Forget the pumpkin spice latte.
The top drinks for this autumn come with a potent – and sophisticated – twist.
From a chilled-meets-smoked Manhattan to a sweet mix of cognac and a spiced honey liqueur, these five libations at local restaurants offer the perfect way to warm up the season’s chilliest evenings.
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We’ve Got Chai Hopes, $13
When Soul Gastrolounge mixologist Andy Maurer began concocting his fall cocktail list, he and his team knew they wanted one made with chai. “We didn’t want to use the chai mix from the store,” says Maurer, who combined chai spices, coconut milk, oolong tea and sweetener for a housemade syrup. The chai is mixed with Carolina Coast Spiced Rum and Lemon Hart 151 Rum. Served over ice and topped with freshly grated nutmeg, it’s a bold and spicy drink. “We were actually caught off guard,” Maurer says, “by how good it turned out.”
Soul Gastrolounge, 1500 Central Ave., 704-348-1848, www.soulgastrolounge.com.
Caramel Apple Pie Martini, $10
Sure, if you’re mingling at the chic bar at uptown’s 5Church restaurant, you may be tempted to sip on its famed tequila-with-a-kick Viper cocktail or its Rosemary Gin Fizz made with egg whites and rosemary simple syrup. But to really soak in the season, indulge in this chilled elixir. It’s made with Junior Johnson’s Apple Pie Moonshine, Apple Pucker and Butterscotch Schnapps, and mixologist Mark Childers tops it off with a caramel glazed glass rimmed in cinnamon sugar. This martini is more dessert than drink.
5Church, 127 N. Tryon St., 704-919-1322, www.5church.com.
Pecan Wood Smoked Manhattan, $11
Don’t try this at home. Heist Brewery’s enthusiastic bartender, Stefan Huebner, created this drink to have what he calls “a campfire feel.” He mixes Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon with Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth and Angostura bitters, shaking them over ice. Then he burns woodchips with a brulee torch on a heat-treated ceramic plate and places a chilled martini glass with the drink over the fire. “The instant condensation captures the smoke,” Huebner says. “Manhattans are classic, but this is a nice twist. It’s just autumn all the way around.”
Heist Brewery, 2909 N. Davidson St., 704-375-8260, www.heistbrewery.com.
Remy in Fall, $15
Inspired by both the season and local offerings, Pisces Sushi Bar mixologist Bob Peters created this cool drink full of warm flavors. The cocktail, which is served in a stemmed glass and garnished with a cinnamon stick, features Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, Shrub & Co. apple shrub syrup, and Krupnikas, a spiced honey liqueur. Made in Durham, the liqueur is a Lithuanian spirit created with a mix of herbs, spices and honey. (Peters found his ingredients at the new Earl’s Grocery, an upscale provisions shop on Elizabeth Avenue where you can stock your own bar for at-home mixology.)
Pisces Sushi Bar, 1100 Metropolitan Ave., 704-334-0009, www.piscessushi.com.
Sweet Potato & Spice, $13
Fall afternoons in Charlotte are perfect for patios. And when it comes to a post-work uptown cocktail, it’s hard to top the sidewalk seating at e2 emeril’s eatery. To cozy up in the cool weather, order this spiced drink created by mixologist Miki Nikolic. Made with house-spiced whiskey, sweet potato puree, maple syrup, lemon juice, and egg white, the drink is served in an old-fashioned glass and topped with ground cinnamon for a sweet scent in every sip.
e2 emeril’s eatery, 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, 704-414-4787, www.e2emerils.com.