It's always sad to see summer go, when everything turns from green to brown, shorts are replaced with jeans and the word "iced" is removed from coffee orders. Rather than dwell in the funk of another summer lost, it's better to look at the perks of autumn: Those corduroys are practical again, mowing your lawn is conveniently impossible and everything tastes like spiced magic.
The food and fragrance of fall have a tang that no other season offers, and the same holds true for autumnal booze. With so many bars, taprooms and wineries to choose from and so little daylight to spare, it's hard to know where to start on the quest for the quintessential, seasonal beverage. Rest assured, we've done the footwork for you.
The Speakeasy is a classy joint and there's an alluring artistry to their cocktails (411 Opera Alley, Eureka). Bartender/Sorceress of the Sauce Sierra Anderson didn't miss a beat at the request for something that "tastes like autumn." In a flourish of pouring, shaking and zesting, two drinks appeared on the bar, one cold and one hot. The "baked pear," semi-translucent and steaming, is one of those drinks that will sneak up on you. The combination of Absolut Pears, DeKuyper Buttershots, house-made spiced simple syrup, lemon and a twist of orange has a deceivingly non-alcoholic taste. It's more tart and less sweet than a mulled cider, which makes it go down so easily. Granted, the heat keeps you from gulping it down too quickly, but once it cools, all bets are off.
The "Dia de los Muertos" brings pumpkins into the limelight. If you've ever eaten a pumpkin pie and thought, "I'd sure like to drink this," then you are in luck. Sierra filled the graham cracker-rimmed martini glass with puréed pumpkin, Absolut Vanilla, Baileys Irish Cream, DeKuyper Buttershots, and a dash of cream. (A simple napkin-wipe on the rim makes the drink a gluten-free masterpiece.) It's sweeter than the baked pear and probably isn't the sort of drink you'd want to repeat through the evening (unless you like a sugar crash). But it's the perfect drink for capturing the essence of autumn.
The Local is the cider drinkers' Shangri La (517 F St., Eureka). Not only do they have a huge selection of bottled ciders, but they also have at least three or four ciders on tap. The most satisfying on-tap option is the Spire. It's dark, thick and not too sweet. Server Ari Friedman was also quick to suggest the Ace Pumpkin Cider, saying, "I like it because it doesn't taste like pumpkin pie filling ... it's actual pumpkin." He's right; what at first seems like an odd concept turns out to be a surprisingly pleasant and refreshing alternative to traditional apple ciders.
So throw on those corduroys, ignore your lawn and have a drink. Why fight the onset of fall when you could embrace it with booze?