At the Reader‘s Fall Cocktail Challenge event last week, bartenders weren’t challenged to use a specific ingredient (as they usually are in our ongoing feature), but to create a cocktail evocative of fall. (The one exception was Dustin Drankiewicz of the Promontory, who was tasked with using pumpkin and created a pumpkin pie-inspired recipe with brown butter pisco, graham cracker syrup, spiced pumpkin soda, and whipped cream topped with spices.) It’s a broad category, and excellent drinks abounded, making the task of the judges—the Reader‘s Gwynedd Stuart, Imbibe digital content editor Emma Janzen, and me—a difficult one.
After debating the relative merits of nearly two dozen contenders, we finally chose the Cold Comfort, a whiskey-based cocktail created by John Stanton of Sable with an unusual combination of ingredients—pineapple, black walnut, rosemary—which somehow created a drink that was both warming and refreshing (recipe below). Meanwhile, the audience choice award went to Adolfo Calderon of Public House, who made an old-fashioned with Old Forester 100-proof bourbon, walnut liqueur, Angostura bitters, orange bitters, and demerara sugar. Walnuts, apparently, are the most autumnal ingredient there is.
1.5 oz Evan Williams bourbon
.75 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz rosemary-black walnut syrup*
.5 oz Amaro Montenegro
.5 oz lemon juice
Dash of Bittercube Jamaican bitters
Shake, strain, serve on ice in rocks glass; garnish with rosemary sprig.
*Rosemary-black walnut syrup
2 parts brown sugar
1 part water
½ part black walnuts
3 sprigs rosemary
Pinch of sea salt
Toast the walnuts in a saucepan, then add water, brown sugar, and rosemary. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Extract rosemary after two hours. Let walnuts sit overnight, then strain.