Welcome Fall with Cocktails from Local Distilleries

Try these perfect autumn libations at home or at local distilleries.

From a food and wine perspective here in Sonoma County, harvest is the focus of fall. But local craft distillers are marking the season too, with cocktails infused with autumnal flavors like apple, cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg and clove.

We asked a handful of Sonoma County distillers to share recipes for their favorite fall cocktails. From an apple spice-infused vodka cocktail to a chai twist on a classic Tom Collins, here are five drinks you can make at home. Or head to one of these tasting rooms this fall to try them.

Barber Lee Spirits

Burn After Reading: This cocktail highlights Barber Lee Spirits’ (120 Washington St., Petaluma) Heirloom Corn Bourbon and its Absinthe Blanche, recently named the best in the world in the San Francisco Worlds Spirits Competition. The cocktail is named in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns and also includes sweet vermouth.

Why it’s good for fall: “The interplay of our bourbon and sweet vermouth create a great chocolatey flavor and a warming spice,” said Lorraine Barber, co-owner of Barber Lee Spirits. “The absinthe brings a candy note to everything, and the slice of lemon is crucial as it lifts the entire drink with a bright, high tone.”

Cocchi Sweet Vermouth, from Italy’s Piedmont region, is widely available throughout Northern California.

1 ounce of Barber Lee Spirits Heirloom Corn Bourbon

1 ounce of Cocchi Sweet Vermouth

⅛ ounce Barber Lee Spirits Absinthe Blanche

1 sliced round of lemon

Combine all ingredients except for lemon. Stir well with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a glass. Add a lemon slice to the cocktail so it floats on top.

Burn After Reading cocktail from Barber Lee Spirits in Petaluma. (Barber Lee Spirits)
The Fall Collins cocktail kit from Griffo Distillery includes Griffo Scott Street Gin, spiced apple syrup, chai bitters and lemon juice. (Griffo Distillery)
The Fall Collins cocktail kit from Griffo Distillery includes Griffo Scott Street Gin, spiced apple syrup, chai bitters and lemon juice. (Griffo Distillery)

Griffo Distillery

Fall Collins: A fall twist on the classic Tom Collins, this cheery orange drink from Griffo Distillery (1320 Scott St., Suite A, Petaluma) is a blend of gin, spiced apple syrup, chai bitters and lemon juice.

Why it’s good for fall: Loaded with bold and complex flavors, the Griffo Scott Street Gin layers nicely with Morris Kitchen Spiced Apple Syrup (morriskitchen.com) and the chai, cardamom, cinnamon and clove notes of the Chai’Walla bitters (dashfire.us). A cocktail kit is available for shipping directly to your doorstep ($63).

“Apple and chai are some of our favorite fall flavors, so it made sense to pair them with one of our favorite classic cocktails,” said Jenny Griffo, who owns the distillery with her husband, Michael.

1 ½ ounces Griffo Scott Street Gin

¾ ounce Morris Kitchen Spiced Apple Syrup

Juice of half a lemon

3 to 4 drops Dashfire’s Chai’Walla chai bitters

Fresh apple slices or dehydrated apple chips, for garnish

Combine gin, syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and pour over ice. Add 3 to 4 drops of Chai’Walla chai bitters and garnish with fresh apple slices or dehydrated apple chips.

Hanson of Sonoma Distillery

Autumn Apple Spice Cocktail: This organic vodka cocktail from Hanson of Sonoma (22985 Burndale Road, Sonoma) is infused with seasonal flavors: apple, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla.

Why it’s good for fall: “There’s a perfect balance of sweetness from the apples and tartness from the lemon, and the spice blend adds in just the right amount of earthy flavors,” said Alanna Hanson, co-owner of Hanson of Sonoma Distillery.

1 ounce Hanson Apple Spice Infused Vodka (recipe follows)

¾ ounce lemon juice

¼ ounce agave

Egg white (optional)

Freshly grated cinnamon, for garnish

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain and pour into a stemmed glass. Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon.

Hanson Apple Spice Infused Vodka

1 bottle Hanson Original Vodka

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

1 whole nutmeg

1 vanilla bean

1 apple (green or red)

Chop apple into cubes. Slice vanilla down its length. Microplane the outside of whole nutmeg to expose its flavor (you can use the shavings, too). Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Let everything soak in vodka bottle for about two days. Strain the vodka before pouring it back into the empty bottle.

Harvest Moon cocktail from Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol. (Spirit Works Distillery)

Spirit Works Distillery

Harvest Moon: This Straight Rye Whiskey cocktail from Spirit Works Distillery (6790 McKinley St., Suite 100, Sebastopol) uses fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh squeezed lemon juice to add tartness to the seasonal favorite flavor, pumpkin spice.

Why it’s good for fall: “With a hit of pumpkin pie sweetness and a lightly spicy kick from the firewater tincture, this is a real crowd-pleaser and a great option for sipping around the campfire,” said David McCluskey, marketing manager at Spirit Works Distillery.

The Pumpkin Pie Latte Syrup is made locally by Sonoma Syrup Co. in Sonoma (sonomasyrup.com). The Firewater Tincture and aromatic bitters are made in Seattle by Scrappy’s Bitters (scrappysbitters.com).

1 ½ ounces Spirit Works Distillery Straight Rye Whiskey

¾ ounce Sonoma Syrup Co. Pumpkin Pie Latte Syrup

¾ ounce fresh squeezed orange juice

¼ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 to 2 dashes Scrappy’s Bitters Firewater Tincture

1 dash Scrappy’s Bitters Aromatic Bitters

1 egg white (or vegan substitute)

Nutmeg and cinnamon, freshly grated

Combine all ingredients except ice in a shaker and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 10 to 15 seconds. Double strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon.

Bitter Grind cocktail from Young & Yonder Spirits in Healdsburg. (Young & Yonder Spirits)

Young & Yonder Spirits

Bitter Grind: This drink from Young & Yonder Spirits (449 Allan Court, Healdsburg) combines the craft distillery’s Classic Vodka with its California Amaro. The espresso gives a nice caffeine boost.

Why it’s good for fall: “Everyone loves an iced coffee in autumn; something about the pair just fits like a warm sweater,” said Darrian Wagy, assistant manager at Young & Yonder Spirits. The amaro adds a citrus and floral complexity.

1 ounce Young & Yonder Classic Vodka

¾ ounce Young & Yonder California Amaro

¾ ounce espresso

½ ounce simple syrup

½ ounce half and half (or non-dairy milk/cream of your choice)

Orange, for garnish

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.