Halloween is around the corner, and while this year's holiday might look a little different, it's still a perfect excuse to turn on a spooky flick and get crafty with some cocktails. If you're new to making your own craft cocktails at home, you're in luck. We've called in the expert advice of bartender Matt Maretz from New York City's legendary Employees Only and Brooklyn's hip Grand Army.
"In terms of creating delicious drinks, you'll want to make sure you are balancing the elements of the drink (sweet, sour, bitter)," says Maretz. "But when it comes to making the perfect drink, it’s entirely up to you. There are blueprints and guidelines when making certain drinks, but it’s really about what you like and allowing that to shape the creation of the drink." So, be sure to experiment and find out more about what you like — everyone's perfect cocktail is different.
When it comes to gathering ingredients for these spirited cocktails, Drizly makes it easier than ever. The online delivery service connects you with local beer, wine, and liquor shops as well as convenience stores through one digital platform, so you're able to shop for everything you need (ice, mixers and even snacks) in one place and have it all delivered to your door in under an hour.
Lastly, if you're not quite a mixed drink person, or would love something spooky to sip on while you experiment with making some cocktails, we recommend the The Prisoner Wine Company's gorgeously packaged Eternally Silenced Pinot Noir as well as the robust Red Blend and buttery Blindfold White Blend, both festive options to have around Halloween.
Without further a-boo, here are Travel + Leisure's favorite Halloween and fall cocktail recipes to make at home this season. These spooky riffs on classic cocktails are sure to impress everyone you would have had at your Halloween soiree — just on Instagram instead.
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A cocktail is only as good as the tools you use to create it. Using real shaker tins versus an old thermos not only improves the temperature and blend of the shaken beverage, but it also looks (and feels) more professional and elevated. An all-in-one bartending kit could be the way to go if you're just starting out, but if you happen to already have a few of the items in an ideal home bar setup, make sure to pick up the rest before embarking on a holiday season full of homemade mixed drinks.
Lastly, each cocktail calls for its own type of glassware. And while this isn't a hard and fast rule, honoring the classic cocktails behind each riff is an encouraged part of the experience. Take note of the types of glassware used for each cocktail and where they can each be purchased.
"Generally, you'll want to shake anything that includes citrus. The citrus acts almost like a cooking agent and really brings the drink to life, so when you shake your cocktails, remember that you are trying to wake up the ingredients, not lull them to sleep. "
"One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is not knowing how to shake with the ice they’re using. A lot of top cocktail bars will use ice cubes about an inch thick, which are sturdy and require a more vigorous shake. However, if you are using ice you bought in a bag from the store, which is typically a lot lighter, you should shake less so as to not over dilute the drink."
"A drink that is served 'up,' or in a martini glass, will need to be shaken or stirred to the fullest extent, as it will not get colder or dilute further in the glass. For example, a perfect Manhattan cocktail is stirred about 36 times to create optimal coldness and dilution. For a martini, I usually let the mixture dilute for much longer, as that drink is best when it is ice-cold. Again, be mindful about your ice: A lot of small cubes will dilute faster, as there is more surface area touching the drink than when using bigger cubes."
A Black Manhattan is a modern classic, but it seems especially appropriate around this time of year. Simply stirred and served up with a lemon twist, this Black Manhattan is mysterious, deeply hued, and suitable for those who enjoy both richness and simplicity in a cocktail.
Directions: Stir bourbon or whiskey, amaro, and bitters with ice and strain over saucer glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.
This riff on a classic Trinidad Sour replaces rye whiskey with spiced rum for a richer, more autumnal profile. "Rum and Angostura bitters pair very well," according to Maretz, and once we tried the combination, we certainly agree. Shiver Me Timbers, a nod to rum-loving fictional pirates, is shaken and served up. Garnish with a roasted blood orange slice for a truly spooky look.
Directions: Shake rum, bitters, lime juice, and honey with ice and strain over saucer or cocktail glass. Garnish with a roasted blood orange slice.
Margaritas are a solid drink option any time of year, but they're especially perfect for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. This beautifully festive cocktail is as refreshing and light as it is complex and interesting. All ingredients (besides the jalapeño garnish) are shaken and served with ice in a rocks glass rimmed with a mix of pink peppercorns and salt.
Because the mixers in this drink are fresh and festive on their own, Maretz recommends simply replacing the spirit base with water and adjusting the ratio to 1.5 oz. blood orange juice and 1.5 oz. water, and keeping the 1 oz. of lime juice and 0.25 oz. of agave.
Directions: Rim whiskey or margarita glass with lime juice and pink peppercorn and salt blend. Shake tequila, blood orange juice, lime juice, and agave with ice and strain over glass. Top with cubed ice and garnish with jalapeño slices and a roasted blood orange slice.
This deeply smoky, citrusy riff on a classic Paloma is a mezcal lover's dream. Shaken with classic mezcal pairings like grapefruit and lime juice as well as deep red amaro, this sparkling cocktail is topped with club soda and adorned with a ground pink peppercorn and salt rim.
Directions: Rim highball glass with lime juice and pink peppercorn and salt blend. Shake mezcal, Cynar, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and agave with ice and strain over glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a roasted lime slice.
Whiskey, Campari, and sweet vermouth come together in this classic Boulevardier cocktail, while a few dashes of chocolate bitters make it a spooky, seasonal riff.
Directions: Stir whiskey or bourbon, Campari, vermouth, and bitters with ice and strain over glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
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