The key to a great seasonal cocktail isn’t having the fanciest liquor, using the right glass or mixing in certain flavors. It’s the memories the drink evokes.
“Nostalgia is amazing if you can portray that through a cocktail,” says Spencer Taliaferro, the beverage director at Made in downtown Sarasota.
In the fall and winter, Sarasota memories often run to a childhood perhaps spent somewhere less sweltering—places where you could jump into a pile of brown, brittle leaves or sled down a steep, frozen hill and then recover with hot chocolate or cider in front of a snapping fire. A great fall or winter cocktail can take you right back to those moments, even if you’re huddled inside an air-conditioned building and looking at palm trees through a window.
At Made, Taliaferro switches up the drink menu whenever the weather changes. His goal is to highlight seasonal and local ingredients. “Fall Teelings,” a cocktail that was recently added to Made’s drink menu, is a riff on a hot toddy made with Teeling Irish whiskey, a sweet cinnamon and pear syrup, black tea from Sarasota’s Local Tea Company and hot water.
“It’s a nice, delicious cocktail that warms you up inside and brings a lot of good scents,” says Taliaferro. Other new fall additions at Made include the “Fig Forward,” made with fig-infused rum, a pumpkin spice orgeat (a sweet almond syrup), charred citrus and a dehydrated fig; and the “Emerald Apple,” concocted with rye, an apple cider syrup and apple blossom bitters and served in a small box filled with smoked cinnamon.
Fall and winter drinks don’t need to be complicated. Brad Coburn, the owner of downtown Sarasota’s Pangea Alchemy Lab, prefers simple neat drinks this time of year. Anything aged in a barrel will work, he suggests. The wood adds subtle flavorings of vanilla or spices like cloves or cinnamon that are often used in baking. “In autumn, I prefer things like cognac or oloroso sherry,” he says. If you want to add more flavor, Coburn says, consider mixing a drink with the herbaceous French liqueur Chartreuse or the popular Italian amaro Fernet-Branca.
Each fall, shortly after Thanksgiving, the Pangea staff decorates the space for Hanukkah and Christmas and updates its drink menu. Coburn leads classes for bartenders, who submit ideas for cocktails that might make the cut. Traditional cold weather drinks are well represented. “We always do an eggnog,” Coburn says. “It sells like gangbusters.”
Past drinks at Pangea have included drinks flavored with spices you might find in pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce, ingredients that will have you reeling in the years. “Even though we’re not a super-cold climate,” Coburn says, “it reminds us of our childhoods.”