The Fade to Black at The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY AGUA CALIENTE CASINOS
This fair-weathered desert may not experience an autumnal changing of the leaves or blizzard-white winters — although it did snow in Palm Springs in January 1979! — but that doesn’t mean we renounce rich fall flavors. This season, bartenders across the Coachella Valley are mixing up libations that lean into ambrosial notes of spice and smoke. Thoughtfully layered components, including house-infused spirits and fresh herbs, create a nuanced depth to these drinks that calls to mind the warmth of a holiday meal at home and the coziness of a good book cracked open beside the fireplace. Forget pumpkin spice (except for the one cocktail in this list that incorporates it, of course). Here are nine concoctions to ease you into the spirit of the season.
Fade to Black
The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente, Palm Springs
Made with private-label bourbon from Maker’s Mark and Luxardo Amaretto, popular for its sweet almond tang, the Fade to Black is served with a burnt cinnamon stick that’s still smoking when the drink arrives. Black walnut bitters and cinnamon simple syrup round out the recipe. “Smoke helps to smooth out the ingredients, which allows them to blend in the best way possible,” manager Greg Frasier says. “The cinnamon adds an autumnal experience, and the sweet from the Luxardo gives it a nice balance.”
La Passion Pour la Vie
The Front Porch at Farm, Palm Springs
If apple cider’s your jam, and you’re ordering something to post on the ’gram, look no further than this spectacle of a martini. It’s made with house-infused apple tequila, mezcal, passionfruit syrup, apple juice, and St. Germain elderflower liqueur. The exterior of the glass is rolled in dried flowers, and it’s presented with a trendy smoke bubble cap that you have to pop to partake.
Cinnamon-Smoked old Fashioned
Morgan’s in the Desert, La Quinta
Aged for 10 years, WhistlePig’s flagship rye whiskey brings a bouquet of anise, char, and butterscotch to this belly warmer. The small-batch rye plays well with vanilla-cinnamon syrup, Angostura bitters, and orange bitters. A smoked cinnamon stick stirrer greets the nose with a sharp scent.
Ginger Snap Martini
bluEmber, Rancho Mirage
Prefer to drink your dessert? This liquefied cookie combines St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram with Frangelico, Kraken Black Spiced Rum, Domain de Canton ginger liqueur, and RumChata, a creamy spirit that mimics the Mexican staple horchata. Ingredients are shaken and strained into a martini glass rimmed with pumpkin-spice sugar; an extra sprinkle of pumpkin spice adorns the top.
Bacon Old Fashioned
Libation Room, Palm Desert
Not much beats the unmistakable smell of sizzling bacon and fluffy pancakes on a holiday morning. But this variation of a classic old fashioned might. Bacon-infused bourbon gets jazzed up with maple syrup, three dashes of bitters, and an orange peel garnish. That sure sounds like a balanced fall breakfast to us! (But don’t show up in the morning; this spot only opens after dark.)
Truss & Twine, Palm Springs
With Redemption Rye whiskey as a subtle yet peppery base, the Velvet Touch gets hit with sweet sherry, botanical Amaro Nonino, and a refreshing kick of orange zest. “Combined with the rich, silky flavor of Amaro Nonino and the complex raisin and fig notes of Pedro Ximénez sherry,” manager Brandon Glass shares, the recipe results in “a layered cocktail in the vein of a classic Manhattan.”
No Fig Deal
4 Saints, Palm Springs
If you’ve ruled out the idea of drinking vinegar as a fad diet, you are missing out on an entire category of tasty beverages known as “shrubs.” Typically made with apple cider vinegar, sugar, and some kind of fruit, a shrub is a concentrated syrup that can be paired with spirits or not — in this case, not. At the Kimpton Rowan’s swanky rooftop bar, a fig and cinnamon shrub serves as the base for this fall-inspired mocktail, a lovely option with no holiday hangover.
Before pouring the components into a double rocks glass — a spicy harmony of Tommy Bahama Rye, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and orange bitters — the bartender lights a little fire with pecan wood chips and uses the cup as a cloche to put out the flame. Smoke coats the inside of the glass, lending a campfire character to this drink, garnished with a burnt orange peel.
“Classic cocktails are coming back in a big way, and old fashioned riffs like the R&R are at the top of that list,” says Rob Aspaas, cocktail director and regional manager of restaurants at Tommy Bahama. “Because our Tommy Bahama Rye is blended with rum, it gives a unique twist to an old classic.”
State Fare Bar & Kitchen, Rancho Mirage
“This is the perfect seasonal cocktail to transition from summer to fall, satiating your palate with subtle notes of caramel and orange spice,” says Megan Daws, assistant food and beverage manager at The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, home to State Fare Bar & Kitchen. The Fall Fashioned punctuates Woodford Reserve and Licor 43 (an herby vanilla-forward Spanish liqueur) with fresh-squeezed orange juice, lemon, honey syrup, and a dash of bitters.