Love it or loathe it, the decorative gourd season (er, fall) is a time of year cherished by many. Homey displays of straw hay bales and scarecrows crop up outside grocery stores, centerpieces comprising 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, though, are the myriad ways to utilize the versatility of winter squash beyond admiring their cutesy nature. Thankfully, there’s a boozy match 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 exhausted by the glut of pumpkin spice, try one of these six cocktails, and learn to love winter squash in a whole new way.
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 directions. For the vegetable-cocktail skittish, never fear: Allspice and clove help the drink retain a more traditional “nog” flavor profile, while adding a welcome dose of crispness. As a bonus, this drink calls for a scoop of vanilla ice cream, so your cocktail also functions as a boozy milkshake.
At first glance, rum might seem to be the key element in the Butter “Nut” Craig, from D.C. bartender, bar owner and distiller Todd Thrasher. 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 dark rum’s sweet depth, while five dashes of Angostura bitters provide a spiced accent to complement the cinnamon. Finally, you get a taste of the glittery cinnamon-sugar rim with each sip.
This Hot Butter(nut) Rum, from Sother Teague at New York City bitters powerhouse Amor y Amargo, is named for the butternut squash itself, and the warming drink will work nicely with the butternut if that’s the gourd at your disposal. Substituting a sugar pumpkin, though, is a 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!)
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. Nonetheless, in Henderson’s Comrade, the woodsy depth of spaghetti squash and innate vegetal notes of tequila sally forth in novel ways, shining a light on their versatility. Combine all that with the nutty notes of dry sherry, and you’ll be adding spaghetti squash to your grocery cart all season long.
Proving that pumpkin’s use in cocktails knows no bounds, this refreshing beverage from Washington D.C. bartender James Horn calls for homemade lemon-pumpkin soda. It’s easy to prepare in just a few minutes and can be made with canned puree or—even better—by roasting a pumpkin in the oven. When combined with spiced rum and allspice liqueur, which add warming contrast, you get a cocktail that’s perfect for incorporating fall’s most ubiquitous squash.
The orange flesh of butternut squash has a natural sweetness to it, which becomes sweeter still when roasted with maple syrup. That makes butternut an ideal vegetable to infuse into robust bourbon in the fall. Once your infusion’s ready (you’re simply adding roasted squash to a bottle of bourbon and letting it sit), you’ll mix it with maple syrup, banana liqueur and walnut bitters. The result is a very autumnal drink, and one you can stir throughout the fall as you make your way through that bottle of infused bourbon.