I Made You a Thanksgiving Cocktail: Cherry Pie Sour

We don’t always think of cocktails and Thanksgiving as being an obvious match. In many cases, if you’re drinking on Thanksgiving (and I hope you are, responsibly), you’re probably drinking wine, as its lower alcohol content makes it easier to sip throughout the day without winding up too tipsy for turkey.

But cocktails definitely have a place at least somewhere in the day. A lower-octane aperitif like a sherry-based cocktail or a spritz would be a great match with appetizers, and if there’s a happier pairing than mixed drinks and pie, well, friends, I can’t imagine what that might be.

Pie + Cocktails = <3

Having pumpkin pie? Something with allspice dram would be delicious with pumpkin or sweet potato pie—the Lion’s Tale gets my vote, especially as its backbone of lime juice helps it balance out the sweetness and richness of the pie.

Going the pecan route? Bourbon is an obvious candidate. A smooth one neat or as the base spirit in a highball would be delicious, as would a bourbon Manhattan with pecan or chocolate bitters instead of the traditional Angostura.

But it’s definitely fruit pies that are my favorites, and they’re what inspired the cocktail I created this evening: the Cherry Pie Sour.

Cherry Pie Sours, ready to make your Thanksgiving dessert even better.

Cherry Pie Sours, ready to make your Thanksgiving dessert even better.

A Whole World of Sours

Most of us think “whiskey” when we think “sour,” but you can use pretty much any spirit in a sour. (After all, what’s a Margarita but a tequila sour, and what’s a Gimlet but the same idea with gin?) Mix a spirit, acid (citrus), and sweet, and you’ve got yourself a sour.

Inspired by the sour’s flexibility, I riffed on the classic whiskey sour, subbing half of the whiskey (rye, in my recipe) with Cherry Heering, replacing lemon juice with lime (lime + cherry are a happier pairing in my book), and ramping down the simple syrup a bit due to the sweetness of the Heering.

I ended up with an easy-sipping drink with a nice sweet/sour balance (just like a good fruit pie), an interesting undercurrent of rye (as a stand-in for pie crust, kinda), and a fetching deep-red hue.

The basic template here is super flexible: use a different kind of brandy (Calvados, applejack, pear…) if you’ve got a different kind of pie. Mix and match the citrus. Use an infused simple syrup for an extra layer of complexity. Add egg white if you like your sours richer. Make this cocktail your own.

And if, like me, one of your Thanksgiving pleasures is eating pie for breakfast the next day, mix one of these up, serve it on the rocks with some club soda to lighten it up a bit, and raise a glass to all you have to be thankful for.

Cherry Pie Sour

Makes 1 drink

1 oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. cherry brandy (I used Cherry Heering)

1 oz. lime juice (use lemon or half and half if you prefer)

3/4 oz. simple syrup

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Enjoy with pie.

Fall Cocktails Call for Fall Glassware

Picture me doing that thing from an old-school cartoon where I go down for a nap, wake up "a few minutes" later, rub the sleep from my eyes, and realize months have passed. That has basically been me this week, slowly coming to the dawning realization that it's late OCTOBER, people, but HOW?! (Also, not so much napping has transpired, alas, though I could sure use some.)

But OK: here were are. Even the Bay Area, which has been clinging hard to summer this year, has given up and started the slide into fall, complete with plunging temps, tumbling leaves, and changes in the light that are both beautiful and a li'l depressing. So let's celebrate the season with some autumnal cocktails, shall we, and some autumnal barware to go along with them.

Cider time!

Cider time!

Pretty much every year, I vow I'll go apple picking, despite the fact that that invariably devolves into "Maybe just picking up some apples from the farmers' market, ha ha...ha. Ha?" But this sweet apple-bedecked set inspires me to pretend that I've spent an afternoon in a sun-dappled orchard. 

Use them for: something that screams APPLES, like Freutcake's Bourbon Maple Apple Cider.

Leaves get the fancy treatment

Leaves get the fancy treatment

Back in the day, Libbey made dozens of different types of glasses in this charming-but-classy Golden Foliage pattern. Chances are good your grandparents had Golden Foliage glasses, or maybe your aunt and uncle who always seemed ready to throw a party, or possibly that kindly neighbor who waved you inside from raking leaves to serve you a slice of something sweet and a glug of apple juice in a leaf-bedecked tumbler.

It's your turn now to carry on the Golden Foliage tradition. Why not start with this lovely set?

Use them for: cocktails in other fall hues that play off the warm gold and frosty white, like this gorgeous ruby Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail from Kelly Carambula.

Harvest time!

Harvest time!

Apples are not the only fruit that come on the scene full force in autumn, and dammit, it's time some of those other fruits got their due. Enter these elegant tall glasses, which let pears, grapes, and lemons take the spotlight in gorgeous gold and black, backed by white leaves. Step aside, apples.

Use them for: cocktails or mocktails based on Clean Eating's Vanilla Pear Shrub. Add club soda or ginger beer to keep things booze free; throw in a splash of aged rum or rye to spike it.

