Picca’s Matthew Wagner thinks you should welcome fall with the Risky Hibizness cocktail, “not just because of the cinnamon that’s grated on top but the hibiscus tea that we steep to a really beautiful crimson color. The color itself just speaks fall, and we’re still playing off the light pisco note which keeps it a refreshing fall perspective.”