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It’s Pumpkin Time!

Labor day weekend, a nationwide celebration of the American workforce, the unofficial end of summer, and another solid reason to gather around friends and family and share in copious amounts of booze. No more pools, no more flip flops, and say goodbye to beaches and barbeques. But what signals the end of one season harkens the beginning of another. Autumn is right around the corner, and we all know what that means. Carving pumpkins, roasting turkey, NFL football, foliage drives into the Taconics and Berkshires, and all of the great things that fall brings every year. Like clockwork, I’ll drink my first Octoberfest Draught, boil some fresh spiced apple cider, and try to find a way to make a pumpkin cocktail that doesn’t taste like ass.

And that’s where we find ourselves, this first day of September. I’ve been tasked with adding a pumpkin cocktail to the fall drink list at Harlan Social, and I’ve decided that bottle of Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice Liqueur, that’s been gathering dust at my last job since last September, is not fortunate enough to see the light of day this year. This year we’re going down a more culinary path. Enter pumpkin puree.

If you’re lucky enough to find a sweet pumpkin (pie pumpkin) this early in the season, by all means pick one up, slice it in half, gut it, boil it, and scoop out the inside. But, if like me, your local markets are void of pumpkins for a few more weeks, pick up a can of all natural 100% pumpkin puree (15oz), and break out all the same spices we used for the Falernum, this summer (minus the star anise.) What we are making is Pumpkin Butter, and it will become the main flavoring ingredient in our cocktail.

Pumpkin Butter:

  • 1 – 15oz can Pumpkin Puree, or equivalent fresh pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup Apple Cider
  • ¾ cup Water
  • ¾ tsp Fresh Grated Ginger
  • ¼ tsp Fresh Ground Cloves
  • ¼ tsp Ground Mace
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • ¼ cup Turbinado Sugar
  • ¾ cup Demerara Sugar
  • ½ cup Muscovado Sugar

Mix everything together over heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a steady simmer, and cook for 30 minutes until reduced to a consistency similar to Apple Butter. Cool, cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3-4 weeks.

Now, the fun part. You can find cocktail recipes all over the place that use Pumpkin Butter as their flavoring agent. Some, like Death & Co.’s Vampire Blues, use solera sherry. Dark Skies Ahead, from The Bent Brick in Portland, OR, use amaro, like Averna. Of course, most of your local dives and chain restaurants are using pumpkin spiced liqueur or, worse, Monin syrup, and drowing the results in vodka. I prefer an artisan approach that appeals to a mass audience. After all, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of reinventing the wheel. And so, we have a twist on the classic Manhattan:

The Jame-o-Lantern

  • 1.5oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 1oz Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
  • .5oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • .5oz 2:1 Simple Syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • .5oz Pumpkin Butter

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh cinnamon or grated nutmeg (or both!)

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