Fall is when the world takes away its botanical treasures! And as plant life packs it in, our cocktails adapt. We don’t have an abundance of fresh herbs like spring cocktails have. We don't urgently need the refreshment of bright fruits like summer cocktails provide. And we don’t yet need the warmth and spice that winter cocktails offer.
Then what do we look for in a fall cocktail recipes? We thread the line between summer and winter. We still want fruit, but not overpowering fruit. And we want spice, but not overpowering spice. We want to experience a sort of comfortable, earthy moderation. Subtle, herbaceous spices conjure up feelings of a forest not in bloom and not yet frozen. Berries and non-citrus fruit remind us that not all fruit needs to grow in a furnace. This is the middle path we walk with our fall cocktail recipes, and it goes over the bridge from summer to winter.
Even if people aren’t sure they’re looking for all this, they are. It’s hard for a drink that reflects the feeling of fall not to resonate with someone as they experience fall. There’s a built-in market for this type of mixological seasonality.
But choosing specific fall cocktails will boost your bar profit margin. Choosing easy fall cocktails will lower power cost. Because you’ll have all the ingredients, and all the ingredients are simple. These are also the best fall cocktails because they’re easy for bartenders to make. If they’re sticking to standard liquor pours and you’re calculating variance, you’ll have all your checks in place. Then you’ll no longer wonder “are bars profitable?” because you’ll know.
Here, then, are our 10 profitable fall cocktail recipes. Put them on your drink menu (tip: embrace menu engineering principles to make darn sure you get eyeballs on them) and watch them go.
Fall Vodka Cocktails
Tomatoes! Fruits, but not citrus fruits. Perfect for fall cocktails. They’re from the nightshade family, with siblings like eggplants, potatoes, and bell peppers. The Bloody Mary needs no introduction, but we wrote one anyway because we’re reckless.
1921, 1930, 1934, and 1942. All years that someone claims birthed the Bloody Mary. Like many cool things, the Bloody Mary’s origin story is contentious. So we won’t get too far into it. Let’s settle on the Bloody Mary coming to us from the early 20th century. That’s good enough for us.
It started as vodka and tomato juice and layers of flavors added over the years. The recipe is not a one-time idea, but a literal decades-long evolution into what it is today. All based on the tastes of the time and the cocktail market. If ever a drink was an organic creation of a society, it seems the Bloody Mary was.
The origin of the name, like the drink’s origins, are murky. Queen Mary I of England, Hollywood star Mary Pickford, the girlfriend of the owner of a bar called Bucket of Blood. All potential origins for the name. Again, impossible to know. So let’s just appreciate it for what it is: a cool name.
The Blood Mary is a concept at this point. Like a sandwich or a taco. There isn’t a single recipe, but some general rules to follow when making one. But whatever recipe you end up with, you’ll have a classic fall cocktail on your hands. The Bloody Mary recipe here is very simple, yet very delicious. And that makes it profitable.
Bloody Mary Ingredients
- 2 ounces vodka
- 6 ounces tomato juice
- 1 tablespoon ground horseradish
- 2 dashes hot sauce
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pinch celery salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- Lemon slice
- Celery stalk
- 2 speared green olives
Bloody Mary Recipe
- Coat a highball rim’s glass with celery salt, then fill the glass with ice
- Squeeze the lemon slice into a shaker and add vodka and everything else but the celery and olives and shake
- Strain into the highball glass
- Garnish with both the celery stalk and green olive spear
The White Russian is a Black Russian with cream added. They have nothing to do with Russia besides their use of vodka. And vodka was created in Poland. Just one of those things, I guess.
A Belgian named Gustave Tops invented the cocktail in 1949 in honor of the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg’s visit to Brussels.
We’ve now mentioned four countries in the last few sentences. You can be forgiven if you think the origin story of the White Russian doesn’t follow much logic. Because it doesn’t seem to.
What is clear is that it’s one of the most popular cream-based cocktails out there. And it’s the perfect fall cocktail addition to your seasonal drink menu. The vodka and coffee liqueur give the cocktail a vitality. But that vitality rests its tired head on cream’s lap, the drink’s calming presence. It’s a combination of characteristics that make it too energetic for winter and too relaxing for summer. That’s the perfect fall cocktail.
White Russian Ingredients
- .75 ounces coffee liqueur
- 1.75 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce cream
White Russian Recipe
- Add ice to a rocks or old-fashioned glass
- Add coffee liqueur, then vodka
- Top off with cream
- Tell them “The Dude” sent you.
Fall Whiskey Cocktails
There is a group of people on earth obsessed with the Manhattan cocktail. It’s not whiskey-loving 30-somethings or fancy lounge-goers. It’s a bunch of people on a little German island in the North Sea.
Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Frisian island of Fohr was known for its whaling community. It’s not far from mainland Germany, but has access to the whaling bounty of the North Sea. The pursuit of whales took these folks all the way to America—New England to be precise. That's where much of the whaling industry had consolidated.
At the tail end of the whaling era, mixing rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters became popular in New York City. And it spread to the rest of the region—Hartford, Connecticut, specifically. The whalers from Fohr picked up the habit there. Heading back to their homeland because work dried up, they brought the recipe and their appetite for it with them.
To this day, the little island of less than 9,000 people is in love with it. They drink it for lunch, for dinner, as a nightcap, for special occasions. Pictures of it adorn restaurants and menus. Bartenders specialize in it. And people seek it out constantly.
The reason is easy to understand. In the crisp climbs of the North Sea, drinking a Manhattan is a lot like wrapping yourself in a blanket and sitting in a rocking chair. And what could be better on an overcast fall evening?
- 2 ounces rye, bourbon, or Canadian whiskey
- .75 ounces sweet vermouth
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Pour everything except the cherry into a shaker with ice cubes and stir
- Strain into a chilled glass, cocktail, rocks, or martini
- Garnish with cherry
It’s often thought the past was a simpler place. True to its name, the old fashioned is one of the simplest drinks out there. It’s the addition of bourbon (and less often brandy) to sugar that’s muddled with bitters (see: what are bitters?)
Sweetening the drink with sugar keeps the flavor profile of the old fashioned quiet. You taste the bourbon and sugar against a sharp and subtle backdrop of dark botanicals. It’s a stiff, warming drink meant for a slow sipper. It’s the best fall cocktail because it’s basically fall in a glass.
What’s most interesting about the old fashioned is that it’s the original cocktail. There was a time when there weren’t thousands of cocktails. There was just one cocktail. And it was defined in 1806 as “a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar.” If you had spirits, bitters, water, and sugar, you had the one cocktail available. Given that whiskey and brandy were the most popular spirits in the 19th century, that’s what cocktails were made with. That means that every cocktail in 1806 was essentially an old fashioned. Make it with bourbon, brandy, or rye, it doesn’t matter. All it needs was bitters, water, and sugar and you’re good to go. It’s simplicity is one of the reasons it remains one of the most popular cocktails.
Of course, it wasn’t called an old fashioned back then. Just a cocktail. The original cocktail. It was only after the invention of hundreds of new cocktails that the drinking community looked back at the original recipe with nostalgia. “Give me a cocktail,” they’d say. “What kind?” the barkeep would ask. “One of those old fashioned ones.”
Old Fashioned Ingredients
- 1.5 ounces bourbon whiskey
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 dashes of bitters (Angostura if available)
- 1 teaspoon water
- Orange slice or cherry
Old Fashioned Recipe
- Put sugar cube in an old fashioned glass and douse in bitters
- Add the teaspoon of water and muddle until the sugar cube dissolves
- Fill the glass with ice and add whiskey
- Garnish with orange slice or cherry
Fall Gin Cocktails
Corpse Reviver No. 2
The Savoy Hotel in London during the 19th and early 20th century was a place for movers and shakers. And, quite literally, shakers. There were lots of cocktails invented and popularized on the grounds of the Savoy. The Savoy Cocktail Book is proof. And the Corpse Reviver is one of them.
It sounds like a kitschy modern name for a craft cocktail. But the use of the phrase “corpse reviver” for mixed drinks dates to 1871. Historical people were cheeky, too!
There are two Corpse Revivers included in the The Savoy Cocktail Book. The first is with Cognac and tends to be the least popular of the two. The second, made with gin, is probably the most complicated cocktail on this list. It’s not as easy as the other fall cocktails, but it’s still relatively easy. The reason we still think it’s profitable is that it’s undeniably unique—both in name, recipe, and experience.
The combination of gin, citrus, wine, orange liqueur, and absinthe is quite unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. And the name “Corpse Reviver No. 2” equally wedges itself in the memory. While you’ll likely have to shell out for some absinthe and possibly some aperitif wine, it’ll be worth it. On hungover fall mornings, the cool and lively flavor of the Corpse Reviver No. 2’s gin and fresh lemon—coupled with the sweet and bitter orange—make it simultaneously relaxing and energizing. The same kind of middle ground that fall occupies.
Corpse Reviver No. 2 Ingredients
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce Cointreau
- 1 ounce Lillet Blanc
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- 1 dash of absinthe
- Orange peel
Corpse Reviver No. 2 Recipe
- Place all ingredients except orange peel in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake
- Strain into a martini glass
- Garnish with an orange peel
James Bond, in the stories and movies, has at least twice ordered an Americano cocktail. It’s Campari, sweet vermouth, and sparkling water. And Bond prefers Perrier in his Americanos, thank you very much.
