Pecans scream fall, and not just in the south. They lend a distinctive nutty flavor to desserts, but they are also delicious in cocktails, especially when mixed with brown spirits and seasonal spices. These bartenders are saying yes we pecan.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great pecan drinks? Try mixing the Mama I’m Coming Home from this list at home.
DTB beverage director Lu Brow grew up with a pecan tree on her property and began picking and shelling its fruit at an early age. For this drink, she wanted to incorporate all of the things that she loves so much about the Louisiana in one cocktail. She infuses Sazerac rye with sassafras bark, then mixes in Peychaud’s barrel-aged bitters, Balsam amaro and simple syrup, strains it into a coupe and spritzes pecan oil on top. “I love the smell of pecans roasting and the crunchy nuttiness of the flavor,” says Brow, adding that they cozy up well to darker spirits like whiskey, bourbon and rum.
The Moche civilization in northern Peru was among the first people known to use lucuma, a tree whose fruit is dry in texture and similar in flavor to sweet potato, butterscotch and maple. The Moche also built the Huaca del Sol monument to honor the sun. Beverage director Miguel Lancha loves the combination of pecans, sweet potato, cinnamon and marshmallow in a pie and decided to concoct a liquid version. At the Washington, D.C., Chinese-Peruvian fusion hot spot China Chilcano, he mixes Tacama acholado pisco with a lucuma, pecan and cinnamon mix, served over one large cube and garnished with a lemon peel.
This drink at the Texas outpost of New Orleans classic restaurant Brennan’s is named after Marcelino Cantu, who has been a table captain there since 1974. Pecan Street rum from Pflugerville, Texas, is mixed with Tia Maria coffee liqueur and a proprietary coffee, layered with vanilla bean whipped cream and sprinkled with bits of Brennan's house-made pralines. Whether you want to pair it or replace it with dessert, or drink it during brunch, is up to you.
Madison on Park, a University Heights restaurant and spot for elevated cocktails, created a Thanksgiving take on the Old Fashioned. Cocktail creationist Dan Dufek stirs Bulleit bourbon with pumpkin, pecan, apple and sweet potato bitters and pecan wood-smoked Vermont maple syrup, served in a rocks glass over a large cube and garnished with a wide swatch of orange peel.
Pralines are something that residents of the Big Easy grow up eating, so MoPho operating partner Jeff Gulotta points out that pecans and caramel are forever intertwined. For this libation at the NOLA/Southeast Asian fusion spot (named for a staff joke that poor caramel is “assaulted” these days by the trend of sprinkling it with lots of salt), he starts with Cathead pecan vodka from Mississippi. It’s blended with a cream base of condensed and evaporated milk, along with nondairy creamer, Torani caramel syrup and kosher salt, poured into a glass filled with a heaping tablespoon of boba pearls and drizzled with caramel syrup.
The head bartender at 312 Chicago, Jenn Knott, calls this cocktail "a one-stop shop for all of the flavors reminiscent of the changing seasons." For it, she infuses Cutty Sark scotch with roasted pecans, then simmers it with apple cider, Fonseca Bin No. 27 port, honey syrup, cinnamon sticks and cloves. It's served in an Irish coffee mug and garnished with a soft caramel candy. It reminds Knott of growing up in Michigan and picking apples at the orchards with her family during the fall.
Staff at Fort Worth craft distillery Firestone & Robertson wanted to create a riff on the classic Old Fashioned that combined two of their favorite things: pecan pie and Texas whiskey. Nothing says Texas like pecan trees, the state tree. This cocktail allows the whiskey to boldly lead while providing a pecan pie taste on the finish. The drink is built in a rocks glass, with the spirit stirred with chicory and pecan bitters and a molasses vanilla syrup, and garnished with toasted pecans or a fresh orange peel.