Fall Head Over Heels For These Autumnal Cocktails in Houston

This article was updated on 10/27/18 at 3:40 p.m. with information regarding the fire at Presidio

This article was updated on 11/2/18 at 1:55 p.m., removing the reference to Turner’s Revenge at Howie’s Tiki Bar, following the news of Howie’s closing. The drink is still available at Blue Onyx Bistro 4720 Richmond. 

Fall has arrived and what better way to celebrate the end of a hot, long summer than with a refreshing drink? Houston’s best bartenders have created cocktails that celebrate the flavors of the season with ingredients like squash, baking spices, beets and pears. These delicious drinks will put you in an autumnal mood even if (or perhaps we should say when) the heat returns before year’s end.

Saved By The Bell by Tommy Ho is on Anvil’s fall menu and features Pueblo Viejo Blanco Tequila, orange bell pepper syrup, lemon and Lazzaroni amaretto garnished with red pepper flakes. Photo by Samantha Morris

Saved By The Bell at Anvil Bar & Refuge, 1424 Westheimer: The fall menu launched October 8 with unique drinks like the Saved By the Bell, which was developed by general manager Tommy Ho. To create the drink, Pueblo Viejo blanco tequila is mixed with orange bell pepper syrup, lemon juice and Lazzaroni amaretto. The tequila and pepper syrup lend a vegetal tone that is balanced by the sweet and nutty amaretto. It’s served in a wine glass over ice cubes and garnished with red pepper flakes that lend a welcome hint of heat.

Goodnight Charlie’s Pancho and Lefty is an easygoing tequila cocktail for fall. Photo by David Keck.

Pancho and Lefty at Goodnight Charlie’s, 2531 Kuester: David Keck created this blend of tequila, lime juice, simple syrup and sparkling water that gets a south-of-the-border kick thanks to a Tajín salt rim. It’s a surprisingly easygoing cocktail that maintains the brightness of a margarita, while mitigating the typical acidity. The simple syrup gives it just a bit of sweetness that evens out the heft of the tequila. “I imagine Charles Goodnight kicking back with one of these after a long day on the cattle drive,” said Keck.

Each week for fall, Harold’s Taproom is unveiling a new rotating Old Fashioned. This one has Old Forester overproof bourbon infused with orange, anise, cardamom, masala, caraway and allspice. Photo by Samantha Morris.

Weekly Old Fashioned at Harold’s Taproom, 350 West 19th: Each week during the fall, guests will find a new, themed Old Fashioned at Harold’s. When we visited, the feature that week included warming curry spices. Old Forester bourbon was infused with orange slices, cardamom, caraway, allspice, masala and anise. Although heavily spiced, it was comforting and sweet.

Just Beet It cocktail at Upstairs at Hungry's
The “Just Beet It” cocktail at Upstairs at Hungry’s. Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

Just Beet It at Hungry’s, 2356 Rice and 14714 Memorial:  This bejeweled drink is made with Cimarron tequila, beet juice, lemon juice and ginger. It is a snappy fall seasonal selection that gets bite from tequila and balance from the earthiness of the beet and ginger. A bit of lemon lends sassy zing. Drinkers beware: the taste is so smooth and juicy one could easily forget it contains alcohol.

The Stroke of Midnight by Rich Bailey on Johnny’s Gold Brick October menu is smoky and earthy yet refreshing, making it a match for Houston’s mercurial fall weather. Photo by Samantha Morris.

Stroke of Midnight at Johnny’s Gold Brick, 2518 Yale: Assistant general manager Rich Bailey created this October special that highlights mezcal, reposado tequila, arrack, lime juice and spiced pepita (pumpkin seed) orgeat which is spiked with smoked paprika and sumac powder. The drink is served over crushed ice and garnished with toasted spiced pepitas and a dusting of pumpkin spice seasoning. Stroke of Midnight is smokey and earthy but delightfully refreshing.

Lei Low’s Stirred Saturn is a sophisticated fall cocktail, with gentle floral flavors. Photo by Holly Beretto

Stirred Saturn at Lei Low 6412 N. Main: David Perez readily admits that people usually envision flavors like cinnamon and allspice when they think of fall. “But tiki drinks have those elements all year long,” he said. “So, what we’re going for for fall are things that are more stirred, instead of blended — kind of giving a more elegant feel.” The Stirred Saturn is a case in point. Although it is traditionally a blended drink, this iteration brings together a velvety smooth combination of Hayman’s gin, passion fruit, Falernum and almond. A is stirred gently and served neat with a twist. It evokes the idea of summer slipping into fall: it  starts off brightly with the passion fruit before the nuttiness and fuller flavors take hold.

The pumpkin margarita at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation packs a punch by blending silver tequila with pumpkin puree and juices. Photo courtesy of The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation

Pumpkin Margarita at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, 2704 Navigation: This long-standing haven for classic Tex-Mex has a reputation for its extensive margarita list. This fall, try the new pumpkin margarita for something a bit less traditional. Deemed “pumpkin pie in a glass — with a kick” it is a blend of silver tequila, Gran Gala, pumpkin puree, agave nectar, fresh lemon and lime juices, spices and garnished with a salted mole rim. Folks with an affinity for the pumpkin-spiced latte might consider upping their drinking game with this unique refreshment.

The seasonal mule at Presidio has Wheatley Vodka, spiced pear and granny smith apple syrup with nutmeg, clove and star anise, lime and house-made ginger beer. Photo by Samantha Morris.

Presidio is closed due to a fire early this morning. Our article about the fire will be updated when we get information about the status of the restaurant. 

