Charleston restaurants are welcoming in autumn with chilly weather cocktails. It’s time to do away with lighter spirits and crushable cocktails in favor of darker, spiced liquors and flavors like apple and cinnamon.
“For me, you’re backing away from tequila, gin and vodka and you’re heading into more brown liquors like spiced rum, bourbons, ryes or scotch,” said Ricky Dunn, bar manager of MOMO at Riverfront Park. “And in that same token, like an aged tequila can work or a mezcal.”
Drinking dark liquor in the cooler months is like the age-old tradition of “sitting around a campfire drinking bourbon when it’s cold outside,” according to Blake Rothenberg, bar manager of The Belmont. “And for whatever reason, cinnamon and apples always roll back around.”
At The Belmont, drinks like the Winchester Social, a bourbon-based concoction, will return to the fall menu. Simply described as bourbon apple cider, the Winchester Social is bourbon, apple cider, lemon, honey and garnished with a cinnamon stick, infusing the spice into the cocktail. The Fall Old Fashioned will also make an appearance on the menu. This cocktail is made with bourbon, applejack brandy and honey to amp up the apple flavor.
Herd Provisions is jumping on the apple and cinnamon trend, too, with Another Something Warm, a honeycrisp apple cider mixed with applejack brandy and an Abbey Dubbel Belgian beer reduction cocktail with cinnamon. The Abbey Dubbel Belgian beer is reduced to emphasize the chocolatey, figgy flavors of the brew.
At MOMO, Dunn creates fall cocktails based on seasonal ingredients like pumpkin spice, apple, pear and cinnamon. Something coming back to the menu is the Nothing Else ComPears, a pear martini made with Campari-soaked pear wedges and spiced honey.
Dunn is also introducing his own fall-based Old Fashioned with chai tea. “Whenever I order an old fashioned or Manhattan, I generally use rye whiskey because I like that spice,” he said. But for the Chai Tea Old Fashioned, which will use a bourbon spirit, the spice will come from a house made chai tea Demerara syrup and apple bitters punched up with hard spices like star anise, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Keeping up the spice trend, Dunn’s third new cocktail is Loki’s Garden, a homage to the Norse God of Mischief. Loki’s Garden highlights the dill and caraway flavors of aquavit, a Scandavian liquor. Dunn mixes the aquavit with house-made radish shrub, lemon juice and tonic. “It’s weird, but tastes kind of like a strawberry,” Dunn said.
It isn’t just spiced cocktails that make the rounds at these bars and restaurants this season. According to Dunn, even if you use lighter spirits in the fall, you “can also make heavier, richer cocktails with dairy or dairy substitutes.” For him, the fall doesn’t start until he’s had a White Russian, a cocktail made with vodka, coffee liqueur and cream.
Others, like Rothenberg, think a chocolate martini is “much more fitting for the fall than it is for the middle of the summer. You definitely don’t want really heavy cream or coconut or anything that’ll weigh you down.” Whiskey sours fit the bill too, Rothenberg added, with bourbon, a bite of citrus juice and a nice foamy egg white on top.
The Ramos Gin Fizz: citrus pie in a glass
The Ramos Gin Fizz is the famous New Orleans-originated riff on a classic Gin Fizz, made of gin, lemon juice, egg whites and simple syrup topped with club soda. The Ramos, though, takes it a few steps further by adding more ingredients and an extra minute (or two) in production time.
The Ramos Gin Fizz uses all the ingredients in the original Gin Fizz plus heavy cream, lime juice and orange flower water. And topped with club soda, of course. It tastes like a lemon meringue or key lime pie, depending on the amount of acidity and freshness of the juices, and has a thick, creamy texture topped with foam. Straws are recommended to start the drink, unless you want a foamy mustache.
“For an inexperienced bartender it’s a complicated drink,” Rothenberg said. This is due to the complex process it takes to make it.
Rothenberg said, to create this bad break, you must combine all the ingredients into a shaker (without the club soda), and do what’s called a “wet shake,” or shake it with ice, for “longer than a normal sour.” Then, get the shaker frozen “just enough that your hands start sticking to the tin,” he said. That can take anywhere from two to three minutes. Afterwards, dump the ice and do a “dry shake,” or shake it without ice.
“It has to be done for at least three to five minutes,” Rothenberg added. “It has to. There’s no exception to it. If you don’t do it that long, it will not work.” Once shaken, add the mixture to a chilled glass with club soda for a nice foamy top.
In some recipes, the Ramos can take up to 12 minutes to make and shake.
“It is the one drink on a busy Friday or Saturday night past 10 o’clock that I will not make,” Rothenberg said. “At the end of the day, though, I’ll still happily make anything, just not within those few hours.”
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