(This article was resurrected from Buffalo Spree October 2014. Recipes for great fall cocktails never go out of style. Enjoy!)
Western New York does autumn better than most. With crisp blue skies, trees dressed in a colorful rhapsody, and air filled with the scent of smoke from home hearths burning their first fires of the season, there's no finer opportunity to spend a little time curled up at home with a great cocktail and a good book. Spree asked some of the area's best bartenders to share their favorite fall recipes with our readers to mark the occasion. Enjoy!
Kerry Quaile’s Bat Country
Queen City Shaken & Stirred, 455 Hertel Avenue
You might recognize Kerry Quaile from her time as the bar manager at Vera, Buffalo’s first craft cocktail bar. But Quaile is now—along with partners Jon Karel and Zack Mikida—the proud owner of Queen City Shaken & Stirred, a recent addition to Hertel Avenue. Stocking new and vintage glassware, a wide variety of professional bar tools, cocktail books, and drinking ephemera, the supply shop also offers scheduled classes and on-the-fly advice to pros and novices alike. Quaile’s drinks can be deceptively simple; Bat Country is no exception.
2 ounces chai-infused Rittenhouse Rye
½ ounce Cinzano Bianco
2 drops vanilla extract
1 rosemary sprig
Loosely pack a mixing glass with ice. Add each of the liquid ingredients. Stir with a long-handled spoon for approximately 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and add the rosemary sprig as a garnish.
To make chai-infused rye:
4 chai tea bags
1 liter Rittenhouse Rye
Combine rye and tea bags and allow it to steep for one hour.
Jason Wood’s Bitter Revenge
Vera Pizzeria, 220 Lexington Avenue
Musician-turned-barkeep Jason Wood has been at Vera just over a year now, functioning as its bar manager for more than half of it. With cat-like reflexes and a balanced approach to the flavor profiles of his custom cocktails, he’s easily won over the bar’s devoted regulars. This drink, Bitter Revenge, calls for Cardamaro, which may be the most unique of the hipster crowd’s favorite herbal liqueurs. Though its herbaciousness will bring to mind digestives such as Fernet Branca, its wine base makes it technically more akin to vermouth, and with warm, dark fruit notes, it is a solid addition to any cold weather cocktail recipe.
¾ ounces Elijah Craig 12-Year Bourbon
½ ounce Montenegro Amaro
½ ounce Breckenridge Bitters Liqueur
¼ ounce Cardamaro
¼ Lemon twist
Loosely pack a mixing glass with ice. Add each of the liquid ingredients. Stir with a long-handled spoon for approximately 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and add the lemon twist as a garnish.
Adam Smith’s Jack o’ Lazer
Cantina Loco, 191 Allen Street
‘Tis the season for pumpkin and cider, and barkeep Adam Smith gives us both with this seasonal cocktail. Anyone who has visited Cantina Loco won’t find it surprising that he’s also found a way to work tequila into the mix with his take on a shandy, of sorts. Witty and wry, Smith "slings drinks," as he likes to say, at Cantina and downtown’s Tappo. A longtime industry pro, it’s hard to say if Smith’s background in psychology helps him be a better bartender, or helps him cope with the rigors of the job—perhaps it’s both.
2 ounces Fortaleza Blanco tequila
1½ ounce local apple cider
¼ ounce chai syrup (available in the specialty coffee section of your market)
2 ounces Southern Tier Pumking*
Place tequila, cider, and syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until combined and strain into a Collins glass. Top with beer.
*Any seasonal pumpkin beer will work, but Smith prefers Pumking because it has "bigger bang."
Tony Rials’ Roasted Sidecar
Bourbon and Butter, 391 Washington Street
Tony Rials has been the bar manager at the lounge located within the Hotel Lafayette since the hotel reopened its shiny brass doors in 2012. Sitting just on the other side of the hotel’s stunning Art Deco-themed lobby, Bourbon and Butter provides thirsty guests with finessed craft cocktails, an astute wine list, and a modest but carefully curated selection of craft beers. Rials’ recipe for a classic Sidecar—amped up with the heady addition of roasted chestnuts and honey—may not be a recipe for a novice, but it’s worth every bit of effort.
2 ounces chestnut cognac*
¾ ounce of Cointreau
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
1 dash chestnut honey*
1 dash chestnut fig bitters
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Add dashes of honey and bitters. Garnish with two thyme stems tied in a knot.
To make chestnut cognac:
2 sticks unsalted butter
1½ cups toasted and crushed chestnuts
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 750ml bottle of VSOP cognac
Transfer cognac into a large freezer-proof container.
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add butter, chestnuts, and thyme. Sauté gently until the butter browns evenly.
Pour chestnut butter over the cognac. Place in a freezer to allow fat to separate. Once frozen, strain cognac through cheesecloth. Discard contents of cheesecloth. Store the cognac infusion in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to three weeks.
To make chestnut honey:
1 cup water
½ cup honey
¼ cup toasted and crushed chestnuts
Heat ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer and reduce by half. Let cool. Strain and discard the solids, retaining the liquids in an airtight container.
Tommy Lombardo’s Savoy Pear
Ristorante Lombardo, 1198 Hertel Avenue
After nearly a decade of pursuing a career in the performing arts and paying the bills with wages earned at positions in well-respected Manhattan restaurants, Tommy Lombardo returned to his family’s venerable restaurant as its general manager. In the two years that have followed, Lombardo has brought additional panache and refinement to Ristorante Lombardo and its offerings, including a smart craft cocktail menu. Lombardo recommends that G’Vine Floraison gin be used when preparing his Savoy Pear cocktail. "If you can’t get this particular gin, simply use a more floral and delicate gin as opposed to a spicy, robust gin. A citrusy gin would likely work as well."
2¾ ounces pear-infused G’Vine Floraison
½ ounce Cocchi Americano Bianco vermouth
¼ ounce fresh lemon juice
Sliced dehydrated pear or other appropriate garnish
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Top with ice. Stir for thirty seconds. Strain liquid into a chilled martini glass or coupe and garnish.
To make pear-infused gin:
2 fresh, ripe pears
1 750ml bottle of G’Vine Floraison gin
Peel and core the pears. Grate them into a nonreactive plastic or metal container. Add the gin. Cover and allow it to steep at room temperature in a dark place for two or three days.
Run the mixture through a very fine mesh strainer. If you’re an overachiever, you can pass it through a coffee filter a second time. Store the gin infusion in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to three weeks.