As we inch closer to winter and the weather grows colder, various elements of our lives naturally shift to accommodate it. We build fires, we don sweaters and we stock our pantries with heavier, more sumptuous foods.
Iif you’re a lover of cocktails, this ethos should also apply to what you’re drinking. Come October and November, “refreshing” summer ingredients like Aperol and cucumber vodka tend to slip off menus in favor of flavors meant to provide warmth: bourbon, apples, honey, cloves, cocoa.
The magic of cocktails and those that craft them, though, is that they can be recalibrated, rearranged and remixed into a seemingly endless amount of beverages that leave us coming back for more. So, from fun spins on the classic hot toddy to more technical clarified apple creations, here’s how the best DC bars are shaking and stirring up the cocktail scene this season.
Seven months after shutting their dining room down in lieu of the coronavirus pandemic, The Dabney is finally reopening for business on October 23. Besides a brand new four-course prix fixe menu that will change often with the seasons, the beloved mid-Atlantic spot is offering a cocktail menu full of fall flavors. Their “Autumn is Ablaze” features el buho mezcal paired with hot honey, a house-made spiced liqueur called velvet falernum, lime and carrot. Mezcal haters (they live among us) might prefer the “Sweet Pea” — a concoction of Sazerac six-year rye, Daron Calvados apple brandy, maple butter, smoked sweet potato and good ole angostura bitters.
This hotel-inspired cocktail den with an open patio out back has paid homage to autumn with an entire menu dedicated to the season. We’re partial to the “David S. Pumpkins,” not only for the Saturday Night Live reference, but also the fact that they were able to make a pumpkin cocktail sound classy, combining Henry McKenna sour mash, pumpkin puree, a fall simple syrup, whole egg and club soda. Other cocktails on the menu incorporate warming ingredients like applejack, coffee and cocoa.
The team behind H Street’s iconic Swiss restaurant Stable opened an outdoor dining outpost called Little Stable for the month of October, focusing their menu on hot fondue and cocktails. Even some of their fondues have a boozy kick to it, like the Pear Fondue which they blend with pear purée and spike with Pear Williams Schnapps. Warm drinks pay homage to Swiss spirits including “Glühwein,” a warm, spiced red wine. Their “Spiced Apple Cider” is enhanced with bourbon, Goldschlager and Cotton & Reed Allspice Dram.
The popularity of this Shaw deli exploded earlier this year with the introduction of their popular “Fauci Pouchy” to-go cocktails. Those getting into the political spirit this fall (everyone, hopefully) will rejoice to hear of the latest autumnal additions to Capo’s line up, one of which is an ode to the Democratic presidential nominee, The “Joe Imbiben,” as well as the “Trumpkin Spice Latte.” A less politically motivated “Espresso Martini” pouch incorporates vodka, cold brew coffee, hazelnut, cinnamon and almond milk.
This award-winning Blagden Alley mainstay is still serving up to-go cocktails, such as their latest bottled creation called the “Sweater Weather,” with Nikka Coffey Grain, cinnamon and clarified apple. Those looking to stock their home bar for fall can grab all the fixings for warming Rum Old Fashioneds.
Head to Dupont Circle for the McClellan’s Retreat “hot stuff” cocktail menu, a perfect sampling of fall flavors that are also available to go. Their “No Mountains Near Normandy” features Plantation OFTD (a blended rum), cardamaro, Vecchio amaro and hot cider, and the “Where’s Daddy?” combines jagermeister with house-made butter syrup.
While Anxo now has multiple locations around the city, their Truxton Circle digs include a great outdoor patio and a pintxos bar for those craving some traditional Basque flavors. Many people come for the hard cider or flights of apple brandy, but Anxo also makes a mean cocktail. Their “Saged Wisdom” is the perfect early fall bev, mixing together Civic Vodka, ATXA Rojo (a red vermouth), lemon, the herbal flavor of sage and soda water.
Service Bar is known for a laid back attitude and affordable cocktails that still pack a punch. Head to U Street to check out their latest: a bottled pisco drink infused with concord grapes, apples, citrus and aromatic tea called “Pisco Punch.” Hot toddy lovers will also love their nutty take on the classic fall beverage, which combines Spanish brandy, a walnut liqueur called Nocino, Carpano Antica vermouth and almond tea.
This recently opened, expansive bar and green space found atop Union Market has already become extremely popular — attracting people with its 360-degree views of the city and house cocktails like the Cider House Rules, a simple but warming mix of rum, amaro, apple cider, orange and spice.
They’re here for a good time, not a long time. From only October 28 until Halloween can you visit Brothers and Sisters, the popular cocktail bar located inside the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan, for some spooky Halloween-themed bottled cocktails. Take your pick between the “How Do You Like ’Dem Apples,” made with Plantation OFTD, Luxardo apricot liqueur and apple-Demerara cider, or the “Witches’ Brew,” which blends Barr Hill Tom Cat gin, the Japanese citrus fruit sudachi and mint.