Sounds like a pretty refreshing drink, the Americano. Imagine coming home from a hard day’s work and sipping on one. Pretty good. Now imagine coming home from a really hard day’s work and sipping on one. Could probably be a little stronger. That’s what Pascal-Olivier de Negroni thought when he was enjoying his favorite cocktail after a hard day’s work as a general in the French military. When you spend your days worrying about all sorts of men-at-arms, armored cavalry, and the looming Prussian threat, you need a little something more than Campari to take the edge of. He asked a bartender to throw a shot of gin in his Americano, and the Negroni was born.
This guy took James Bond’s future drink and spiked it with gin. It’s epic. The Negroni is now considered one of the most classic cocktails ever invented. The Campari and sweet vermouth give the drink a deep ruby color. And the taste is herbal and bittersweet with lingering dark orange from the aroma of the garnish. It’s a calming, meditative drink, perfect for reflecting on the changing of the seasons.
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (AKA vermouth rosso)
- Orange peel
- Add all ingredients except orange peel into a shaker with ice cubes, stir
- Strain into a rocks glass full of ice
- Garnish with an orange pee
Fall Rum Cocktails
Cranberry Maple Rum Cocktail
This is the only winter cocktail recipe with maple syrup on the list. That alone catapults it right to the top. Here the oakiness of bourbon mingles with the earthy sweetness of maple syrup. The key here is to use real maple syrup. Not necessarily because it’s better, but because it’s not as thick as the flavored corn syrup often bought in stores. That makes it easier to dissolve when shaken.
What makes syrup so perfectly suited to being in a cocktail is its consistency and chemical makeup. Maple syrup consists primarily of xylem, a transport tissue within plants that carries water and nutrients from stems to leaves. That gives xylem, and maple syrup, the consistency we all know and love.
But that consistency breaks down when combined with alcohol. All the compounds responsible for the taste and aroma of maple syrup (many of which science still considers a mystery, strangely) are released into the drink. The xylem then goes on to slightly increase the thickness of the drink itself. But it’s only noticeable as the flavors linger on the back of your tongue.
What this amounts to is strategically unlocking the bounty of the great northern forests in our drink. Then we couple that with the tart, fresh taste of the cranberries, or “bog rubies” as they’re sometimes known. The result is a drink that harnesses geography and delivers to you, energetically, the original tastes of planet earth. That is a fall cocktail.
Cranberry Maple Rum Cocktail Ingredients
- 1 ½ ounces rum
- 1 tablespoon real maple syrup
- ½ ounce Grand Marnier
- 4 ounces pure cranberry juice
- Orange twist
Cranberry Maple Rum Cocktail Recipe
- Shake ice, rum, maple syrup, Grand Marnier, and cranberry juice in a cocktail shaker
- Pour over ice and serve in a rocks glass, garnished with an orange twist
Dark ‘N Stormy
The story of the Dark ‘N Stormy is inspirational. In the early 19th century, James Gosling of England, left his home of Kent to sail to the U.S. Having been raised by a wine and spirit merchant, James was no stranger to running a business. He had 10,000 pounds sterling worth of merchandise, which, adjusted for inflation, is over one million dollars today.
But money couldn’t get him the life he wanted. After less than 100 days at sea, their ship’s charter expired. They could no longer sail legally. They had to put into port at the nearest spot, Bermuda. With his dreams dashed and future plans ruined, James re-evaluated his situation. And here’s the inspirational part: he did what he could with what he had. When life gave him Bermuda, he made rum.
In 1806, he started Gosling Brothers Limited as a rum blender and distributor. And in 1860, Gosling Brothers produced their first rum. It was called Old Rum. And it was originally sold out of barrels only. If you wanted some, you had to come in with an empty bottle and use the barrel tap. Soon they began selling the rum in repurposed Champagne bottles from nearby British military officers’ quarters and sealing the bottles with black wax. The rum came to unofficially, and now officially, be known as Black Seal Rum.
Legend has it that during and after WWI, British soldiers stationed in Bermuda grew fond of pouring some Black Seal rum into their ginger beers. And it wasn’t until the early 1990s that Gosling Brothers began marketing this drink using the name Dark ‘N Stormy. While the drink was created and marketed to the sailors and maritime enthusiasts in and around the Caribbean, it has a remarkably subtle profile for the tropics.
The ginger beer meshes well with the crisp fall weather, and the rum can be festive on the sunnier fall days and warming on the cooler ones. It’s not usually included on lists of drinks every bartender should know, but it’s worth remembering. Make this easy fall cocktail your go-to when the clouds roll in and the winds pick up and you’ll know why.
