Saying goodbye to fall can be hard to do, but do you know what makes it a whole lot easier? Great cocktails. This month bartenders from Pittsburgh to Portland are mixing up a full gamut of drinks, from nutty and briny to fruity and bitter. These are the 11 cocktails to drink in bars now.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks in November? Try making the Bitter Temptation from this list at home.
DiAnoia's Eatery in Pittsburgh keeps it real with all-day Italian, from morning coffee to afternoon deli, then evening rounds of Tuscan kale salad, wild mushroom carbonara and whole branzino. The sunny space sports a blue-tiled breakfast bar and relaxed dining room with light fixtures made from wine bottles. Drinks are simple but gratifying, and the Bitter Temptation is no exception. Made with cold-brew coffee, Fernet-Branca, vanilla syrup and Tempus Fugit crème de cacao and finished with a generous splash of sparkling Gragnano red wine, the cocktail is bitter, sweet and bracing all at once.
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At Michelin-starred Mourad, bar manager Joshua-Peter (J.P.) Smith keeps the cocktails exquisite yet utterly drinkable. California’s year-round produce gets showcased in the Carrots from Cornwall, featuring S.F.’s own No. 209 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve gin, pastis and English cider with a garden-fresh bouquet of carrot juice, ras el hanout orange syrup, lemon, celery bitters and, yes, a savory whisper of Dijon mustard. Drops of tarragon oil add one more herbaceous layer.
Casual and comfortable, Daisies’ food wows, particularly chef/owner Joe Frillman’s pastas, blessedly touched with Eastern European influences, like pierogi in mussel broth or perfect beet agnolotti with dill and smoked trout roe. Keith Whitten’s Midwest-driven wine and cocktail list keeps step with the goodness. The Coldbrook Berry showcases bourbon with a hint of baking spice from a house-made cinnamon tincture and the flavor of tart, juicy aronia (aka chokecherries) in a locally made Apologue aronia liqueur, balanced by red wine and lemon.
General manager and head barman of bourbon-centric Vault, Shaun Traxler has love of food and sense of whimsy that comes through in his culinary-driven cocktails with quirky names. Here, everything from bitters to vermouth is made in-house. The Tepache Shakur is vegetal, smoky and spiced with cognac, Jägermeister, house-made tepache (fermented cinnamon-spiced pineapple rind beverage), cream sherry and barrel-aged bitters. The cocktail gains brightness from fresh carrot and lime juices, then goes into creamy flip mode with a whole egg and orgeat. Dusted in carrot ash and nutmeg, it’s a late-fall beauty.
A farm-to-table meal at Campo in Los Poblanos Inn is a bucket-list stop for anyone visiting Albuquerque. While dining on mole verde over veggies from its farm or blue corn hushpuppies filled with carne adovada, a house Margarita is always the right pairing. Check the bar chalkboard for a seasonal variation like the Verde Margarita, where blanco tequila gets a bitter whisper from Salers apéritif, showing off peppers, herbs, peas and lime from its garden.
Nomad.PDX’s horseshoe-shaped bar sits alongside its refined tasting-menu-only restaurant, a Portland, Ore., rarity from chef Ryan Fox. Ash Bar is a respite for nuanced culinary-influenced cocktails from Cameron Holck and former bartender Estanislado Orona. Reyka vodka and Dolin blanc vermouth are mixed in the Mossed in the Woods cocktail, accented with an herbal touch of Martin Miller’s Westbourne dry gin, then infused with spruce tips and doug fir. Liquid nitrogen rolls out from the glass, which is nestled in a bed of fir boughs and pine cones.
Austin’s Roosevelt Room pairs food, live music and tailored playlists with quality cocktails at a casual upstairs bar and more formal downstairs bar. Sift through the expansive cocktail list, including nine house drinks and 53 classics. Dennis Gobis and Justin Lavenue created the Black Pearl, an ideal fall cocktail served in a small wood box lit with clove incense. As the box exudes aromatic smoke, sip this robustly elegant blend of Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Talisker Storm scotch, Smith & Cross rum, Nux Alpina green walnut liqueur, Abbott’s bitters and charcoal powder, unfolding with nutty peat, funk, spice and dried fruit sweetness.
Sababa’s beverage director and sommelier Maximilian Hill infuses a whisper of the Middle East in his cocktails. The Halva World Away is sunny and lush with Lunazul añejo tequila and bright carrot juice, calling on the flavors of halva (sesame candy) with pistachio orgeat, orange blossom water and cardamom tonic. The drink is garnished with a dried apricot rehydrated with apricot liqueur, brandy, fennel and cardamom, then blackened with a blowtorch for a subtly bitter caramel note.
Owner Jeff Lyon and team’s cocktails are collaborative and relaxed without sacrificing quality. Lyon’s savory-bright Godzilla features Oakland Spirits Co.’s seaweed infused Automatic gin contrasted by nutty, briny manzanilla sherry, elderflower, lime and more nutty goodness from sesame. A layer of egg whites supports a dusting of sesame seeds and nori/seaweed.
Head upstairs at the Kimpton Gray Hotel to Vol. 39 bar for a menu of Old Fashioneds or a six-Martini flight. We’ll never complain about Champagne and caviar table service, but Vol. 39 also does right by cocktails, thanks to beverage director Josh Relkin. Bartenders Dylan Knox and Ilsa Tucker created the Bright Eyes, featuring a house-made rum blend of El Dorado 12-year-old rum, Neisson Rhum Agricole and Banks 7 Golden Age Blend rum. The rum is mixed with J. Rieger Caffé amaro for bitter-coffee notes, then brightened with pineapple, carrot beet shrub, Clément cane syrup, bitters (Angostura, Peychaud’s and Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6) and lime, dusted in toasted coconut.
In this rustic-industrial space, assistant beverage director Nima Kasmaii leads his bar team through cocktails utilizing Asian ingredients like lemongrass and yuzu. Bartender Ian Chartor created the Pelea de Gallos, a cocktail featuring Olmeca Altos reposado tequila infused with Peruvian corn roasted over open flame. The drink runs sweet, tart, smoky and spicy with a house-made mango chile shrub and cilantro lime bitters, topped with a salted lime pepper foam.
Mixing your cocktail