With its often mild days and crisp nights, fall might just be the perfect cocktail season. No one knows this more than bartenders. This month, they experiment with everything from sage and fenugreek to shiso and Thai chili tincture in their drinks. These are the 11 cocktails to drink in bars now.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks in October? Try mixing the Huli Pau! or the Always Sunny from this list at home.
The Roosevelt Room brings the party with live jazz and soul on Thursdays and tailored playlists the rest of the week. Since opening in 2015, it has also been about a well-crafted drink sans pretention, including table service drinks in the downstairs dining room (with reservations needed on weekends). In addition to an expansive house menu, a rotating offering of “Featured Indulgences” call on seasonality. The Huli Pau! cocktail created by co-owner and head of operations Dennis Gobis goes lush with a base of El Dorado five-year-old rum, blended and frozen with fresh tarragon, mint, aloe juice, coconut cream and pineapple chunks.
Get the recipe.
A Louisville favorite since 2012, Decca is housed in an 1870s building spread over two dining rooms, a cellar basement and an enchanting outdoor patio. Beverage director Davy Butterworth oversees a team of bartenders, like former bartender Aida Ramirez, who crafted the summery, low-proof Always Sunny. Its base of The King’s ginger liqueur is accented by BarSol Puro Quebranta pisco, lemon and turmeric simple syrup. The drink is vibrantly orange and given a crisp finish from a splash of Mionetto prosecco.
Get the recipe.
NYC newcomer Lil’ Gem hit the Lower East Side fall 2017 with creative Lebanese food and cocktails to match. The Middle East’s most ubiquitous spirit, arak, offers vivid anise notes in the Arak ’N Roll. In this drink, Massaya arak is enhanced with Yellow Chartreuse, thyme syrup, and lime and grapefruit juices, all turned frothy with egg white. The silky drink unfolds with citrus tart, making way to herbaceous depth.
Arguello is housed in the historic Presidio Officers’ Club, with a side patio that peeks out at the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge amid eucalyptus. Culinary director Robbie Lewis turns out tacos and tortas alongside chilaquiles and huevos rancheros at brunch. Cocktails include a menu of Margaritas employing rare mezcals to easy drinking tequilas. The Sing the Blues starts easy with artesanal blanco tequila, dry vermouth and lemon, but a vibrant blueberry shrub adds vinegary-acidic backbone and a bright burst of summer, ideal during S.F.’s mild fall days.
Portland’s new Palomar is sunny and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows, green palm wallpaper, color splashes of melon, teal and yellow, and Cuban food from chef Patrick Kille. Rum plays prominent in Cuban-inspired drinks, but the Palomar is not just about rum. Classics and classically inspired cocktails cover an array of spirits. The Sour is a pretty pink drink of tequila, Tempus Fugit crème de noyaux, lemon and a whisper of apricot and ginger. A frothy egg white layer on top allows for artful bitters, while the nutty notes of the noyaux make the drink irresistibly dry.
Start the morning with breakfast tacos and fresh green juices, and end the night with chile con queso, taco bowls and Tex-Mex heartiness at Lonesome Rose in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. Spice, fat and cheese need a refreshing pairing, and Lonesome Rose’s drink menu obliges. Take the Sage Creek Swizzle, a tall gin and bianco and secco vermouth sipper that goes green and tart with sage, thyme and lemon.
With a bar legend like Michael Neff (of NYC industry favorite Holiday Cocktail Lounge) behind it, we knew Houston’s Cottonmouth Club was going to be good. Open spring 2018, the bar is housed in the historic Brewster Building. Upstairs is a “reverse speakeasy” without a set menu. Guests start by choosing from an eclectic glassware collection, then Neff asks fun questions (“What was your first concert?” or “Nabokov or Dickens?”) while crafting a drink suited to you. Downstairs is where you’ll find a menu with classics and house drinks like the Mariachi Static, a lively explosion of Ilegal mezcal, Averna amaro, lime, agave nectar and local hot sauce (choose a one-to-five rating from mild to “light me up”).
Riding the modern Israeli food craze sweeping the country in recent years, Sababa opened in D.C.’s Cleveland Park this spring as an immediate hit for its modern Middle Eastern dishes from chef Ryan Moore. While filling up on 24-hour-cured lamb shank or shakshuka, try the Phoenician Frappé. Playing off a classic South Side and an Absinthe Frappé, it’s a lively mix of Green Hat gin and Kawar arak mixed with lemon, mint, rosemary, lavender, borage and fenugreek.
Though recently opening Stay Gold in Kips Bay, The Up & Up owner Chaim Dauermann and Matt Piacentini carry on strong at their fantastic original Greenwich Village bar with a collaborative menu contributed to by their talented bartending team. The Barricaded Mountaintop is a drink created by bartender Angela Brussel, playing off the classic structure of a Negroni with Bimini gin, Cappelletti amaro sfumato rabarbaro and Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto liqueur bringing the bitter, herbaceous and rose layers. The drink finishes citrusy and silky with lime cordial and orange bitters.
The complete remodel of Hotel Kabuki upped the style and modern Japanese ethos of Japantown’s central hotel. The lobby bar revamp brought elegant tea cocktails, Japanese spirits and great drinks all around. Stephanie Ann Wheeler’s cocktails delight with a flower-themed menu, and a garden patio was recently unveiled, marked by rock formations, soothing Japanese plants, a pond and a firepit. While the bitter-floral goodness of the gin- and Suze-based Kiku Chrysanthemum cocktail is our favorite on the new menu, the Tiki-inspired Hinageshi Poppy is the most fun, mixing Greenbar poppy amaro, Plantation Barbados five-year-old and O.F.T.D. rums, House Spirits Casa Magdalena rum and Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao with a nutty sesame orgeat, balanced by the acid of lime.
Chef Michael Lewis’ wood-fired dishes, from Korean fried chicken to Florida red snapper, draw locals and destination diners alike. So, too, do assistant beverage director Nima Kasmaii’s Asian-inspired cocktails, going savory in drinks where duck jus is mixed with cognac. The Spicy Shiso Sour refreshes with shiso, yuzu and freshly pressed cucumber juice playing off Maestro Dobel tequila and St-Germain. The drink is frothy with egg white, given a spicy kick from a house-made KYU Lab Thai chili tincture.