Once upon a time, the onset of fall was signaled by the changing color of leaves. Nowadays, autumn is heralded by the arrival of all things flavored pumpkin spice. Blame Starbucks' insanely popular Pumpkin Spice Latte (which, for the first time, actually contains real pumpkin) for kickstarting the frenzy every year.
But pastry chefs and Starbucks enthusiasts aren't the only ones obsessed with pumpkin. Bartenders are getting in on the fun, too. From pumpkin sours to pumpkin Manhattans to a boozy shake containing an actual pumpkin pie, below, 25 pumpkin cocktails to try this fall. Fun fact: "Smashing Pumpkin" and "Great Pumpkin" are trending as far as pumpkin cocktail names. Here's where to get your pumpkin fix.
Location: 144 Main Street, Worcester, MA
Bartender: Joy Flanagan
Cocktail: Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte ($10) with coffee, RumChata cinnamon cream liqueur, Plantation 5-Year Grand Reserve rum and homemade pumpkin purée.
Even though this Worcester bar/restaurant has been recognized by Draft Magazine as one of the top beer haunts in the country, it also takes pride in its cocktails. For fall, bar manager Joy Flanagan created an iced cocktail version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte to serve during weekend brunch. "We're trying to welcome fall, but it's still kind of warm out, so we're shaking that and putting it on ice so people can still enjoy it while the patio is still in use," she says. But as soon as the weather turns chilly, she plans to release a buttered rum version.
Location: 25 State Street, Newburyport, MA
Bartender: Neil Rudnick
Cocktail: The Slipper Fits ($12) with Armagnac, Grand Marnier, spiced pumpkin purée, heavy cream, egg yolk, freshly grated nutmeg and Maldon salt.
Bartender Neil Rudnick's seasonal cocktail was inspired by the cool nights and intimate gatherings that make autumn his favorite time of the year. "This drink is reminiscent of a rich dessert cocktail or egg milk punch, this autumn spiced pumpkin cocktail is enhanced by a full flavored Armagnac, making it a glassful of comfort," he says.
Location: 1401 Curtis Street, Denver, CO
Bartender: Brandon Wise
Cocktail: Simply Squash ($10) with Mount Gay Rum, maple syrup, pumpkin purée, egg white, Peychaud's bitters and lemon.
Customers wanted to taste pumpkin this fall and bartender Brandon Wise gave it to them in the form of an after dinner drink. His Simply Squash cocktail mixes rum to complement the savory notes of the pumpkin and sweetness of the maple syrup.
Location: 1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO
Bartender: Dennis Schuler
Cocktail: Smashing Pumpkin ($12.50) with Bulleit Bourbon, pumpkin purée, tangerine, Grand Marnier and brown sugar simple syrup.
Amazingly, this seasonal cocktail, which comes back every year at this time, is made with good ol' canned pumpkin, which bar manager Dennis Schuler supes up with Grand Marnier and brown sugar simple syrup.
Location: 1819 N Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX
Bartender: Leslie Ross
Cocktail: Rumpkinator Flip ($12) with Blackstrap Molasses Rum, Smith & Cross Jamaican Navy Strength Rum, St. Elizabeth's Allspice Dram, spiced pumpkin butter, whole egg, heavy cream, Extinct Lactart (natural acid for flavoring), hot St. Arnold Pumpkinator beer and garnished with nutmeg.
Houston's newly minuted Hunky Dory has this pumpkin flip to greet customers. "It is the epitome of autumn in a glass!" swears drink creator Leslie Ross. "The dark spicy flavors of the rum and liqueur float across the velvety cream and pumpkin butter."
Location: 1218 S Main Street, Las Vegas, NV
Bartender: Chris Ferri
Cocktail: Queen's Revenge ($10) with dark rum, vanilla, pumpkin spice syrup, Aztec chocolate bitters, lemon and ginger beer.
For his pumpkin cocktail inspiration, bartender Chris Ferri went all the way back to the 18th century. "In the early 1700s, Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, ran aground in a storm off the coast of North Carolina," he says. "I thought of the flavors of the Caribbean, where the pirates had come from, meeting the flavors of autumn in the mid Atlantic, where the ship ultimately came to rest."
Location: 1819 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA
Bartender: Anuar Chavez
Cocktail: Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned ($14) with Bulleit Bourbon, pumpkin spice syrup and Stoughton's bitters.
Pumpkin spice syrup is a natural fit in the warm flavors of an Old Fashioned, and it's a delicious way to adapt the drink to fall. Here, bourbon is accented by the pumpkin and clove spices, reminiscent of a super boozy pumpkin pie.
Location: 11720 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA
Bartender: David Castagnetti
Cocktail: Pumpkin Spiced Cable Car ($13) with spiced rum, lemon juice, orange juice, housemade pumpkin syrup, sage leaf, cinnamon sugar rim and candied ginger.
