I love summer for many reasons, but fall is my favorite food season. It’s always exciting to find concord grapes, figs, and apples used in inspired ways in autumn dishes, but sometimes it’s even more interested to see fall flavors on cocktail menus. Nowadays, bartenders are as serious about libations as chefs are about dinner. Take Rye for example. This Williamsburg eatery has been awaiting the return of fall, so they could tap into all of the spirits they’ve been aging in charred oak barrels. Red Rooster created a stellar Bourbon negroni with roasted fig, vermouth, campari and pear-infused bourbon and Prime Meats is featuring the “Sidewalker” – a blend of apple brandy and maple syrup. There’s even after dinner drinks or liquid dessert, like The Redhead’s “Car Bomb” with cocoa, Guinness and homemade Bailey’s marshmallows. One of our all-time favorite cocktails, the Concord Crush, has returned to Gramercy Tavern. From infused bourbons to spiced, here’s a sneak peek at a few of the cocktails and spirits we plan on warming up with this fall.
Address: 247 S. 1st St., btwn. Roebling & Havemeyer Sts. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 218-8047
Not many bars take time to age their own spirits, but Rye isn’t just any bar. This understated, underrated Brooklyn spot is worth crossing the bridge for on a regular basis. (If you live in Brooklyn, consider yourself lucky.) With its dark wood, pressed tin ceilings, and vintage stylings, Rye is also the perfect place to drink brown spirits. While there’s an impressive list of cocktails, we suggest honing in on two of the aged cocktails, like the aged Old Fashioned, made with aged rye whiskey, bitters, orange and a lemon twist. Or keep it simple, so you can really taste the matured spirit and sample the improved-aged brandy. What’s more, both are available by the bottle, while the barrels will become fall planters.
Address: 465 Court St. & Luquer St. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 254-0327
We weren’t surprised to find several smart libations at Prime Meats. After all, Damon Boelte was recently named the 2011 New York Rising Star Mixologist by Starchefs along with praise for the Sidewalker cocktail, composed of Laird’s Apple Brandy, Pennsylvania maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, lemon and hefeweissen. There’s a lot more of these pre-prohibition era cocktails worth trying, like the Waterfront or the Old Fashioned with house-made pear bitters.
Address: 348 E. 13th St., btwn. 1st & 2nd Avenues
Phone: (212) 533-6212
As cold weather creeps in, so do our cravings for warm, comforting offerings. We highly recommend any one of the hot chocolates on The Redhead’s fall drink menu. There are actually three to choose from. We’re well acquainted with the Car Bomb, which has returned for a second season and for good reason. It’s like dessert and a drink in one — rich cocoa, Guinness, Jameson, whipped cream, and Bailey’s marshmallows. If you like coffee after dinner, you should consider the Milk Chocolate Diablo, with coffee, a splash of cognac, and Cointreau. But the best part are the homemade cinnamon marshmallows floating on top. While we don’t white chocolate, we’d make an exception for the White Chocolate Milk Punch, made with brandy, scotch, anise, a sprinkling of smoked salt, and nutmeg marshmallows.
Red Rooster Harlem
Address: 310 Lennox Ave., btw. 125th & 126th Sts.
Phone: (212) 792-9001
Latin Night, Soul R&B Fridays, Gospel-Sunday Brunch, Rare-Grooves Saturdays…these are just a few of the weekly happenings at Red Rooster. Factor in Marcus Samuelsson’s menu chock full of American comfort food along with a few, neighborhood-inspired drinks and you’ve got yourself a terrific night out in Harlem. Truth be told, we’d stop by just for the fall libations, like the “Brownstoner,” a mix of St. Germain, cherry Heering, and nutmeg-infused bourbon. There’s also a Bourbon Negroni and the “Earl of Harlem” with bourbon, Earl Grey tea, and spiced coriander syrup.
Address: 44 E. Houston St. (Mulberry St.)
Phone: (212) 625-3242
It’s hard to think of a better way to adjust to those chilly October nights than with a hot apple toddy in hand. Nolita House has a great one and there are more apple flavors, like the “Knitting Factory,” an homage to the former occupant of the space. It’s a well-balanced cocktail composed of apple jack, agave nectar, lime, and velvet falernum. Our first choice is the Ginger Fig, a beautifully balanced mix of Michter’s rye, fig, ginger jam, lemon and bitters.
Address: 440 Bergen St. at 5th Ave. and Flatbush (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 230-5925
Manhattan bartenders aren’t the only ones pouring great fall cocktails. In fact, Brooklyn has a wealth of great drinks right now and there are more than a few standouts at Melt. For starters there’s the Fall Harvester – a soothing blend of honey, cinnamon, apple, whiskey and brandy. There’s even one called the “Flu-Shot” with an immune-boosting blend of vodka, gin, cranberry and Emergen-c. (Yes, really.) But we’re partial to pumpkin, so we’re set on the Pumpkin ‘Partait” with your choice of whiskey or dark rum, spiced syrup, cream, and pumpkin, of course. On the non-alcoholic front, there’s plenty of options, from the “Spiced Settler” to the ginger apple lemonade.
Address: 42 E. 20th St.
Phone: (212) 477-0777
You don’t have to commit to dinner to enjoy the impeccable food or cocktails at this Gramercy institution. With a dinner menu built on seasonality, the cocktail menu follows suit, highlighting cherries, concord grapes, and pears. Our all-time favorite cocktail is still the “Concord Crush” with full-bodied concord grapes, vodka, and lime — simple and stunning. There’s also the “New Deal” with pickled greenmarket cherries, cherry liqueur, and Rittenhouse rye.
Address: 4 Bleecker St. between Bowery and Elizabeth Sts.
Phone: (212) 254-0350
Enjoy the mystique of the speakeasy approach and find your way to Madam Geneva through the unmarked, back entrance of the newly opened, Saxon + Parole (formerly Double Crown). This Bowery bar is known for its jam cocktails and they just added Apple-Cinnamon to the jam list this fall. All of their signature, jam cocktails feature your choice of vodka or gin, mixed with lemon juice, simple syrup, crushed ice, and a spoonful of jam. What’s more, all of the artisanal jams are made in-house by Saxon + Parole’s pastry chef, Rob Rohl.
Address: 247 E.50th St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues
Phone: (212) 755-2470
You might not expect to find such a great cocktail bar-cum-restaurant in Sutton Place, but every neighborhood needs great drinks. Respite has a chalkboard of special cocktails that change almost daily. For fall, you can expect fresh fruits and spices, a seasonal twist to bar classics. And in lieu of the traditional dark & stormy, there’s a “Dark and Snowy,” made with dark rum, Pimento Dram, lime juice, spiced rum, and ginger ale. (There also happens to be a compelling dinner menu with a coconut-mascarpone panna cotta with lemongrass broth, so save room for dessert.)