Your Guide to Anything-but-Typical Fall Beverages

We all love a good pumpkin spice or chai-laden beverage, but fall drinks do not always have to follow these cliché flavor patterns. Classic cocktails, like the Manhattan or Vintage Negroni, make for perfect fall drinks. Plus, how great is it to know how to mix cocktails that have stood the test of time! Nostalgia has helped trigger reproducing great craft drinks at home, like the classics above, and inspired tweaks to things like hot chocolate and hot toddy. You will find each of these recipes perfect for sharing with friends, or simply something to sip slowly, warming up alone around a fire.

The Classics

In our home, we value home cooking and cocktail crafting, but we are always looking to do both while being mindful of health, ease, and expense. Most weekday nights, needing a warm up from the newly turned air, we can be found sipping on Paul’s Classic Manhattan or our new favorite, the Vintage Negroni.

While neither are classically fall, (probably due to the lack of commercial coffee shops on every corner way back when), both beverages stimulate all my favorite fall feelings. After a season of light gin and tonics with lime or fruit-based punches, both the Manhattan and Vintage Negroni promise an inside-out warmth, and are just plain delicious. As a bonus, we often have either gin or rye whiskey on hand—so no shopping trip necessary! When you pour yourself either drink I hope you will understand why I find them both so classically fall.

Paul’s Manhattan

(Made so many times, in single servings or pitchers, we cannot remember where we found the original measurements. Adjust to taste, preference.)

Recipe for one drink

  • 2 oz rye whiskey

  • 1 oz sweet vermouth

  • 2 dashes bitters (we use the classic Angostura)

Stir the above with ice, and strain into a lowball whiskey glass with preferably a large ice cube. If you want a real treat, add in one or two Luxardo maraschino cherries at the end.

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Vintage Negroni

(adapted from Aperitivo, by Marisa Huff)

Recipe for one drink

  • ½ oz Campari

  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth

  • 1 oz dry gin

  • ¾ oz red wine (original recipe calls for Barolo Chinato, but we use any full-bodied red wine we have on hand)

  • 1 dash orange bitters

  • Orange peel for garnish

This is a stirred drink.

  1. Fill a tall glass with ice cubes, pour in all your liquid ingredients and stir for 10-20 seconds.

  2. Strain into a rocks glass and add ice cubes as preferred.

  3. Garnish with an orange peel.

Tis the Season for FOOTBALL

So, Fall = Football? Or is that just at my house? While not an avid sports fan, I have come to embrace the tradition of watching young men throw their bodies into one another across a delicately groomed field for two reasons: the food and the drinks. What better way to enjoy a big game than with a plate of cheesy dips and wings coupled with an on-theme beverage. My favorite way to weave some handcrafted goodies into our game day bar is either through a beer tasting menu or with a spunky fall punch. Both take minimal effort to prepare and make game watching and dip gorging all the more enjoyable. Plus, if some of you reading or your friends are not so thrilled with what’s on TV, a beer tasting menu allows for added activity outside of the main event.

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Beer Tasting (not so much a recipe, more of a guide)

If you’re inviting friends over, ask everyone to bring a couple of unique or favorite beers. If it’s just you and one other person, many boutique local grocery stores or bottle shops commonly sell beers individually so you’re not stuck with multiple six packs.

Lay out a big piece of brown craft paper (bought online at Amazon or craft stores like Michaels) on any bar, kitchen island, dining table, etc. along with pens/markers.

If you want it to be a blind taste test (which I recommend!), tape a strip of craft paper over each bottle’s label as friends arrive. Set out beers in a row at the top of the paper.

Set out smaller sized clear glassware (to appreciate the beers’ color)  and encourage friends to pour a taste of various beers in their cup (rinsing in between, of course) and rating the beers on the large sheet of craft paper with a 1-5 star ranking system. Encourage everyone to write funny notes about the beer or any flavors they pick up on.

At the end of the night, show off each empty bottle’s label and declare the best beer of the night based on ratings!

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Pomegranate Prosecco Punch       

Serves 6-8 guests, about 2-3 drinks each

Plan this punch 1 day in advance - freeze time needed for the pomegranate ice mold

*can be adapted to be alcohol-free, see below

  • 2 bottles prosecco (or champagne)

  • 1 bottle sparkling apple cider (or hard apple cider)

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice

  • Extra points for pomegranate seeds

  • Bundt pan (this is a cake pan that often has fluted sides and a central tube or ‘chimney’ which leaves a hole in your cake ) or ice cube trays

Day before the Big Game:

  1. Ice mold - fill your bundt pan ¾ of the way filled with water. Add in pomegranate juice and any pomegranate seeds (I used edible flowers too when I could not find pomegranate seeds). Gently place in freezer and allow to freeze overnight.

  2. If using ice cube trays, fill half and half with water and pomegranate juice and make as many cubes as you have available.

Right before serving:

  1. Using a large punch bowl (feel free to use a pitcher or any large bowl), pour in your two bottles of prosecco and 1 bottle of sparkling apple cider. Mix until combined. Minutes before guests arrive take out your bundt pan and lightly tap on the counter, or run the sides under hot water, to loosen the ice. Then, carefully drop the ice mold into your punch bowl. Same with the ice cubes.

  2. Ladle into cups and enjoy!

*To make it alcohol free: instead of prosecco use two bottles of sparkling apple cider and one liter of sparkling water.

Kegless Tailgating

Over 12 years ago, I experienced my first tailgate at a Big Ten school, . Coming from a small liberal arts college, this was an experience! While the “Kegs & Eggs” was not so appealing to my 6 a.m. stomach, one of my like-minded friends crafted a delicious hot toddy to sip while watching the crowds hoot and holler for their team. Today, when I stir my updated version of this recipe, I am transported back to that moment and can rest assured I made the right choice drinking this hand-warming gem—avoiding the lukewarm beer from the pre-game keg.

Hot Toddy

makes 1 drink (with simple syrup left over)

  • 1.5 oz bourbon (might we suggest something from one of our Certified Partners in KY?)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 2 cardamom pods (optional)

  • ¼ large lemon, or ½ small lemon

    1. . For my hot toddy, I added cinnamon sticks at the same time I added the sugar in the pot and let them steep while the simple syrup cooled.

    2. Next, juice your half lemon in a mug, pour in the bourbon, and add 4 tbsp’s of your simple syrup. Stir.

    3. Meanwhile boil some water and pour a little on top, (I probably poured ½ cup warm water) and garnish with a lemon slice—enjoy!

    4. *Simple syrup can be stored in a jar with a lid for about a week.

*Simple syrup can be stored in a jar with a lid for about a week.

Hot Chocolate Bliss

Have you ever made homemade hot chocolate? Don’t stop reading! I promise it’s so unbelievably easy you will wonder why you ever bought those sugar filled packets to begin with. Keep some fun toppings stocked (marshmallows, whipped cream, caramel sauce, cinnamon, peppermint flakes, peppermint schnapps, etc.), whip up the chocolate base and you will have quite the treat either for a solo night watching horror movies or a fun autumn gathering with friends.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

makes 1 mug

  • If you have a double boiler, use it here. I do not, so, I use a small saucepan and a glass bowl on top for a DIY version.

  • 1 cup milk (the higher fat content the better, or any milk alternative)

  • 2 oz. chocolate

  • *optional cinnamon stick and any fun toppings

  1. Gently warm milk on a low heat in a saucepan (here you can add in your cinnamon stick to flavor the milk)

  2. Meanwhile, melt whatever chocolate you have at home—I like to use darker chocolate but if you love milk, go for it - in the double boiler. To do this, simmer water below (make sure it’s not touching the top pan/heatproof bowl), and add chocolate to the top stirring often until the chocolate liquefies.

  3. Once chocolate is melted, whisk it into the warmed milk until completely combined. Carefully pour into your favorite mug, add your toppings or mix in some peppermint schnapps and drink in the deliciousness. You just made hot chocolate!

  4. Spritz without the Booze if desired

My favorite Mocktail

Last fall, newly pregnant and with a packed social calendar, I was forced to get creative in the beverage department so I did not end up drinking only seltzer water at every gathering. After a fridge dive and a little sugar desperation, I quenched my thirst with a Pomegranate Apple Spritz, and I did not miss any of the alcohol options I previously would have opted for.

Pomegranate Apple Spritz

makes one drink

  • 5-10 apples depending on size (your need 2 cups of apple peels)

  • ½ cup sparkling water

  • ½ cup apple cider

  • 2 cups brown sugar

  • 2 cups water

  • Pomegranate seeds

  1. First, you are going to make an apple brown sugar simple syrup. Peel 5-10 apples until you have about 2 cups of peels (use your leftover apples for making applesauce or a pie). Place peels, brown sugar, and plain water in a saucepan. If you have a cinnamon stick add that in for fun. Gently simmer, whisking the sugar until it dissolves, until the water/sugar/apple peels liquid has thickened. Strain out the liquid and discard the peels and cinnamon stick.

  2. In a tall glass add ice cubes, sparkling water, apple cider and 2-3 oz of your simple syrup. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and enjoy.

  3. *Simple syrup can be stored in a jar with a lid for about a week.

Want more mocktail recipes and inspiration? Check out what our friends over at The Mocktail Project are up to!

As you enjoy the change of light and cooler nights, sip on your new fall favorite to welcome in this cozy season. Tag us with any of the drinks you choose to enjoy!


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About the Author

Jessica Fruin is a freelance writer, and the face of Poppy Rose Co. She and her husband, Paul, spend their time drinking cold brew, digging out their ever-weeded yard, cooking way too much for two and a half people, throwing extreme happy hours, and exploring new opportunities.