Seasonal Mule and The Punschline at Presidio, 911 W. 11th: Bar manager Perry Ryan created this drink that reflects the warm flavors of fall. It is made with Wheatley Vodka, spiced pear and granny smith apple syrup, lime and housemade ginger beer. The spices in the syrup include nutmeg, clove and star anise. Ryan also created a take on a New York sour called The Punschline. New York sours are traditionally made with rye or bourbon whiskey, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup and finished with a float of red wine. Punschline will have a float of mulled wine that includes Swedish punsch, a sweet and slightly funky liqueur with notes of leather and toffee.

The Goth Gimlet at Rosewater in Clear Lake combines Bombay Sapphire Gin, black lime and hibiscus cordial with citric acid and angostura bitters. Photo courtesy of Rosewater

Goth Gimlet at Rosewater, 1606 Clear Lake City Blvd: Seasonal drinks are available in Clear Lake, too. Bar owner Pasha Morshedi developed the Goth Gimlet as a riff on his cocktail from this year’s Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender cocktail competition, where he advanced to the final round in London. The drink’s inspiration was taking “dead” ingredients and giving them a second chance to shine. Black limes, an ingredient common in Persian cooking, are stewed together with dried hibiscus, citric acid and Jamaican bitters to create a cordial that gives new life to the dried fruit and flowers.

Photo of Braggart cocktail.
The Braggart at UB Preserv was created so drinkers would talk about it. Photo by Westin Galleymore.

The Braggart at UB Preserv, 1609 Westheimer: This drink is both fun, sophisticated and brag-worthy — hence the name. Creator Westin Galleymore said that he and his fellow bartenders often hear patrons talking about mezcal cocktails they’ve had in their pasts that stayed with them. “The idea,” he said here, “was to create a mezcal cocktail everyone could brag about.” It’s made with mezcal, orange, Meletti Amaro, tamarind, Angostura bitters and topped with Champagne. It’s a complex drink that is delightfully smoky with a stunning bright bang from the orange and Amaro. The bubbles bring some fizz, which only adds to the delight.

The Washington from The Union Kitchen is a tart, sassy fall cocktail with flavors of cherry and ginger. Photo courtesy of The Union Kitchen

The Washington at The Union Kitchen, multiple locations: In this drink, savory and sassy notes blend together for a treat that is perfect for patio weather. It combines Leopold Bros. Michigan Cherry Whiskey and lemon bitters with a splash of ginger ale. It is finished with a Jack Rudy bourbon-soaked cherry and fresh basil, giving the whole affair a smooth and bright feeling. The tart cherry and pop from the ginger ale make for an easy-sipping evening.

Picture of the Hugo cocktail.
The Hugo at Victor packs a warming punch for those chilly fall evenings thanks to a hearty dose of Gosling’s rum. Photo by Holly Beretto.

Hugo at Victor,  4321 Montrose: This swanky bar with a Paris-meets-Houston vibe offers the Hugo. The drink features a base of Gosling’s rum that is kicked up with maraschino syrup plus grapefruit and lime juices. The syrup gives this bright cocktail a crisp, hearty note. There is a lovely ying-yang between the citrus’ sass against the heartiness of the rum and just a hint of a pucker from the cherry.

The Herbalist on Worcester’s Annex fall selections menu contains Boodles Gin, butternut squash, pomegranate, Montenegro and lemon. Photo by Samantha Morris.

Herbalist and Romita GTO at Worcester’s Annex, 1433 N. Shepherd: There is an extensive menu of permanent cocktails at this laidback cocktail bar in the Heights but this fall features some seasonal selections, too. Find Herbalist made with Boodles Gin, butternut squash, pomegranate, Montenegro, and lemon that is a tart refreshing drink perfect for the bar’s spacious patio. The drink smells like fresh cut butternut squash but the taste is tart from the pomegranate and bright berry flavor of the gin. Herbalist is served in a rocks glass over crushed ice. Another fun fall drink on the menu is the Romita GTO made with Fistful Of Bourbon, pear, Galliano, oregano and vanilla. The Romita GTO starts savory from the oregano and has a round mouthfeel that finishes with a pleasantly sweet vanilla note.

The Black Magic Margarita at Alicia’s Mexican Grille is a unique combination of smoky mezcal, crisp fresh lime juice, sweet agave sector and orange bitters. Photo courtesy of Alicia’s Mexican Grille

Black Magic Margarita at Alicia’s Mexican Grille, Multiple locations: This spooky-colored concoction may look intimidating but the flavor is all fun. Bartenders gather Casamigos mezcal (a brand from actor George Clooney) fresh lime juice, agave sector and orange bitters. Tajin Seasoning around the rim lends a little spicy kick.  Find it all all four Alicia’s locations through the end of October.

About the authors:

Holly Beretto writes about food, wine, the arts and interesting people for a variety of local publications, including Downtown magazine and Houstonia. Her work has appeared in Arts + Culture TexasSanta Clara magazine, Maui No Ka Oi, PRIME Living and the Arizona State University and St. Paul’s School alumni magazines. She is the editor of Pierce, the magazine of Franklin Pierce University and the author of Christ as the Cornerstone: Fifty Years of Worship at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, published by Bright Sky Press. Originally from Rhode Island, she lives in Houston with her husband Mark Love.

Samantha Morris came into the food and beverage industry through her marriage but found a love for it that’s all her own.  She writes for Houston Food Finder in the time not spent being a business data analyst for the second largest independent distributor of Red Bull in the nation. When not out on the town or working on her next hot take, she likes to sit at home and call her two dachshunds silly names while coaxing her husband Chris to make her cocktails.

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