Just as ramps spike during the spring and summer is peak tomato season, fall, too, has its cherished signature foods. Apple picking excursions produce flaky pies and crisp cider doughnuts; squash makes for hearty soups and indulgent crostatas. The season is all about foods that warm you from the inside out, made all the more cozy with spices like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And, as it turns out, many of these ingredients work just as well in drinks. Jeff Rogers, the bar director at Constantine in Minneapolis—one of our favorite cocktail bars in the country—told us that basically anything in season in the fall can and should be used in a cocktail. That means pears, cranberries, and maple syrup—even carrots.
In a recent chat with Food & Wine, Rogers shares five seasonal ingredients that are perfect for fall cocktails, along with some key tips for making them.
1. Fresh-pressed apple cider
Add whiskey or brandy
“The availability of fresh pressed apple cider during the fall is a great addition to hot cocktails as the nights start to get chilly,” Rogers says. “A mix of your favorite whiskey or brandy and hot apple cider is a simple, beautiful thing. It also works really well in batches for entertaining.”
Make poached pear syrup
“I like to use ripe pears to make a poached pear syrup. I make a basic simple syrup and simply add chopped ripe pears to the pot along with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, allspice, and clove,” he explains. “Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until pears are soft. Once off the heat, I smash pears into the liquid to get the most out of their juices before cooling and straining before use. This syrup is a great addition to sour-style cocktails or an old fashioned.”
3. Maple Syrup
Sweeten your old-fashioned
“Maple syrup adds a richness and texture to an old-fashioned and makes for a healthier and more flavorful substitute to sugar,” Rogers says. “Since the sweetness can really vary, always start out adding less than you think. You can always add more if needed this way.”
Juice them and blend with spices
“Juicing carrots and blending them with baking spices and maple syrup will make a wonderful base for a sour-style cocktail made with dark spirits such as rum, whiskey, or brandy,” he says. “You can roast the carrots to get a more caramelized flavor as well. The yield of juice will be a bit less this way, but the depth of flavor from roasting will be huge.”
Add to a Collins-style cocktail
“Cranberries are a great addition in for Collins-style cocktails,” Rogers says. “Use that flavor as a base mixed with white or brown spirits and mixed with soda water and you can’t go wrong.”