Celebrate This

By David Alan
Photography by Jenna Noel

Fall in Central Texas is such a brief period—if you’re not paying attention, you just might miss it. While we may be short on hayrides, twinkling aspens and months of clear crisp days, this is not to say we don’t have ample reason to celebrate. And with celebration comes beverages.

The early part of our fall is often hot enough to masquerade as late summer, (who can forget the countless Halloweens it was too hot to wear a costume?), so when you’re thinking of drinking, take some cues from summer mixology.

Go big on fresh fruit flavors, and keep it on the light side with tall drinks served over ice. Cucumber water and citrus juices pair well with gin, vodka, rum or tequila; throw in an herb such as basil or mint to jazz it up. Just remember when muddling herbs not to overdo it; an abusive muddle will bruise and extract unpleasant flavors.

There are plenty of tree fruits to get excited about as fall begins. The juice of apples and pears can be shaken into lively cocktails, and pairs well with whiskey, rum, tequila and vodka. Figs are interesting when muddled into a classic cocktail such as a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. A dash of aromatic bitters will tie together the various elements, or consider a different kind of complexity with “amari”—potable European bitters such as Pimms, Campari or the delightfully bizarre Italian aperitif Cynar, distilled with artichokes.

My favorite autumn fruit is the persimmon, a fruit unknown to many, but one with a cult following. Persimmons come in many varieties, but fall into two main categories: those that are sweet before becoming fully ripe (such as fuyu), and those that are astringent until the very last minute when they fully ripen (such as hachiya). For mixological purposes, I prefer to wait until persimmons (of either type) are fully ripe and the meat has turned to glorious mush inside the slightly leathery skin. Simply open the persimmon, press the meat through a sieve and use the resulting puree in cocktails and cooking. I love the suppleness it adds to cocktails, and the flavor is fabulous—a treat worth waiting for all year long! Persimmon puree also freezes well for later use.

Finally consider a double-trouble treat for the Thanksgiving table: The first step is to roast a butternut squash, to make butternut-ginger ice cream. For the kiddos this is as good as it gets, but for the grownups, rum and brandy get invited to the butternut milk punch party. Your friends and family will talk about it for years, if you can get them past the squash/booze mix in the same delightful beverage.

With the plethora of holidays and tailgate parties coming up, there’s no shortage of opportunities to fire up the cocktail shakers. Happy mixing!