Dark ‘N Stormy Ingredients
- 4 ounces ginger beer
- 2 ounces dark rum
- Lime wedge
Dark ‘N Stormy Recipe
- Pour rum in a highball glass 3/4ths full of ice
- Add ginger beer
- Garnish with a lime wedge
Fall Tequila Cocktails
As we covered when introducing the whiskey sour, the sours family of drinks is not a collection of recipes. It’s a general mixological approach to creating a cocktail. In the 1862 book The Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks, author and bartender Jerry Thomas lay out what a sour is and the six basic sours.
A sour cocktail contains a base liquor, a sweetener, and lemon or lime juice. Some very traditional recipes include egg whites, but people don’t expect egg in their sours anymore. Jerry goes on to list the six main sours: whiskey sour, brandy sour, gin sour, rum sour, applejack sour, and the egg sour. The egg sour is a brandy sour with egg. Missing? The tequila sour.
The tequila sour didn’t come into its own because there already was a version of the tequila sour out there. The margarita. But not every time you go out you need to be dressed to the nines. And not every time tequila and sour are used in a cocktail does it need to be presented as a margarita. Tequila, like us, needs to relax sometimes. And it does that without salt, without the flair of orange liqueur, and without the cocktail or margarita glass. It has the same energy as a margarita, but it’s a subdued energy.
It may seem like a warm-weather cocktail, but that’s the margarita’s domain. It’s got the same energy as a margarita, but it’s a subdued energy. It’s not for partying, it’s for relaxing and savoring. It’s a way to let the intense flavors of summer age into toned-down versions of themselves. Fall, like summer, can be colorful, but it’s not aggressive. And that’s exactly what this very easy fall cocktail is.
Tequila Sour Ingredients
- 1.5 ounces tequila
- .75 ounces lemon juice
- .75 ounces simple syrup
Tequila Sour Recipe
- Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice and shake
- Strain into rocks or old fashioned glass with ice
- Garnish with a cherry
Long Island Iced Tea
Rosebud. That name lingers on as part of a great legacy.
Not only because of the last scene of Citizen Kane. But because of something—someone—even more legendary: Robert “Rosebud” Butt.
Rosebud claims to have invented the Long Island Iced Tea in 1972 as his entry to a cocktail mixing context on Long Island. The requirement was using triple sec in a cocktail.
Alternatively, the drink has a secondary claim of creation. And this involves an even better name that Rosebud Butt. Someone known only as Old Man Bishop during prohibition is rumored to have created the drink in Tennessee. In an area of Tennessee called Long Island. The drink was then tweaked by his son Ransom Bishop and set on its path to modernization.
Back then, the quantities of the five liquors in the Long Island Iced Tea varied. Today, it’s equal amounts of all of them. And if a bartender has a good free pour count, they can hold all those bottles at once. It’s quite a scene.
Two questions you may have: Is the Long Island Iced Tea a tequila cocktail? And is it a fall cocktail? Yes and yes. Let us explain.
First, it’s got tequila in it. Sure, it’s also got everything else in it. A Long Island Iced Tea can be anything you want it to be. And we like to think of it as a tequila cocktail because the roasted agave notes of tequila are immediately apparent in any Long Island Iced Tea. Tequila, for our money, has the most unique flavor profile of the primary base liquors. When you sip a Long Island Iced Tea, you know it’s got tequila in it.
And second, it’s an easy fall cocktail because it’s a dark, stiff, refreshing highball. It’s a busy, loud drink, but not like some of the summer cocktails with as many ingredients. The Coca-Cola tempers the noise and the flavors themselves aren’t bright or aggressive. It’s a combination of everything you know in a way that’s not obnoxious (sorry, summer) and not overly comfy (looking at you, winter). It’s the perfect combination of edge and composure that makes it a fitting fall cocktail. A profitable and easy fall cocktail, to boot.
Long Island Iced Tea Ingredients
- .5 ounces vodka
- .5 ounces gin
- .5 ounces rum
- .5 ounces tequila
- .5 ounces Cointreau
- .75 ounces lemon juice
- .5 ounces simple syrup
- 1 ounce cola
- Lemon twist
Long Island Iced Tea Recipe
- Add all ingredients except coke into a shaker filled with ice, shake
- Strain into a highball glass with ice
- Top with cola
- Garnish with a lemon twist
Easy Breezy Beautiful Fall Cocktails
These easy fall cocktails will split the difference between summer and winter in a memorable way. Buy using simple ingredients (most of which you already have) and focusing on popular liquors, you’ll thread the seasonal needle. Not as powerful as summer, not as cozy as winter. That’s fall, a time of reflection.
Another thing you can reflect on is how these easy fall cocktail recipes have low pour costs and high profit margins. That's because they use only the most popular cocktail ingredients. Keep an eye on your variance, improve inventory control, and master how to upsell cocktails, and you’ll be golden.