As the weather cools and we hike our shoulders up around our necks to shut out evenings’ icy fingers, doesn’t a gullet-warming cocktail seem a blessing on the day? No matter how satisfying it is to amble up a gorge trail, appreciate Cornell’s gardens and ponds, or crunch through a heap of dry leaves, the fast-fading light points toward indoor pleasures. And drinking, too.

We checked with some of the area’s competent and creative bartenders in search of new winter tonics and libations, and here they are, for your tippling pleasure.

Nick at the Argos Inn suggested two, one, a house invention whose working title is “She Speaks Backwards,” and the other, the revised classic “The Scofflaw” modified to increase depth and complexity, and to be more autumnal.  They have also worked rosemary, apple juice, coffee, and cognac into the upcoming menu.

She Speaks Backwards

1 oz Golden Milk

.75 oz Myer Farm Vodka

.5 oz St. George Absinthe

.5 oz Aqua Faba

Quick wet shake, strain back into small tin, dry shake

Pour into Nick & Nora glass

Grated cinnamon and mint Garnish

The Scofflaw

1.5 oz Rittenhouse Rye Bottled In Bond

1 oz Atsby Amberthorn Vermouth

.75 oz Lemon Juice

.75 oz Grenadine (1:1 syrup with 100% pomegranate juice to sugar)

Shake, double strain into coupe

Lemon zest garnish

Heading north, we checked into the latest Felicia’s venture, Felicia’s Atomic Brewhouse & Bakery on Trumansburg’s Main Street, where co-owner Amelia Sauter creates a mulled concoction to warm and please a crowd.  Here’s her classic recipe:

Felicia’s Atomic Hot Spiked Cider

1 gallon apple cider

8 cinnamon sticks

½ teaspoon nutmeg

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon whole allspice

peel of ¼ of a lemon

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Bring almost to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain.  Serve in a mug with one ounce of rum or whiskey.

Across the street, we headed for Atlas Bowl, where bartender Ben Janes has developed a cocktail with special focus on local ingredients:

Bee in the Barrel

2oz Cayuga Gold (Myer Farm Barrel Gin)

.5oz local honey

.25 oz Shrub & Co. Apple Shrub

.25oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

shaved cinnamon

6 rosemary leaves plus additional for garnish

Build all ingredients except rosemary in shaker. 

Shake and strain in chilled martini glass.

Garnish with rosemary leaves.

Heading further north, we took in the early fall foliage on the way to the Finger Lakes Cider House, both to observe the harvest (they use a handsome team of horses for most of the heavy work) and to sample a shrub or two.  The Cider House’s old fashioned shrubs – refreshing fruit syrups stabilized with cider vinegar -- come in a variety of flavors, including Strawberry Peppercorn, Peach Spice, Apple Ginger, and Carrot Ginger.  Cidery co-owner Melissa Madden says any of them will work with this recipe, along with their fizzy-tingly Northern Spy Cider:

Finger Lakes Cider House’s Cider and Shrub Cocktail

1 part Good Life Shrub

2 parts Kite & String ‘Northern Spy’

Sniff, taste, sniff, and taste. The fruity, spiky shrub balances with the cider aromatics and fruitiness, and the whole drink is light and bubbly!

Amy at the Heights Café, known not only for its superb food and its award-winning wine list, but also for its bar food menu, offered two cockle warmers:

Bourbon Brulée

1 ½ oz bourbon

½ oz Alvear sherry

1 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur

Shake on ice, strain over ice cubes in a rocks glass, serve with a slice of caramelized orange 

and, new at the Heights: 

Amore Americano

2 oz rye whiskey

½ oz Meletti Amaro

½ oz vanilla bean liqueur

dash of fresh ground cinnamon

couple of dashes of bitters

Shake on ice, strain over ice in a snifter, serve with a cinnamon stick

At Lot 10, Matthew Riis said that one of the house’s most beloved fall cocktails is

The Cider Hill Massacre

1.75 oz Evan Williams Bourbon Whiskey

.5 oz Canton Ginger Liqueur 

1.5 oz mulled cider

.5 oz egg white

2 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters.

Shake without ice vigorously, then shake with ice and double strain over 2 rocks with a lemon zest garnish.

Ashley Cake, co-owner at the Watershed (in the building formerly occupied by Rumble Seat Music), offers a traditional Polish cocktail called the Szarlotka, Polish for apple pie, that she loves for fall. “Traditionally Polish folk drink this drink all times of the year, and Zabrowka is a traditional infused vodka with an aromatic grass grown mostly in the estuaries of Bialystok, Poland, where my grandfather’s people come from,” she explained.  We love it for being completely uncomplicated, and of similar ilk to the luscious pommeau cider makers are turning out these days, a combination of fresh juice and apple brandy.


2 ounces of bison grass vodka (Zabrowka) 

4 ounces of unfiltered apple juice. 

Pour it in layers over three “prince cubes” in a Collins glass and give it a gentle stir.

If you’re going to try your hand at these at home, you’ll need to stock an extensive and costly bar. Or you could just make the rounds and let those skilled bartenders’ hands do the work. For increased warmth, indulge responsibly. •


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