Here’s What You Need to Stock Your Bar for Fall
White Claw season has, so sadly, come to an end. Let’s have a moment of silence.
Okay that’s enough silence. Yes, the time for porch pounders has come and gone. No more of that ubiquitous spiked seltzer, or palomas, mojitos, crisp white wines, or even…margaritas. I’m sorry, I know it’s hard to hear. But don’t get mad at me, I don’t make the rules. But that all means it’s time for bourbon and spiced rum and mulled wine, so hello let’s celebrate that dot gif.
Our favorite place to drink is at home, because we make very good cocktails, it’s cost efficient, and the best way to entice friends to come to your home if you lack a good personality is the promise of an expertly executed sazerac. So, it’s that time of year to start getting the bar stocked for making all of the best cocktails to help welcome the cold weather, the nights that start at 5 p.m., the family from out of town that visits, and the sweatshirts that cover the whiskey chub.
Below you’ll find what we consider the three major categories of you autumnal bar cart: whiskey, rum, and liqueurs. Under each category we try to dissect why they’re perfect for fall, which brands we recommend, and how to best use them.
A no brainer. Whiskey is fall’s favorite liquid, and I didn’t even make that up, it’s just a fact of nature. And it’s not just for the hipsters with the tight pants and the little curly mustaches and condescending attitudes. If you’re into Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, Sazeracs, or any of our original whiskey recipes, be sure to stock your bar with the whiskey of your choice. Don’t know your whiskey of choice? Here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular kinds.
Bourbon—America’s go go juice. Bourbons can vary widely in flavor but generally have a sweet taste and a thick, smooth mouthfeel. You can steal that line for your dating profile, fine. Notes of maple, vanilla, oak—pairs well with cinnamon, orange, and coffee. Enjoy it on the rocks or in an Old Fashioned. Our recommendation: Four Roses Yellow Label ($18)
Scotch—not always but usually has a prominent smokey flavor that can be really delicious. Most scotch aficionados will tell you to drink your Scotch neat or on the rocks, and if you snag a particularly good or expensive brand, I’d tend to agree. But for cheaper or blended Scotches, don’t overlook a classic cocktail like a Blood and Sand or a Rob Roy. Our recommendation: The Famous Grouse ($20)
Rye—Bourbon’s little brother as far as the U.S. market share, rye tends to be a bit spicier in flavor and packs a bit more punch than Scotch or Bourbon, which both have sweet notes that help mask the harshness of the alcohol. That said, rye is usually going to be better off in a cocktail than straight up. Manhattans and Old Fashioneds made with rye can be a good option for those who finds Bourbon cocktails too sweet, and one of our local favorites the Sazerac also calls for rye. Our recommendation: Rittenhouse Rye ($25)
Fall Whiskey Cocktails
People mostly tend to think of rum in terms of summery drinks, and it obviously performs so well there—daiquiris, piña coladas, dark and stormies. But rum is a category about as varied as they come, and some rums translate into autumn drinking pretty effortlessly. One of our favorite things to do to spice up a fall cocktail is to make whiskey classics with a dark or spiced rum. Try a classic Old Fashioned subbing spiced rum for whiskey and opt for demerara sugar in place of white sugar. * chef’s kiss * Our dark rum of choice: Myer’s Rum Original Dark ($20)
Fall Rum Cocktails
We’re talking real cocktail making here, so I’m assuming at this point in reading you’re not planning on buying a handle of dark rum just to mix with some orange Fanta. Ew I just grossed myself out don’t do that!!! Liqueurs are the supporting stars of any good cocktail—without them you’ve got just straight liquor, or liquor with fruit juice or simple syrup. These are the where more complex cocktails are truly made. And stocking up on several is probably your best bet for accomplishing the ultimate fall bar cart. These have some alcoholic kick to them but are also potently flavored, and you usually wouldn’t want to drink them straight. But no judgement if you do.
Amaro—Okay, cocktail culture purists will say this should be a category unto itself and that it totally is normal to drink amaro straight, and I agree on both points! Amaro is delicious and bitter and sweet and amazing, and can totally be enjoyed by itself. But it can also be a really fun addition to a cocktail to spice things up! Like our amaro daiquiri recipe. Our fave? Cynar ($26)
St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram—this little girl hails from Jamaica, and you’ll actually most often find it spicing up refreshing tropical tiki cocktails. But I love incorporating it into stiff autumn beverages too—the allspice in here just screams PIE to me, and that’s a very fun hint to get in a cocktail. The flavor is incredibly concentrated so be conservative with it to start out! ($23)
Becherovka—A Czech liqueur that's another bomb of fall spice, this one clove. Great to sip on the rocks with an orange twist, or get creative with mixing it with some stronger spirits. ($26)
Bitters—This could be a blog post all to itself, but if you don’t know what bitters are start here: What Are Bitters? The short of it is that they’re flavor enhancers that can’t be drunk on their own but are added to fill out a cocktail. You’ll need them for most classic cocktails, and any cocktail recipe that requires them will outline which bitters you need. There’s been a huge surge of bitters on the market in the last decade, so there’s room to get creative. We keep our bar stocked with Peychaud’s (used in the sazerac cocktail), Angostura (used in an Old Fashioned), and a few new-age bitters like Xocolatl Mole bitters for when we’re feeling creative.
Luxardo cherries—The fancy dark sweet cherries you get at those cocktails bars that charge $20 a drink! These are the best, and pretty much worlds classier then their cousin of yesteryear, the maraschino cherry.
Oranges, Apples—Both great to have on hand for fall cocktail garnish. You can use peels or slices, depending on what you’re making.
Sparkling wine—We keep sparkling wine for cocktails that need a little lightening up. Great for fall brunch cocktails, or just topping off your favorite cocktail for something different.
Creative simple syrups—a simple syrup is just two parts white sugar dissolved into one part boiling water, so you can easily make your own at home. But it’s also incredibly easy to make these flavored like pretty much anything you want. Cinnamon? Just boil some whole cinnamon sticks in the water before dissolving the sugar. Vanilla? Add a bit of vanilla extract to the mixture when stirring. You can get pretty creative here! Be sure to let the syrup cool to room temperature on its own before refrigerating, or it may crystallize.
And that’s the bulk of what you’ll need to get your autumnal bar cart started! There are of course a million other things that could be in this list, so consider this a starter from where you can get creative. As always if you have any questions, shoot us an email or a DM on Instagram and we’re happy to help.
P.S. if you’re wondering where our bar cart is from, you can check it out here!