Halloween Cocktails for All

by Rhett Williams

"Dark City" Photo courtesy of Jay Jones

All Hallow's Eve has finally arrived. Are you like me? Watching horror movies non-stop? Had decorations up since September? Been to every haunted house you can find? Hopefully you’ve also been exploring every Halloween-y snack and drink. This series was fairly self-motivated in that I wanted some well-crafted cocktails to make at home during the fall season, and some great bartenders have delivered. Now it's time to share the Halloween-themed drinks!

First up is Jay Jones from Market by Jean-Georges in the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver. Jay is a regular contributor to my site, and his drinks are always simple in ingredients, very balanced in flavour, and imaginative in context. This Halloween he shares his "Dark City" cocktail:

"Newfound fondness for Knob Creek 9 year old 'Single Barrel Reserve' Bourbon (not to be confused with its more commonly known 9 year old 'small batch' brother) led me to spend some quality time considering its cocktail possibilities. It's a truly spectacularly bold whiskey of richness and fortitude - the 60% abv beast requires colleagues with equally substantial attributes. Although the taste profile is somewhat of a punch in the mouth, it is not without smoothness and balance. It simply asserts itself rather firmly. Fernet Branca seemed to be up to the pairing task - continuing the dark depths of the bourbon's tobacco, tar, and spice characteristics. The essential amaro's inimitable traits are obvious in the final cocktail, yet still serve as supporting cast to the bourbon's dominant and defining role. The structure becomes more complex and mingles concentrated herb tastes into a lengthy finish. Giffard continues as my liqueur brand of choice. Their Muroise du Val de Loire is a seductive and ripe foil to the angry assets of bourbon and amaro. (Muroise is a hybrid berry, forged with blackberry and raspberry). While its sweetness and natural flavours tone down the other two brutes, its beautiful deep blue/purple hue adjusts the previously dark amber blend into a unique colour which seems black but yields indigo when the light catches it right. Orange zest softens the drinker’s first approach by the suggestion of refreshing citrus - a subtle touch with large impact on the whole personality of the complete cocktail.

The name, 'Dark City,' refers to the 1998 neo-noir sci-fi film of same name, but also makes a general emotional suggestion of the tone of the drink, suited to the end of a dim, cold night in downtown Vancouver. It's aggressive, dark, and virile. A closer - intended to finish you off.”

Dark City

  • 1.5 oz Knob Creek 9 year old Single Barrel Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • 0.5 oz Fernet Branca
  • 0.5 oz Giffard Muroise du Val de Loire

Combine ingredients with ice and stir.

("Just above liquid height with large cubes, then scatter with cracked ice cubes before stirring for twenty rotations")

Fine strain into a rocks glass, then fill glass with large ice cubes.

Zest surface with fresh orange peel and discard spent peel.

Next is another regular to my site: Shaun Layton from L'Abattoir in Vancouver's Gastown. He is sharing a drink named after the Season 2 arc of the AMC show, “Dexter,” about a police department blood spatter specialist who moonlights as a serial killer. The ingredients are a complicated combination, and include Liquore Strega, which was supposedly created by an Italian witch coven in the 1800's. "Strega," actually meaning "witch" in Italian, was originally medicinal in nature, but became later known as a kind of love-potion. It is said that if a couple drinks Strega together, they will be forever united. (I will be covering this in more detail soon on my site).

Bay Harbour Butcher

  • 45 ml pisco
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • 10 ml Liquore Strega
  • 10 ml Campari
  • Dash of raspberry puree
  • 1 egg white

Combine all ingredients and dry shake, then shake again with ice.

Fine strain into a chilled coupe and make blood-splatter-like dashes on top of the froth with Peychaud's Bitters.

Lastly is the most Halloween-y of all drinks submitted. Shea Hogan from Clough Club and Bitter in Gastown brings us his Nightmare on Elm Street-inspired gin sour with some very festive decoration.

A Nightmare On Juniper Street

  • 1.75 oz gin
  • 1 oz blood orange juice (moro-type)
  • 0.75 oz creme de cassis
  • 0.5 oz lime juice

Shake with ice and double-strain into a coupe glass.

Garnish with fresh lemongrass shards pierced into a cut strawberry to look like Freddy Krueger's hand - use imagination.

(If blood oranges are not in season, use small Valencia oranges and a couple drops of red food-coloring).

So whether you're throwing or joining a Halloween party or event, or like me you usually stay home and watch your classics (mine are “The Shining,” “The Exorcist,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” “Night Of The Living Dead,” and of course “Halloween” for starters), get festive with your drinks too!

Read more from Fall Cocktails.