More often than not, pumpkin-flavored seasonal cocktails don't, in fact, taste like pumpkin. To avoid that pitfall, we recommend making drinks with a little homemade pumpkin butter, rather than pumpkin puree from the gourd or from the can. In the process of making pumpkin butter, a lot of the moisture is cooked out, resulting in a more concentrated pumpkin flavor with all the warm fall spices that we expect to taste alongside pumpkin.
Paired with bold spirits like bourbon and mezcal, these drinks highlight both the sweet and savory sides of pumpkin.
The White Pumpkin
Although it has been executed with alarming frequency and varying degrees of success, I do not think that the marriage of creamy coffee and pumpkin is a lost cause. I just think it needs booze. In this sweet dessert drink the old duo Kahlua and cream get a fall update with a dollop of rich and spicy pumpkin butter. The wildcard ingredient here is Ramazotti, an amaro with strong notes of orange and cinnamon that goes fantastically well with pumpkin. The result is a more complex pumpkin spice coffee drink.
Turkey & Sage
With pumpkin, sage, and (Wild) turkey, this drink's ingredients read a bit like a classic Thanksgiving dinner. The vanilla and caramel notes of Wild Turkey 101 make it an ideal bourbon to match with pumpkin. Plus, the extra kick of the higher proof is great up against the bold, woodsy sage. Muddling the sage helps it release its aroma and flavor, but floating a sage leaf atop the finished cocktail makes sure that you get a whiff with each sip.
The Great Calabaza
Smoky, savory mezcal provides the base for this fall riff on a margarita. Pumpkin butter brings a richer mouthfeel to the drink and fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice keep things bright. Rimming the glass with a quick homemade five spice salt adds another layer of warmth. I don't have a fireplace, but I think this toasty cocktail is the next best thing.