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Elegant Autumn Cocktail Recipes That Will Warm Your Thanksgiving Menu & Spark Holiday Happy Hours

This holiday the emphasis is on great food and drink. While the food often gets the spotlight – don’t get sidetracked by all the stuffing and gravy and miss out on creating a special, holiday-themed cocktail menu.

Drink with the Season! Here are a few of my favorites, with the emphasis on using lots of autumnal  ingredients.


Cider is having a moment, by and large because makers embrace its homegrown, flavor profile, along with its versatility. 

The Beverage Testing Institute awarded Strongbow the Best Tasting Common Cider not that long ago. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a tasting and dinner curated and prepared by the oh-so-creative James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef Wylie Dufresne ~ Loved the lamb with barley, hibiscus-date and the Bay Leaf Ice Cream with brownie and Yuzu Fluff!

Strongbow has four cider flavors and each took home an award:

  • Gold Apple: gold medal, 92 points
  • Honey: gold medal, 92 points
  • Red Berries: silver medal, 88 points
  • Ginger: silver medal, 87 points

Hard Cider owns a very prominent place in American history – so what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving – this most American of holidays? And surely a drink that harkens to our colonists’ roots is needed to nurse our souls.

Use this time to test-drive these drinks and be confident that your happy holidays will be brimming with many Happy Hours.

Cocktail Recipes

Gingerbread Sacrifice

Ingredients:
1.3/4 oz Vodka
.33 oz Lemon Juice
3.1/2 oz Apple Cider
1.3/4 oz Orange Liqueur
A little Agave syrup
Gingerbread crumbs

Method:
Pour 1 1/2 oz of lemon juice, 1 ¾ ozs of orange liqueur and vodka into a cocktail shaker with ice. 

Shake well and strain into the cocktail glass.
Add 3.5 ozs of apple cider and stir.

Garnish:
Rim a martini or a Nick and Nora cocktail glass with agave syrup then roll in gingerbread biscuit crumbs.

More American Roots Cocktails

This is another cocktail with a decidedly patriotic American history.
I’ve served it as part of our Thanksgiving cocktails – not only because of its antecedent or pedigree, but also because the distillery is located near our Garden State country home.

Here is an excerpt I created and wrote for my Art of the Garnish Cocktail, along with suggested food pairing.

“For more than 300 years, the Laird family has produced AppleJack in Freehold, Monmouth County New Jersey – the Garden State since 1698. It is the holder of America’s first commercial distillery with License #1. According to the company, Robert Laird – a descendent of founder Alexander – was a Revolutionary War soldier serving under George Washington, and the Laird family supplied the troops with Applejack. Historical records show that, prior to 1760, George Washington wrote to the Laird family requesting their recipe for producing Applejack, which the Laird family gladly supplied. Entries appear in Washington’s diary in the 1760s regarding his production of “cyder spirits.”

I Cannot Tell A Lie

Ingredients:
2 jiggers Lairds AppleJack brandy
1 jigger caramel simple syrup
4 jiggers crisp apple sparkling water
4 shakes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

Method:
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Pour over rocks in tall highball glass. Garnish with apple slice(s) and cinnamon stick.

Food Pairing and Cocktail Composition

Highlight the cocktail’s rustic, Americana roots.


Feature the snacks on a wooden cutting board, sprinkle Cracker Jacks caramel coated popcorn and peanuts around the presentation; add apples – in various colors: red, greens – and various sizes, including those adorable Lady Apples.

Some apples can be used as candle holders for an “honest” glow.

Toss in a Jacks & Balls (like the Cracker Jack’s prize game) for a whimsical barscape decor touch. 

Provide festive red and white straws to help spark an “honest” patriotic cocktail conversation!

More Autumn Cocktail Recipes

While not American, this hard cider is undoubtedly delicious. And with all “honesty” our colonist ancestors had to learn their cider crafting somewhere – and brought over their skills from their homelands.

Rekorderlig is a premium hard cider brand born and brewed in Sweden. I attended a taste-testing opportunity not too long ago. 

The company claims it is the only cider on the market that can be enjoyed either hot or cold; the product is a beautiful blend of fresh, effervescent apple cider infused with vanilla and warming cinnamon. 


The cider is delicious served over ice with fresh fruit garnishes or mixed into cocktails, Rekorderlig is available in five flavors:

  • Pear 
  • Strawberry-Lime 
  • Wild Berries 
  • Passionfruit 
  • Spiced Apple.

Hot Swede

Ingredients:
1 oz spiced rum
1 tbsp honey – local is best
¼ lemon (squeezed)
1 cinnamon stick
Half a bottle of hot Spiced Apple Hard Cider

Method:
Mix the rum, honey, and lemon together; Add hot Rekordlig and stir.

Garnish:
Serve with a cinnamon stick and an orange wheel.

The Pear Jam

Ingredients:
1 oz Ford’s Gin
.75 oz lime

Method:
Muddle 1 Sprig Fresh Mint
Shake and strain into glass

Garnish:
Top with Rekorderlig Pear Cider
Garnish with Fresh Mint

Another spirit with lots of history that has recently returned is the small batch distilleries in New York, particularly in the Hudson Valley. In fact, the number of craft distilleries increased by more than 25 percent in just one year (from 2014 to 2015) up to more than 80.

I love Hudson Whiskey, the first legal pot-distilled whiskey distilled in New York state since prohibition, who sources 90% of its grains from within 40 miles of the distillery.

