Whether you’re dressing up in costume to go trick-or-treating or gearing up for a spooky holiday bash, Halloween is the perfect night to let loose and drink creatively. From a candy-corn-inspired Martini to cocktails served in skulls, these are the eight fun, spooky and spirited ways that bartenders are celebrating this year’s night of fright in bars nationwide.
In this murky concoction, partner and head bartender Jim Kearns employs a favorite Halloween ingredient: activated charcoal. Known for its medicinal properties, the heated charcoal is used here to add a sultry black hue to a tropical mix of Santa Teresa 1796 rum, calamansi and orange juices, honey, ginger and arrack (a Southeast Asian beverage distilled from either coconut flowers or sugar cane). It’s served in a fittingly skull-shaped bowl filled with crushed ice, topped with sorrel and crowned with orchids and a lit votive candle.
Despite the name, Boneyard Bistro is in fact not a Halloween-themed bar—it’s a beloved barbecue and burger joint with an expansive selection of cocktails. Among them is this spirit-forward Halloween sipper that packs a serious punch with Old Overholt rye, St-Germain elderflower liqueur and a trio of bitters (Peychaud’s, rhubarb and grapefruit).
Served at Jamie Boudreau’s Seattle mainstay, this gruesome-looking elixir is part of the bar’s Presentation Series, a list of drinks that more or less sell themselves through their intentionally attention-grabbing appearance. This one may well top that list—it emulates a real IV with pouches, tubes and, of course, a deep-red shade. Within those pouches, a split base of cognac and bourbon is layered with Crème Yvette liqueur, Ancho Reyes chile and raspberry liqueurs, lemon juice and Angostura bitters. The bags are shaken with crushed ice, then served beside two chilled glasses adorned with raspberries or lemon wheels (to remind you that it’s not actually blood).
Inspired by old witches’ tales of burning effigy and the haunting postmodern film The Wicker Man, Tom Sannito’s Halloween sip packs a punch with Bacardí 8 rum, Laird’s bonded apple brandy, Wray & Nephew rum and Cruzan black strap rum. Soothing the booze is 3 Estate black tea, lemon juice, cinnamon demerara syrup and a spiced butternut squash purée. When served, it’s poured on the rocks and sprinkled with dehydrated squash.
At the bistro arm of Brandywine Branch Distillery, revelers can try the recently debuted The Revivalist DragonDance Botanical gin, a fiery jalapeño-infused number, in this bright-red cocktail also built with cognac, Chambord liqueur and dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Master blender Riannon Walsh garnishes the chilled Martini glass with a skewer of red cayenne peppers for added effect.
This one’s for the kid in all of us. Hidden within the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, the speakeasy-themed Public Belt is inviting revelers to pick their poison by choosing either a trick cocktail or a treat cocktail. While the heady trick number comes laced with gin and dry vermouth, we’re more interested in the treat: this candy-corn-inspired Martini fusing sweet Grand Marnier, Aperol and pineapple juice and topped with whipped cream.
Bartender Moses Laboy originally conceived this pumpkin-laced number as a cheeky clapback to some of his peers’ staunch anti-pumpkin stance. Proving that not all pumpkin drinks are #basic, Laboy creates a time-intensive house-made shrub using whole pumpkins, cane sugar and apple cider vinegar. It’s shaken with Lagavulin Black Bottle scotch and lemon juice, then served on the rocks and garnished with pumpkin seeds for a picture-perfect fall drink.
Downtown Los Angeles’ ACME Hospitality Group (Library Bar, Sixth Street Tavern, Spring St. Bar) reprises its annual Crawloween festivities with themed parties at each of its bars. Head to the Brit-inflected Beelman’s Pub for a Smells Like Teen Spirit ’90s-inspired getdown and this glass of sweet pumpkin-spiced decadence blending Appleton Estate Jamaican rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and a pumpkin spice syrup.