Whether you're hosting a Halloween costume party or just sticking around the house handing out Kit-Kats, October 31st calls for a drink or two. The easiest way out is pumpkin beer (though if you're not into that stuff, we have a few other seasonal ales and lagers to recommend.) Want to get a little more ambitious? Mix up one of our favorite Halloween drinks from the list below.
No gimmicks here: this is the fall cocktail for folks who aren't interested in pumpkin-spiced anything. The Ampersand is a simple classic, and its copper color makes it the perfect signature cocktail for any autumn gathering. Made with cognac, rich Old Tom gin, and sweet vermouth, and seasoned with orange bitters, this smooth sipper will have your guests asking for the recipe. (No need to write it down; it's just equal parts.)
Pumpkin Bourbon Cider Milkshake
For boozy milkshakes, we're pretty partial to bourbon, thanks to its rich flavor. This pumpkin-laced shake balances the spirit with sweet-tart reduced apple cider along with cinnamon, ginger, and maple syrup. A dollop of maple-sweetened whipped cream on top? That's a treat.
Turkey and Sage Cocktail
A pumpkin drink feels appropriate for the spookiest night of the year, but the straight-up canned stuff is tricky to work with in a cocktail. Instead, this drink uses pumpkin butter for a concentrated squash flavor, silky texture, and balanced sweetness. The vanilla and caramel flavors of bourbon make it a good match for the pumpkin. (We like to use a high-proof version that can stand up against the bold flavor of fresh sage in this drink.) This drink also gets brightness from fresh lemon and a touch of spice from Angostura bitters.
The Candy Apple
On a scale of one to bobbing-for-apples, this drink is about as easy as it gets: just take your favorite crisp, dry cider and mix it with a dose of toasty, malty brown ale. The result is a drinkable caramel apple, with the tartness of the cider perfectly wrapped in toffee-like brown ale. No cocktail shaker required.
This creamy, pumpkiny cocktail from star bartender Jim Meehan (formerly of PDT in New York) captures fall flavors with a mix of apple brandy and rye, frothed up with egg white and pumpkin ale, and sweetened with dark maple syrup.
This drink is a little savory and nicely spiced, thanks to a mix of cream sherry and bourbon, pumpkin butter and Angostura bitters. The sherry is rich and nutty with hints of molasses and maple; just right for pairing with pumpkin.
The Great Calabaza
Smoky, savory mezcal provides the base for this Halloween riff on a margarita. Pumpkin butter brings a rich flavor and texture to the drink and fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice keep things bright. Rimming the glass with a quick homemade five spice salt adds another layer of warmth.
Layering not one, not two, but three different sources of apple flavor makes this cocktail one of the most apple-y we've found. It starts with fresh cider, boiled down with spices until concentrated and fragrant. The resulting tangy syrup is spiked with potent apple brandy and fizzed up with hard cider.
The Smokin' Pumpkin
Deeply smoky Rauchbier takes the sweet edge off of pumpkin ale in this simple two-ingredient drink. Pop and pour—we love the rich, bacony flavor of this combo, perfect for serving with Halloween-night chili or pepperoni pizza.
This blood-red drink gets its rosy color from pomegranate juice, and a splash of apple flavor from hard cider and apple brandy. Ginger liqueur adds sweetness and spice to balance out the tart flavor of the pomegranate.
The White Pumpkin
Although it has been executed with alarming frequency and varying degrees of success, we do not think that the marriage of creamy coffee and pumpkin is a lost cause. We just think it needs booze. In this dessert drink the old duo Kahlua and cream get a fall update with a dollop of rich and spicy pumpkin butter. The wildcard ingredient here is Ramazotti, an amaro with strong notes of orange and cinnamon that goes fantastically well with pumpkin. The result is a wonderfully complex pumpkin spice coffee drink.
The Varnish's Milk Punch
Now you see it, now you don't. This clarified milk punch is a fun little trick: it starts with milk that's cleverly curdled when mixed with citrus, cognac, and rum. When you strain the curds and zest away, you're left with a clear punch that's rich, creamy, and bright. It can be served hot or cold.
Hot Butternut Rum
If it ends up being the kind of Halloween where the kids need to wear turtlenecks and leggings under their costumes, we'll be turning to this steaming-hot concoction: a riff on buttered rum made with Earl Grey tea, aged rum, and a pie-spiced pat of butter that's flavored with pumpkin.