The season has arrived for drinking a richer, more complex array of cocktails. A quick survey of local bars and restaurants shows that, in this regard, Philadelphians will be swigging very well indeed this fall.
Hop Sing Laundromat is rolling out a number of new cocktails, from one of the best Manhattans I’ve ever sipped (built on a base of single-barrel, 121-proof Willett bourbon) to the magnificently named “General Tso’s chocolate shake,” a great end-of-evening treat swirling with flavors of fresh muddled raspberries, Avión Espresso liqueur, Meletti chocolate liqueur, and Double Cross vodka. It’s subtle, complex, and delicious, the strawberry and shaved orange peel garnishes lending it a stellar brightness. Keep an eye out for more creations from Lêe and his team in the coming weeks and months.
Percy Street has been working on a barrel-aged rye cocktail recently: As of the time of this column’s writing, Dad’s Hat Rye was luxuriating in a barrel with Carpano, Fernet, maple syrup and cranberry. Once it’s ready, it will be finished with black walnut bitters and served, with luck, by the bucketful. Team Solomonov-Cook is also whipping up the “Smashing Pumpkin” at Zahav, based on Don Q rum infused with baharat spice (clove, mace, allspice, and cinnamon), mixed with Madeira and lifted with lime juice. It’s enough to make you yearn for the colder weather to arrive.
Bar Ferdinand is also working with the season’s quintessential gourd in their “Old Grand Dad Pumpkin Manhattan”: Think bourbon infused with roasted and pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, all spice, clove, molasses, and nutmeg. So, too, is Twisted Tail with their “Drunkin Punkin,” a Catdaddy Moonshine and Kraken Rum drink with pumpkin puree and more. Barclay Prime is whipping up a notable whiskey one, as well: The “Picture in the Rye” brings together Bulleit Rye, yellow Chartreuse, and gingerbread bitters.
It’s not all spice this time of year, though; there are plenty other autumn-appropriate flavors that are being featured around the region, including the fig-walnut mint julep at Doc Magrogan’s and the fig-honey old fashioned at Isabella, which, unexpectedly and appealingly, also incorporates balsamic syrup and honey. Harvest Seasonal Grill is taking a slightly different approach to mixing whiskey with their eponymous “Cranberry Bourbon,” a gathering of Woodford Reserve, muddled cranberries, agave nectar, and ginger ale.
Citron and Rose’s “Kosha Nostra,” a cocktail of rye, absinthe, and horseradish bitters, is possessed of a name I wish I’d thought of myself. Barbuzzo is whipping up the “Normandy,” a Calvados and cinnamon-roasted apple tipple that almost sounds healthy. Vernick is offering a Cognac and rooibos tea concoction called the “Field Gun Envy.” They all are wonderfully indicative of the creativity, risk-taking, and energy that define our local drinking scene right now, and promise a phenomenal season of serious guzzling ahead.