Fancy Fall Cocktails

by Rhett Williams

"Death & Oranges" Photo Courtesy of Donnie Wheeler

Halloween is over. I’m sad and don’t want to talk about it. A good drink would cheer me up though, so it’s time for some new cocktails. Since Thanksgiving is coming up for my pals south of the border, (meaning you Americans) we will continue the seasonal mood. Staying in the Pacific Northwest where beautiful red and yellow leaves now cover the sidewalks, we visit three B.C. bartenders for original drinks using fall and harvest flavours.

First up is Donnie Wheeler (a.k.a. Donnie Bahama or Mr. Tiki, as he’s known here) from Clough Club and Killjoy in Vancouver. Donnie is sharing a perfect example of a seasonal and themed cocktail that is both tasteful and tasty. I will let him introduce the drink himself:

"As it is Thanksgiving, [the drink] should be about family... in this case the Corleone family from the Godfather films. In the films every major death is preceded by an appearance of an orange in one way or another. Don Corleone buys oranges right before he is shot and falls into an orange cart. Sonny drives past an advertisement for Florida Oranges before he is assassinated. At the Mafioso summit, bowls of oranges are placed on the tables - specifically in front of those Dons who will be assassinated. Michael eats an orange while discussing his plans with Tom. Before Don Corleone dies he puts an orange peel in his mouth to playfully scare his grandson. The list goes on. So, the cocktail is a little morbid, a little seasonal, and about family."

Death & Oranges

  • 1 oz Carpano Antica Formula Italian Vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1.5 oz fresh squeezed blood orange juice (seasonal)
  • 1-2 tablespoons pumpkin puree-infused honey syrup
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca 

Combine ingredients with ice and shake. Strain over crushed ice.

Top with soda water (optional).

Pumpkin/Honey Syrup:

Add 2 parts honey and 2 parts water and bring to a boil. Add 1 part of pumpkin puree and stir until mixed.

Next we move from Gastown to Yaletown in Vancouver for a delightful sparkling aperitif from Evelyn Chick at Blue Water Café. This is a unique drink with unsuspected combinations in amaro, sparkling wine, and the addition of harvest flavour from port wine and allspice. Evelyn explains her challenge:

"This is the best way to make bubbles winter-appropriate. There was once the infamous Mr. Jay Jones sitting at my bar asking for something "bitter and bright," and immediately the challenge comes with how I can make two conflicting concepts work - bringing in 3 different types of herbaceous ingredients to balance out a light, bone-dry cava. It's the perfect aperitif, and the perfect after-dinner drink."

Jones' Bitter Aperitif

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into champagne flute & top with dry cava

All-Spice Syrup:

Boil a tablespoon of crushed allspice berries, one stick of cinnamon, and three cloves in one litre of water. Simmer for 15 minutes on low, then add two litres of sugar. Stir until dissolved, then let cool before straining and bottling.

Lastly we trek across the ocean to Victoria where veteran bartender Simon Ogden at the Veneto Tapa Lounge shares his rendition of fall, employing spice, fruit, and smoke. Simon finishes off the introductions:

"Named in honour of the great Jazzman, this cocktail is what I imagine Louis Armstrong's voice tastes like. Honey and smoke, with autumnal bitters providing the bass notes. A twist on the classic whiskey sour."

The Satchmo

  • 2 oz Black Grouse
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz honey syrup
  • 3/4 oz egg white
  • 4-5 dashes Apple and Cinnamon bitters

Shaken thoroughly and strained into a chilled glass. Finished with a spritz of Ardbeg.

Honey Syrup: boil equal parts water and liquid honey until dissolved.

Apple & Cinnamon Bitters: B.C. Gala apples and broken cinnamon bark with lemon peel, cardamom, cloves, gentian root, and star anise all steeped in whiskey.


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