To adapt this spiced rum variation of the classic Side Car to autumn, bar manager David Castagnetti added housemade pumpkin syrup. When combined with the full flavor of rum and lemon juice the result is "a cocktail that will perfectly pair with a cool fall night on our twinkling patio," says Castagnetti.
Location: 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA
Bartender: Jason Eisner
Cocktail: Pie One On ($15) with housemade pepita pumpkin butter, Anejo tequila, port wine, lemon juice, demarara syrup, and aromatic bitters.
Bartender Jason Eisner, who hails from the East Coast, wanted to give imbibers an authentic pumpkin pie experience in a cocktail. "So I threw together a bunch of ingredients that remind me of fall, like port wine, a homemade pumpkin butter with a Mexican twist, aromatic bitters and a tequila that's reminiscent of a very oaky bourbon," he says. The result is a delicious ode to the Thanksgiving dessert.
Location: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Evan Charest
Cocktail: Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned ($15) with Michte'rs Bourbon, applejack, pumpkin purée, honey and bitters.
Bartender Evan Charest says that this Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned is the cocktail version of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte. The major difference is that he replaced steamed milk with bourbon which already makes it a thousand times better than PSL.
Location: 1233 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Karen Grill
Cocktail: Pumpkin Dark & Stormy ($12) with housemade pumpkin spice ginger beer and aged rum.
This Hollywood bar crafts its own ginger beer, and for fall bartender Karen Grill flavored it with pumpkin and fall baking spices. The "Build a Buck" menu option lets guests mix it with the spirit of their choice, be it brandy, vodka, or aged rum. But Grill suggests the rum option for a pumpkin Dark 'N' Stormy.
Location: 211 N. 1st Street, Minneapolis, MN
Bartender: Robb Jones
Cocktail: Pumpkin Julep ($13) with Great Lakes Distillery Pumpkin spirit, maple syrup, Bittercube Blackstrap Cocktail Bitters and fresh sage.
Head bartender Robb Jones wasn't ready to say good bye to the Julep yet, so he made it season appropriate with pumpkin. "Sage works so well with the warmth of maple syrup, and the mild spice of the pumpkin spirit and the bitters," he says.
New York City
Location: 60 2nd Avenue, New York, NY
Bartenders: Gustavo Ortega Oyarzun and Christopher Reyes
Cocktail: L'Autentico Caballero ($14) with Mezcal Joven, Galliano L’Autentico, half and half, agave syrup, butternut squash purée, egg white and mole bitters.
For this Mexican restaurant, bartenders Gustavo Ortega Oyarzun and Christopher Reyes created what they consider to be the ultimate fall drink. "The cocktail has a creamy mouthfeel and is slightly nutty, with fall notes that are a touch sweet," explains Oyarzun.
Location: 529 Broome Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Joe Isidori
Cocktail: The Pumpkin Pie Milkshake ($12) with homemade pumpkin pie, vanilla ice cream, maple syrup and Myers's Dark Rum.
Why fake a good thing? This boozy milkshake, inspired by Thanksgiving and old-school diners, incorporates an actual housemade pumpkin pie. A half slice, or six ounces to be exact. "I have been to many old school diners with my father and we used to love getting apple pie milkshakes," explains drink creator Jose Isidori.
Location: 106 E 57th Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Rick Wells
Cocktail: The Great Pumpkin Manhattan ($16) with Woodford Reserve Bourbon and housemade pumpkin cordial.
Thanksgiving doesn't come often enough for BLT Steak New York sommelier Rick Wells. "Thanksgiving dinner and the tastes and sensations and memories of fall have always resonated strongly with me. I wanted a better way to enjoy them more often than once or twice this season." And here the bourbon is the perfect complement to the sweeter liqueur version of savory pumpkin.
Location: 212 E 42nd Street., New York, NY
Bartender: Nico Szymanski
Cocktail: The Great Pumpkin ($15) with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Brugal 1888, Hennessy VSOP Cognac, cinnamon-vanilla simple syrup, egg white and pumpkin purée.
The Great Pumpkin cocktail originally started out as a nog, but considering those are one-and-done drinks, head bartender Nico Szymanski took out the cream and kept the egg white to lighten it up. The result, according to Szymanski, is a "drinkable pumpkin pie that helps you tolerate your in-laws a little better on Thanksgiving." And its mix of bourbon, rum, and brandy not only create a complexity hard to achieve with one base spirit, but help balance each other out, softening the alcohol bite.
Location: 29 W 35th Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Niccole Trazska
Cocktail: The Great Maple Pumpkin ($12) with Sugar Island Spiced Rum, Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Crown Maple Syrup, egg white, Pedro Ximénez Sherry, pumpkin purée and cream.
This rich and satisfying pumpkin cocktail showcases the best flavors of fall and drink creator Niccole Trazska claims that it's as close to pumpkin pie as one will find in a cocktail. With Maker's Mark and Sugar Island Spice Rum as the base, "you get depth, texture and a hint of maple sweetness," she states.
