Navigating the world of mixed drinks requires more knowledge than, say, finding your way around a tailgate. So we asked Ben Nelsen, 28, certified sommelier and director of wine at Splash Seafood Bar & Grill, to recommend some new cocktails to try this fall.
Autumn Kiss: Rum, apples and ginger
Nelsen started with a Jamaican rum-based drink, Autumn Kiss, developed by certified specialist of spirits Rex Schulzer. “In the fall, we’re going away from clear spirits to darker ones,” Nelsen notes, “and nothing says fall like rum.”
Deep and complex, this cocktail alone would be worth a trip to Splash. Made with a splash of apple juice or ginger beer and a lemon squeeze, it’s served in a double old-fashioned glass. Nelsen’s touch — a rim of chewy-sweet crystallized ginger bits — gives the drink an exotic edge.
“The rum lends itself to the apple, which has a little more sugar content. They go hand in hand without being too cloying, and the lemon squeeze cuts right through,” he said.
Rye Old Fashioned: Rye whiskey meets brown sugar
Nelsen’s own Rye Old Fashioned puts a twist on the classic. He starts with Knob Creek Rye American bourbon, known for its maple-sugar aroma and spicy, woody, caramel flavor. He takes it a step deeper into the season by replacing the traditional sugar cube with a simple syrup made with brown sugar, offering a molasses-tinged sweetness that’s richer and tastier. An oversized orange peel zest brightens each drink; Nelsen squeezes in a few of the essential oils and tucks a cherry inside the colorful spiral before serving.
Crash course in fall glassware
“When it starts getting colder out, drinks become more focused on the alcohol,” Nelsen says. “And when the drinks get stronger, the glasses get smaller.” Three you’ll see as you imbibe this season:
Old-fashioned: A short tumbler used for serving liquor on the rocks; it typically has a wide brim to release a cocktail’s aromas and flavors and a thick base to support muddling ingredients before liquids are added.
Snifter: A short, bowl-shaped glass with a narrow top, it’s designed to allow liquor to breathe while concentrating its aroma near your nose. Most commonly used to serve brandy, a snifter has a short stem that encourages you to hold it by the bowl, warming the drink and releasing its aromatics.
Toddy glass: Heat-resistant glass and a handle make this the perfect way to enjoy hot fall drinks made with whiskey, warm apple ciders and hot buttered rums.