Love it or loathe it, the decorative gourd season (er, fall) is a time of year cherished by the masses. Homey displays of straw hay bales and scarecrows crop up outside grocery stores, centerpieces comprised of autumnal-adjacent items begin dominating restaurant tables, and of course, pumpkin spice flavoring is injected into just about every possible food and beverage.
What’s all-too-often left out of the equation, though, are the myriad ways to utilize the versatility of winter squash beyond simply admiring their cutesy nature. Thankfully, there’s a boozy match just waiting for the long-forgotten gourds, from spaghetti squash to sugar pumpkins, and bartenders are increasingly toying with these envelope-pushing savory-meets-sweet flavor profiles.
When you’re finally exhausted by the glut of pumpkin spice, try one of these five cocktails, and learn to love winter squash in a whole new light.
1. Try Acorn Squash with Drambuie
The Harvest Nog, from Vance Henderson of Drambuie, doubles as a dessert and cocktail in one. The two different approaches to preparing the acorn squash in this recipe allow the vegetable to flex its muscles in a couple of different directions. For the vegetable cocktail skittish, though, never fear: Allspice and clove help the drink retain a more traditional “nog” flavor profile, while adding in a welcome dose of crispness.
2. Try Butternut Squash with Orange Liqueur
At first glance, rum might seem to be the key element in the Butter “Nut” Craig, from Todd Thrasher at Bar PX in Alexandria, Va. But one sip and you’ll know it’s the orange liqueur that steals the show. The cordial deftly balances the squash’s earthiness with the rum’s spice and the glittery cinnamon-sugar rim.
3. Try Butternut Squash with Swedish Punsch
“Squash is amazingly flavorful and adds luscious texture to cocktails,” says Alejandro De La Parra, the bar manager at Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Ore. For the Block Party Punch, she says, “we roasted the butternut squash with demerara sugar, mace, clove and allspice.” This surprisingly light grog is the crowd-pleasing autumn punch you didn’t even know you were missing.
4. Try Sugar Pumpkin with Rum
This Hot Butter(nut) Rum, from Sother Teague at New York City bitters powerhouse Amor y Amargo, is named for the butternut squash, and it will work nicely with the butternut if that’s the gourd at your disposal. Substituting a sugar pumpkin, though, is just a little bit more fun. The twee-looking pumpkin is typically no bigger than eight inches and lends a velvety texture to the cocktail. Plus, it’s downright adorable. (Bonus: Pull double duty and roast the seeds!)
5. Try Spaghetti Squash with Tequila
It’s hard to deny that spaghetti squash seems like a head-scratcher of a cocktail ingredient, much like tequila feels a little more sand and surf than sweaters and scarves. In Henderson’s Comrade, though, the woodsy depth of spaghetti squash and innate vegetative notes of tequila sally forth in entirely novel ways, shining a light on their versatility.