The Perfect Fall Cocktail Includes Not A Drop Of Pumpkin Spice

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Jeffrey Morgenthaler is Food Republic's contributing cocktail editor and the author of the column Easy Drinking. He currently manages the bars Clyde Common and Pépé Le Moko in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.

Once again, fall is here. Almost overnight here in Oregon, the weather has turned crisp, the leaves have started falling from the trees and the wind has picked up and begun to cool down the state. Every so often, you'll catch a whiff of a fireplace burning in the distance.

I hate fall. I'm probably the only person on the planet who does, but I loathe the end of summer. Having grown up in California, I'm solar powered, and now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I don't run well on only eight hours of sunlight a day. I don't like looking at dead trees, I don't like the smell of a fireplace all that much and I really don't enjoy being cold.

But for some reason, I've always been very good at coming up with autumnal cocktails. Don't ask me why, as pumpkin pie spice is one of my least favorite flavors. But from eggnog to hot toddies, fall seasonal drinks are my out-of-left-field specialty. And so I have quite a few of them in my stable.

I have a real problem when bartenders try to reinvent the wheel when coming up with a new cocktail. There are so many tried-and-true formulas out there that there is very little reason to start from scratch. Looking to make something summery and refreshing? Try starting with the collins formula and working from there. Something spirit-driven and herbal? Toy around with the Negroni. It's simple, really.

Aquavit Grogstad Aquavit. (Photo courtesy of House Spirits Distillery.)

So a few years ago when I was challenged to come up with an autumnal cocktail featuring our wonderful local aquavit, Krogstad, I turned to the venerable New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carré. The house cocktail of the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans is already super autumnal in flavor, which makes it safe to say that I can't really stand the drink. But I have to respect it, because it's a well-constructed cocktail.

The Vieux Carré is essentially a variation on a Manhattan, with a split base. This means that the base spirit is divided into two spirits; in the case of the Vieux Carré, we're talking about rye whiskey and Cognac. I find that aquavit's caraway conjures up memories of cool, crisp mornings and toasted rye bread. I thought to pair it with the warm baked apples found in another local spirit we are fortunate to have here, Clear Creek apple brandy, and suddenly I had a new cocktail on my hands that evoked perfectly my least favorite time of year.

But if fall does have one saving grace for me, it's that it's the perfect time of year to listen to the Beatles' legendary album Rubber Soul. I slapped the name of the second track on the drink, and it has been in my stable ever since:

Norwegian WoodIngredients

1 ounce aquavit (try House Spirits' Krogstad aquavit)

1 ounce applejack or apple brandy (I use Clear Creek's two-year apple brandy)

¾ ounce sweet vermouth

¼ ounce yellow Chartreuse

1 ounce Angostura bitters


Combine ingredients with ice cubes and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel.