By Cathy Martin • Photographs by Justin Driscoll
Temperatures are dropping, and it’s time for easy drinking palomas and spritzes to step aside and make way for a new slate of fall cocktails. What are the booziest cocktail trends this autumn? We asked six of Charlotte’s most innovative mixologists to share their newest creations.
Colleen Hughes l Haberdish
Falling for you
pistachio orgeat, apple-cider syrup, lemon, bitters, nutmeg, Cruzan Black Strap rum, Plantation Original Dark rum and Becherovka (an herbal bitters)
“I feel like most of the time when people talk about fall cocktails, they think whiskey, maple, pumpkin … but fall here is warmer,” says Hughes, beverage director for Haberdish, Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub, Growlers Pourhouse and the soon-to-open Supperland. “Our North Carolina falls are still pretty darn nice. You don’t need 100-proof liquor in your hand” to toast the fall season. Being mindful of social distancing, the team at Haberdish decided to pause its wildly popular Tiki Wiki cocktail event, held each year in August. But Hughes still wanted to create some drinks that were refreshing and fun. A house-made pistachio orgeat is a twist on the traditional almond-based sweet syrup commonly used in tiki cocktails. Notes of apple and dark rum add richness and warmth.
Eli Privette l Dogwood Southern Table & Bar
bourbon, Amaro Oscura, Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry blanc, Cocchi Dopo Teatro vermouth amaro, oleo saccharum and homemade allspice bitters
Privette took the reins as bar manager at Dogwood Southern Table & Bar this summer after several years working at Rare Roots Hospitality siblings Fin & Fino and The Porter’s House. In his Rudeneja, a Lithuanian word describing the way weather starts to feel like fall, Privette fuses autumn-inspired baking-spice flavors such as nutmeg and cinnamon in a house-made bitters. Amaro Oscura, an Asheville-based liqueur that’s made with locally foraged ingredients, is a key component. “It’s kind of what we like to do at Dogwood — using North Carolina-made and North Carolina-grown products,” says Privette, who this year was named among the top 50 U.S. bartenders by the U.S. Bartenders Guild. “The amaro just reiterates that idea behind it.” Another concept Privette has introduced: A zero-waste “farm to glass” cocktail series, featuring a weekly libation centered around a single ingredient that incorporates locally grown produce.
Brian Lorusso l Little Mama’s Italian Kitchen
Averna amaro, Tia Maria, amaretto and barely whipped cream
Lorusso created this drink to serve a dual purpose — as a fun brunch cocktail or an after-dinner treat — with Tia Maria coffee-flavored liqueur and amaretto, an almond-flavored Italian liqueur. Drinks incorporating amaro, a classic Italian digestif, are particularly well suited for Little Mama’s rich menu of hearty pastas and entrees, Lorusso says. Lorusso, a fixture on Charlotte’s cocktail scene for more than 15 years joined FS Food Group as bar manager at Little Mama’s in July. Look for this sweet sensation, garnished with a dusting of cocoa powder, on Little Mama’s new brunch menu, which was set to debut last month.
Justin Hazelton l Leah & Louise
Calvados de Christian Drouin, yellow chartreuse, Cappelletti (a wine-based apertif), fresh lemon and Angostura bitters
Hazelton’s cocktail combines flavors of fall with bright notes for a refreshing mixed drink. “Fall in the Carolinas is really kind of hot,” says Hazelton, whose résumé includes 5Church locations in Charlotte and Atlanta, Sophia’s Lounge, and FS Food Group. The bar manager joined Leah & Louise this spring after getting to know chef/owner Greg Collier through the Soul Food Sessions dinner series. Finally Famous is a riff on Naked and Famous, a popular cocktail created by Joaquín Simó at New York speakeasy Death & Co. Hazelton substitutes Calvados, an apple brandy, for mezcal in his variation, which is garnished with a baked apple chip.
Bob Peters l Grinning Mule
Salted maple pear
Cardinal small-batch gin, pear juice, maple syrup and salt water
These days, you’ll find quintessential Charlotte barman Bob Peters at Grinning Mule, a lively new neighborhood spot in Plaza Midwood that serves small plates like crab cakes and lettuce wraps, flatbreads, “won ton” tacos, and salads in a former garage. Former NBA player Bart Kofoed opened the nonprofit restaurant this spring. Peters uses Cardinal small-batch gin, made by Southern Artisan Spirits in Kings Mountain, in his salted maple pear, a libation garnished with fresh-grated nutmeg that’s refreshing while still infused with the flavors of fall.
Larisa Yanicak l O-Ku
Plantation Original Dark rum, Fernet-Branca, Japanese pumpkin orgeat, coconut milk and dalgona coffee foam
When a chef-colleague introduced Yanicak to Japanese pumpkin, also known as Kabocha squash, the bar manager at O-Ku decided to incorporate it into a cocktail. “It’s a smaller green pumpkin, more closely related to a sweet potato,” says Yanicak, who has worked at the Japanese cuisine and sushi spot in South End for four years. Yanicak roasted the squash with warming spices and made a homemade orgeat, a sweet syrup used to flavor cocktails. Fernet-Branca adds a mintiness to the cocktail, which is an homage to that quintessential fall coffee drink, the pumpkin spice latte.
FEATURED IMAGE | Butternut brandy: For this cheery fall cocktail at Grinning Mule, Bob Peters combines Doc Porter’s limited release apple brandy, butternut squash, egg white and Cynar, an artichoke-based amaro. “Amaro has been around forever, but it’s bitter,” Peters says. “The American palate is not predisposed for bitterness, so it takes a little getting used to, but it adds a ton of depth to things.”