The distillery notes in a press release, “…The Maple Cask Rye is available in 750ml bottles in addition to the well-known 375ml apothecary-style bottles. This Hudson Whiskey variant is the result of a partnership with Wood’s Syrup maple tappers who use Hudson Whiskey barrels to age their syrup then returns them to the distillery to finish off the Maple Cask Rye and impart a subtle maple sweetness into the classic whiskey. The Maple Cask Rye will have a recommended retail price of $54.99 and will join Hudson Whiskey’s signature Baby Bourbon, Manhattan Rye and New York Corn variants in larger size bottles, affirming the industry and consumer demand for Hudson Whiskey’s award-winning spirits.

“With Hudson, we set out to make great whiskey in New York again,” said Hudson Whiskey co-founder and craft distilling pioneer Ralph Erenzo. “With the investment from William Grant & Sons, we’ve been able to expand our production to support increased demand without ever cutting corners. BTW William Grant is the global brand that is genius at tapping into the crafted, hand-made spirits without losing its step as a major producer. Best of all worlds.

Maple Old Fashioned

Ingredients:
2 parts Hudson Maple Cask Rye
teaspoon good maple syrup
3-4 dashes (to taste) aromatic bitters
Garnish: apple slice and cinnamon stick

Method:
To an Old Fashioned glass, add maple syrup, then bitters, then ice, followed by the Hudson Maple Cask Rye. Stir well to mix and chill.

Garnish:
Add orange peel, cinnamon stick and/or apple slices

Fall Back

Ingredients:
2 parts Hudson Maple Cask Rye
1⁄4 part fresh lemon juice
1⁄4 part maple syrup
2 parts apple cider
Cayenne pepper

Method:
To an Old Fashioned/rocks glass, add ice, then lemon juice, then maple syrup, then whiskey, then apple cider, and stir briefly to mix.

Garnish:
Add dash cayenne pepper on top, and serve with decorative straw.

Other Thanksgiving and Fall cocktails to enjoy

Sailor Jerry Apple Ginger Punch


Ingredients:
1 ½ parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum 2 parts sour mix
1 part apple juice
1 part ginger syrup
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Method:
Add ingredients into mixing glass, add ice, shake, strain over ice into a rocks glass 


Garnish:
Add a fresh apple slice and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum is a Caribbean Rum blended with 100% natural spices and flavors.

Bill and I attended a Sailor Jerry tasting at the precipice of the pandemic (who knew what was ahead?!).

It was quite a creative outreach, with the tasting across the street, a tour of the iconic Daredevil Tattoo Parlor in Gotham that opened in 1997 when tattoos were legalized in New York. (Why did I think it’d been going on much longer here??) The Daredevil is also a fascinating museum of tattoo history.


This is when Bill got his tattoo. (Was it the rum or the keen sense of history?!)

It was his first tattoo  ~ and for this special milestone, owner and tattoo artist, Michelle, designed and created his bespoke body art that is an homage to his time serving in the Navy. 

(And no, he never got a tattoo when he was a United States sailor.)
Look how adorable he is…  And what a cool skull head tattoo pen! (see video below) 

Fast Forward to 2022. It was a perfect summer evening and we ferried to Governors Island for a special evening hosted by Fishers Island Lemonade.  I adore their canned cocktails ~ so refreshing and full of authentic, rich flavors.  
This evening, Bill and I enjoyed tasting the variety of the canned cocktails and mixed cocktails, too.  The Fisher Island Lemonades make great mixers with other spirits.  I’ll have a blog posting on some great recipes coming up in a blog post.  Stay tuned. (Subscribe!).
It was a magical evening.  What’s not to love about drinking this tasty elixir while gazing at the glittering, cinematic New York City skyline. 
      

We even got to meet the founder, Bronya Shillo!  After a very interesting pre-interview, Bronya too, was taken with Bill’s salty, sailor tattoo! The tattoo proved to be an inspiration for a fun, branded photo shoot!






Back to the Cocktail Recipes!

Here is a delicious drink made with one of my most favorite mixers: Q Drinks,

Dark, Stormy & Cidery

Ingredients:
3 oz chilled Q Ginger Beer
2 oz dark rum,
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz chilled apple cider
1 apple slice
1 lime wedge

Method:
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the rum and lime juice and shake well. Pour the Q Ginger Beer into an ice-filled Collins glass and then top with apple cider and then the shaken rum.

Garnish:
Add an apple slide and a lime wedge. Try to balance the lime wedge on the apple slice like a sinking ship. It gets easier on the third drink!

Reyka Snap Mulled Cider

Ingredients:
1 ½ parts Reyka Vodka
¾ part Snap Liqueur
3 parts Apple Cider

Method:
Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake, strain into wine glass or mug

Garnish:
Add a candied ginger on a skewer.

Reyka Vodka is an Icelandic born vodka and provides a smooth and crisp base for both complex and simple cocktails.

Apples & Honey

Ingredients:
1 ¼ parts Drambuie
2 parts Kosher Pressed Apple Cider
¾ part Lime Juice
1 sm pinch Kosher Salt
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 part Kosher Sparkling White Wine (For dryer Cocktail 2 parts Sparkling wine)

Method:
Combine liquid ingredients and salt minus wine into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and stain over ice in a rocks glass. Top with Sparkling wine.

Garnish:
With thinly apple slices and mint.

Drambuie is made from a delightful combination of scotch whisky, heather honey, herbs and spices. (This cocktail created by Drambuie Brand Ambassador Vance Henderson.)

Enjoy your Thanksgiving – cheers to family, friends, good food and drink.

And glamorous Finishing Touches.

Cheers!

3 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Want to try them all right now.

  • Cheers to you and your enthusiastic interest in learning about delicious, homegrown, seasonal cocktails. Do you have a favorite (or two?!)

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Need a true teacher of cocktails. All sound so exciting. Thanks. Keep info coming.

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
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 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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