Fall Into a Vintage Cocktail

Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her

All photos by Danielle Macdonald.

Vintage cocktails have once again become a mainstay, with a new generation of drinkers and the old guard alike seeking retro tastes. With the addition of some seasonal fall ingredients, vintage cocktail recipes can be modernized to appeal to today’s discerning palate. It’s possible to morph the formulas for Bee’s Knees, Death in the Afternoon, and Hot Toddy into new, tasty, enthusing potions.

Death Becomes Her

Ernest Hemmingway’s book, Death in The Afternoon, was also the inspiration for this famous cocktail. Popular in the 1930s, especially with artists, writers and philosophers, people claimed the drink left them in a dream like state, said to be the work of its main ingredient, absinthe. With its distinct anise flavor and a combination of wormwood, sweet fennel and other herbs, absinthe may or may not have hallucinogenic properties, but it does lend a truly unique flavor. The African wormwood, milder than its European relative, is used in Distillery 031 Ancestors Absinthe, which is perfect for this recipe. Pomegranate appropriately complements this 2017 New York International Spirits Competition gold medal-winning liqueur.

Pomegranate is harvested in the USA, October to January and adds an earthy, floral flavor with a subtle sweetness to the cocktail’s finish. High in antioxidants and vitamins, this is an ideal component to fortify the cold months ahead, To get into the fall spirit, this cocktail has been renamed because of its changeup of ingredients and cloudy, burgundy appearance.

  • 1/4 oz/7 mL Ancestors Absinthe (1/2 oz. for those who are daring)
  • 1 1/2 oz/ 44 mL pomegranate juice
  • 2 oz/60 mL sparkling wine

Pour chilled absinthe into a Champagne flute and rinse around the glass. Then pour in pomegranate juice and stir for 10 seconds. Top with chilled sparkling wine and indulge.

Bee Gee's Knees

"Bee's Knees", meaning "the best", is a slang term lavishly used in the Prohibition era, accompanied by jazz, tuxedos, fringed short dresses, and the Charleston. Honey and lemon were used to try and disguise the cheap gin that were consumed at the time. In today's society, we are lucky to have gin that's so good, we even drink it straight, like the 2017 NYISC gold medal winner, Dingle Gin. Its botanicals are a fusion of Rowan berry, fuchsia, bog myrtle and heather, all of which are from the green fields of Ireland. With the addition of ginger to this cocktail, the lemon and honey are complemented to add flavor, and have the added bonus of warding off the sort of illnesses that tend to pop up this time of year. Here, the groovy, ginger-forward adaptation the Bee Gee’s Knees is delectable as well as giving a Charleston kick up any fall bug’s posterior.

  • 2 oz/60 mL Dingle Gin
  • 2 oz/60 mL water
  • 3/4 oz/22 honey syrup (equal parts water and honey dissolved)
  • 1/2 oz/15 mL fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cm square piece of fresh ginger root

Crush the ginger root with the back of a spoon and place it with the other ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain and pour into a rocks/Old Fashioned glass over some crushed ice. Garnish the glass with a simple slice of lemon or some ribboned crystallized ginger.

Hot Toddy's Hotter Brother
Hot Toddy's Hotter Brother

Hot Toddy's Hotter Brother

The “Toddy” in the “Hot Toddy” cocktail was established in British colonial India, where the Brits soon adopted the concept, modified it, and called it their own. The Toddy - alcohol with hot water poured over sugar and spices - was used for “medicinal purposes” to fight colds, upset stomachs, and generally warm the cockles of one's heart.

Infused brandy with the addition of jalapeño chili pepper, walnuts, pecans and cloves transforms this warm concoction into a more complex, fiery, autumnal delight. 2017 NYISC silver medal-winning Twenty Third Street Distillery Prime 5 Brandy is an ideal ingredient to complement the other flavors with its decadent apricot and raisin notes and nutty aftertaste. Note: this drink takes some planning ahead in order to infuse the brandy.

  • 1 oz/30 mL chili-infused Prime 5 Brandy (instructions below)
  • 1 whole jalapeño pepper (adjust according to desired level of spiciness)
  • small handful of pecans and walnuts
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of boiling water

Place jalapeño, pecan, walnuts and cloves into a mason jar along with brandy (use at least half the bottle) and store for a few days and up to a couple of weeks. Strain into a clean mason jar. Pour the infused brandy, along with honey and lemon juice into a toddy glass. Complete by topping with boiling water and stir until honey is dissolved. Garnish with a lemon wheel.