Gil Bouhana, bar director at Sir Henri, sums up the spirit of fall cocktails in two words: "Go darker." Darker flavors, darker spirits. Fall is smoke, sage and cardamom; fall is sherry. "Bitters, Vermouths, aged rums and spirits set the tone," Bouhana says. And it's important to note, fall is not winter — "Winter is for long days where you make camp in the bar and drink." Summer isn't wholly forgotten. Winter has not yet set in. And you are toasting to the changing season or directing a well-timed expletive at the impending cold (naturally).
Sir Henri, with its blend of speakeasy nooks and mid-century style, feels like a great fall bar. And Bouhana, who has climbed NYC's mixology ranks in the last decade, could not be a more knowledgeable autumn chaperone. In the late aughts, Bouhana bounced around at a bakery, as a barista and eventually a bartender. Behind the bar, he felt most at home. He advanced through the echelons of the city's cocktail world — from hotel bars (Lambs Club) to seminal cocktail bars (Milk and Honey) — until he arrived to help build Hotel Henri's rooftop bar. "We do riffs on the classics," Bouhana said. "We keep it as simple as possible, use fresh ingredients and we do them really well," a philosophy that’s music to our ears.
Bouhana mixed up three cocktails for us that highlight fall's flavors with deeper tonics and bitters to stand up to the somberness of the season and shock it back to life. They are classic drinks with intriguing, educated twists, that play in accordance with Bouhana's fall rule: they're all a bit darker.
Isle of Manhattan
Bitters, Vermouth, and rye whiskey are the calling cards of a fall cocktail. Bouhana adds in a touch of spice and coastal flavor with aged Caribbean rum (with flavors of prune and raisin) and a dehydrated blood orange.
Pour: 0.25 oz Punt E Mes vermouth, 0.75 oz Antica vermouth, 1.5 oz rye whiskey, and 0.5 oz aged 12 year rum in a short tumbler.
Dash: 1 dash Angostura Bitters and 2 dashes Orange Bitters.
Stir: Until Chilled, and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish: With a dehydrated lemon and an orange twist (a fresh one will sub in nicely!)
Mexico City Old Fashioned
Sherry, salt and chocolate make this Old Fashioned a tall, dark and handsome cousin to your favorite speakeasy stalwart. In a thoughtful twist and toast of solidarity to those affected by the Mexico City earthquake, proceeds from the sale of the drink go to support recovery efforts in the affected areas.
Pour: 0.4 oz of Pedro Ximénez Sherry and 2 oz Aged Tequila in a tall tumbler.
Dash: 1 dash of saline (salt solution) and 2 dashes of chocolate bitters.
Stir: Until chilled.
Strain: Into a short tumbler.
Garnish: With grated nutmeg and a dehydrated blood orange slice.
With herbaceous gin, seltzer and honey infused with rosemary, this Collins drinks easy. After all, fall still brings a few warmer days where a little cool refreshment is required.
Pour: 0.75oz lemon juice, 0.75 oz honey syrup and 2 oz gin in a shaker.
Shake: For a few seconds.
Strain: Into a tall tumbler filled with fresh ice.
Top: With Seltzer.
Garnish: With the rosemary sprigs and a sprinkle of bee pollen (optional).
While a trip to Sir Henri to see Gil in action should be on your autumn hit-list, we’ve armed you with a few gems to DIY your way from the comfort of your own bar cabinet. Break out your tools and favorite barware, wrap yourself in a cashmere throw and throw on some Bon Iver to prepare for the chill ahead. Winter is coming.