Location: 90 W Houston Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Orson Salicetti
Cocktail: Falling South ($15) with homemade pumpkin purée, organic agave nectar, rum aged five years in a bourbon barrel, HKB Baijiu, and Lumos Spices elixir (bay leaf, all spices, cinnamon and clove reduce with Baijiu).
Lumos Bar wanted to evoke "home for the holidays" nostalgia with fall flavors of pumpkin and baking spices. The Falling South cocktail actually gets its name from the thick, sweet pumpkin porridge popular in China during autumn; the Chinese word for "pumpkin" is "Southern melon."
Location: 120 W 49th Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Dan McLaughlin and Adam Petronzio
Cocktail: Pumpkin Alexander ($15) with Hennessy cognac, crème de cacao and housemade pumpkin crème.
Bar manager Dan McLaughlin and wine director Adam Petronzio wanted to focus more on the actual flavor of pumpkin (as opposed to pumpkin and spice) when creating their pumpkin cocktail. "After making many complex/terrible pumpkin cocktails, we made a Brandy Alexander and thought we should do a twist on the classic," McLaughlin explains. The cream is infused with pumpkin then lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. "When shaken up with Hennessy and crème de cacao it tastes like 'fall in a glass.'"
Location: 204 W 55th Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Bernard McNamee
Cocktail: Smashing Pumpkin ($14) with Old Forester Bourbon, Pimento Dram, freshly squeezed orange juice and Southern Tier pumpkin beer.
According to Tanner Smith's owner/mixologist Bernard McNamee, the rich Southern Tier Pumking Ale is a great partner for Old Forester bourbon. "The touch of allspice and orange juice recreate the quintessential autumn holiday flavors in a glass ... think sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie (the best ones always have bourbon in them)!"
Location: 713 Washington St., New York, NY
Bartender: Cody Goldstein
Cocktail: The Pump-QUIn ($14) with pumpkin purée, QUI Tequila, Averna Amaro, Aperol, black walnut bitters and egg white.
The only tequila pumpkin cocktail in this roundup! This one uses platinum extra anejo that possesses vanilla, butterscotch, and oak notes to complement the pumpkin. Then the richness of the pumpkin purée is lightened with the egg whites and black walnut bitters.
Location: 326 Broadway, San Diego, CA
Bartender: Jeff Josenhans
Cocktail: Smashing Pumpkin Martini ($12) with pumpkin and star anise-infused 10 Cane Rum, Grand Marnier, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Massenez ginger liqueur, saffron syrup, cardamom bitters and fresh Meyer lemon.
The goal in creating this Smashing Pumpkin Martini was to put pumpkin pie and fall in a glass, from its cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, ginger spices to the little wooden pumpkin that garnishes the drink. After appearing on the Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate, it has become a Grant Grill tradition and cult favorite. "We have had people come literally halfway across the country to drink The Smashing Pumpkin, and it’s always great to see that the community looks forward to the cocktail every year," says mixologist Jeff Josenhans.
Location: 2030 Union Street, San Francisco, CA
Bartender: Duncan Wedderburn
Cocktail: P.H Pumpkin Fizz ($12) with Snow Leopard Vodka, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, half and half, egg white and pumpkin butter.
This pumpkin version of the classic Ramos Gin Fizz switches out the gin for vodka and autumnizes it with pumpkin butter and cinnamon syrup. Enjoy this dessert-like cocktail after brunch or dinner.
Location: 332 15th Avenue E, Seattle, WA
Bartender: Myles Burroughs
Cocktail: The Great Pumpkin ($12) with Vizcaya 12-year rum, Nuestro Soledad mezcal, lemon juice, apple juice, allspice, velvet falernum, fresh pumpkin reduced in maple syrup and egg white.
Barman Myles Burroughs splits base spirits mezcal and rum to add depth of flavors in his variation of Attaboy bartender Sam Ross' The Conquistador classic sour cocktail. To achieve a fresh pumpkin flavor, Burroughs cold infuses maple syrup with pumpkin in a Cryovac. "So instead of a stewed or pumpkin pie flavor the pumpkin is very fresh and bright, complementing the floral notes of the mezcal," he says. The combination of fresh, cold pressed Granny Smith apple juice and lemon drive home the fall flavors while adding complexity. "All together, it takes me to a late October evening in a field around a bonfire... Perhaps waiting for the great pumpkin to arrive, thusly the name."
Location: 3417 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Bartender: Caroline Blundell
Cocktail: Peaches and Pumpkins ($14) with Corsair Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, bittersweet Imbue white vermouth, Fee Brothers peach bitters and a pickled peach garnish.
For her Manhattan/Gibson variation, bar manager Caroline Blundell wanted to bring the season to life in cocktail "The pumpkin spice and the oakiness of the cognac give a warm festive familiar feeling that takes you back in time with fond holiday memories," she says.