For a night of spooks, intrigue and costumes, there’s nothing better than out-of-the-ordinary cocktails. The following 10 appeal to our palates, keep us visually pleased and all contain a little of the unexpected. Some are easier to make than others, but all of them are worth the time and effort whether you’re entertaining a large group, or just someone close. And while you’ll only find one instance of (made-at-home) pumpkin spice here, there’s definitely plenty of pumpkin puree involved—so get ready to gut some of those seasonal orange orbs.
Death in the Afternoon
There’s no better time of year for absinthe than Halloween. And there’s no better time to pop a bottle of champagne than a holiday. The Death in the Afternoon cocktail (made for one, or many) combines both these notions. The champagne adds levity and breath to the absinthe’s potency, allowing the anise notes to rise and tingle. This is a simple drink that’s almost guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve had before.
.5 part Pernod Absinthe
3 parts champagne
Add Pernod Absinthe into a chilled champagne flute. Add iced champagne until absinthe attains proper opaqueness.
Bourbon and pumpkin make sense when it comes to the spiced and creamy, rich flavor pairing. Developed by the team at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, the Smashing Pumpkins cocktail goes so far as to sweeten the deal with Absolut Vanilla. Normally we shy away from flavored vodkas, but in this instance it really works.
4 oz. pumpkin base (blend pumpkin puree, a bit of cream and maple syrup, and a few drops of St Elizabeth Allspice Dram and pumpkin extract)
.75 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
.75 oz. Absolut Vanilla vodka
Shake ingredients over ice and double strain into a cocktail coupe. Rim the coupe with black sugar. Add a dollop of chantilly cream to the center of drink.
For smoke, spice and a little caffeinated jolt, the Sleepy Hollow by Josh Mazza, of NYC’s The Gilroy, delivers something unexpected for a Scotch cocktail. There’s a lot at play here, and it’s fun. Almond milk punches up the Bittermens, while the kick of Ancho Reyes furthers the Black Grouse. Altogether, it’s uncommon and while the flavor profile seems complex, it’s quick to throw together.
1.5 oz. The Black Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
.75 oz. Bittermens coffee liqueur
.50 oz. Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
2.5 oz. almond milk
Build into a tiki mug. Add one pellet of dry ice. Garnish with grated chocolate.
Black and Orange
Created by Rob Krueger from Brooklyn’s Extra Fancy, the Black and Orange pulls in lemon and carrot juice for a drink that’s entirely refreshing. Also with a scotch base, this cocktail takes its cues from Yellow Chartreuse and Amaro Meletti, which lift up the brown spirit in a delightful way.
1.5 oz. Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
.5 oz. Amaro Meletti
.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
1.5 oz. fresh pressed carrot juice
Fresh ground black pepper for garnish
Shake all together with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Grind the black pepper on top to garnish.
Peche Mortel (The Mortal Sin)
Created by the Hendrick’s Gin team and employing a healthy amount of eccentricity, the Peche Mortel also makes for a great batch drink. Elderberry juice and St Germain mingle for something that nips both the sweet and tart tastebuds. The gin rounds everything out nicely.
2 parts Hendrick’s Gin
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part St. Germain
1 part elderberry juice
2 dashes Bitter Truth Creole Bitters
Shake and double-strain into a coupe. Garnish with an edible flower.
Pisco Portón Pumpkin Spice Martini
When Pisco Portón proposed a Pumpkin Spice Martini, they went so far as to share a recipe on how to make the syrup at home—the best way to consume it happens to be when you’ve made it for yourself with the highest quality ingredients. The syrup and accompanying pumpkin puree make this a thicker, richer drink and the pisco lends its signature grape-spirit edge.
2 oz. Pisco Portón
1 oz. pumpkin puree
.75 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
.75 oz. pumpkin spice syrup*
2 drops Angostura Bitters
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cinnamon and sugar (mixed with a dash of red food coloring if you dare!) around the rim of the glass. *To make your own pumpkin spice syrup: Add two quarts of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add 20 cloves, 10 allspice, 10 cinnamon sticks, and ½ teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in 2 quarts of sugar until it dissolves. Strain into a container and use in the recipe. Refrigerate any leftover syrup.
Nick Bennett, one of the masterminds at Porchlight, brings an almost-beer cocktail into the picture with the frothy IPA-mazing. The gin-based cocktail employs beer syrup and some salt, and even gets a topping with beer foam. The point here, is that the drink plays with flavors found in an IPA and even resembles a beer in a clever way.
1.5 oz. Tanqueray
1 oz. beer syrup
.5 oz. grapefruit juice
.25 oz. passion fruit
4 drops salt
6 dashes hopped grapefruit and Suze mix
Shake all ingredients in a tin and stain into a Collins glass over ice. Top with beer foam.
Blood of Innocence Punch
There’s no other rum punch quite like this. Ruby Port and Martini & Rossi Prosecco twist and turn a bottle of Caliche Rum into something unreal. This is fruit rich and entirely not-too-sweet, with the additional of plentiful citrus.
1 liter Caliche Rum
1 bottle Martini & Rossi prosecco
12 oz. Curaçao
12 oz. fresh squeezed and strained orange juice
12 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
8 oz. fresh squeezed and strained lemon juice
8 oz. light agave nectar
1 large block of ice
In a large punch bowl, combine Caliche, Port, Curaçao, fruit juices and agave nectar, stir until well incorporated, refrigerate for four hours. When ready to serve, add the ice to bowl, gently stir in prosecco. Garnish with one cup of hulled and sliced strawberries, two large lemons pitted and sliced and a handful of mint leaves.
I Put A Spell On You
Hailing from The Baldwin Bar at Boston’s Sichuan Garden, I Put A Spell On You balances botanicals with two special ingredients: yogurt and Earl Grey tea syrup. It feels right for fall, with a nice consistency as well. And orange blossom water ups the visual Halloween energy.
1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
1 bar spoon of Greek yogurt
1 oz. Earl Grey tea syrup
.75 oz. lime
6 drops of orange blossom water
Combine all ingredients, being sure to stir yogurt until it separates.
The Harvest Moon
For vodka drinkers, the Harvest Moon offers something fun and refreshing—while fitting into the season. Citrus and honey play their part but the herbs within Amaro Montenegro bring this cocktail to life.
1.5 oz. Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom Vodka
.75 oz. Amaro Montenegro
.50 oz. fresh lemon
.25 oz. honey blend (equal parts honey and hot water)
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
Combine ingredients with ice, shake and strain. Garnish with orange zest and orange peel.
Images courtesy of respective brands