You'll find more sweet fall-themed glasses in my shop (along with some spring stuff, if you're a friend in the Southern Hemisphere). Have a favorite seasonal cocktail? Leave a comment and fill me in. 



My 2017 Cocktail Resolutions, Part 2: Going Beyond Bourbon

Though my home bar sports a few dozen different bottles—whiskeys, gins, vodkas, brandies, amari, and on down the line—I fully admit that the ones that get emptied fastest are the bourbons (and sometimes the ryes). I make no bones about American whiskey being my spirit of choice, and my knee-jerk cocktail is often bound to be a whiskey sour, a Paper Plane, or a Manhattan.

But woman cannot live on whiskey alone, so my second cocktail resolution this year was to challenge myself to branch out a bit and turn to other types of booze when mixing drinks.

Into Brandyland

As part of my efforts to learn more about brandy (so I could share that knowledge with all of you, natch), I spent some time in that world in February and March, so much of my branching out happened in that particular family tree.

There were Sidecars, of course, and they were predictably delicious, but I also went a bit farther afield.

The Saratoga cocktail from Julie Reiner's  The New Cocktail Hour

The Saratoga cocktail from Julie Reiner's The New Cocktail Hour

So, yes: the Saratoga from The New Cocktail Hour by Julie Reiner does in fact have rye in it, but it also has cognac, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters, so I'm totally counting it in my not-just-American-whiskey tally, especially since it was delicious. (I'm sure these charming pressed glass Nick and Nora glasses enhanced the taste even more.)

Andrew Friedman's Bardstown

Andrew Friedman's Bardstown

Next up was the Bardstown cocktail from Seattle bartender and bar owner Andrew Friedman. I picked this one while flipping through the book West Coast Libations because, let me be honest here, it was the drink that required the least effort (no infusions, no emulsions, no special syrups), and for which I had all the ingredients on hand. 

Was one of those ingredients rye? Yes. Yes, it was. You might sense a theme here. But what if I defend myself by noting that this beauty also has applejack, and thus fits with the whole brandy theme?  (Bonus: I served it in one of these classic "bamboo stem" coupes.)


By Andrew Friedman of Liberty Bar, Seattle; from West Coast Libations by Ted Munat

2 oz. Rittenhouse 100-proof rye

1 oz. Laird's applejack

1/2 oz. Cointreau

1 dash orange bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

Long orange twist, for garnish

Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the orange twist.


The A.J. cocktail: just crazy enough to work

The A.J. cocktail: just crazy enough to work

I wrapped up my time in Brandytown with a cocktail called the A.J., from Mittie Hellmich's Ultimate Bar Book. The A.J. combines applejack, grapefruit juice, and grenadine, and, on paper, looks suspect at best. (Applejack and grapefruit??) But friends, somehow it works.

Last Stop: Campari

I wish I could tell you that beyond my tinkering with various brandies I got into some truly creative stuff, and finally figured out what to do with that bottle of Ramazzotti, or that crazy-ass coca leaf liqueur my friend Rob gave me for my birthday back in, um, 2011, or that rhubarb liqueur that's been all but untouched for years now. 

In fact, I did none of those things. But I did keep putzing around.

Tequila, let's do this.

Tequila, let's do this.

On one of the coldest nights we had all winter (yes, that's a relative measure in Northern California, but still), I dusted off my bottle of silver tequila, squeezed a grapefruit, and made Palomas. Tequila is a spirit that has never excited me (and sorry, mezcal, but smoky just isn't my thing), but in the Paloma, I can start to see its appeal.

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day a la Dale DeGroff

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day a la Dale DeGroff

St. Patrick's Day here at In Our Cups world HQ involved not green beer (or, in fact, any beer) or terrible shots, but instead a round of Wild Irish Roses, Dale DeGroff's take on the Jack Rose, which subs Irish whiskey for applejack. That bottle of Bushmill's at the back of my bar hadn't seen so much action in years. (Love those Libbey Royal Fern glasses? Find 'em here.)

Tally ho, sbagliato!

Tally ho, sbagliato!

Finally, I rounded out March with the Negroni Sbagliato, the "mistaken" version of that classic with Prosecco standing in for the gin. (And check out those charming Libbey Tally Ho lowballs!) If I'm drinking something bitter and bubbly, there's a 99% chance it's an Aperol Spritz, so, hey, double pat on the back for a cocktail that's neither a spritz nor features American whiskey. 

I've got plenty more exploring to do over the coming months—I will open that bottle of falernum! I will figure out something to do with cachaça other than make Caipirinhas! And dammit, Ramazzotti, I'm coming for you. And let's be honest: I didn't actually go way out in left field with most of my cocktailing over these last couple of months. 

But it did feel good to crack open some infrequently used bottles, and to get myself out of my whiskey-first habit for a bit. If you, like me, have neglected bottles hanging around your home bar, I definitely encourage showing them some love.