Fall means it’s time for pumpkin everything. This year in particular, food-product manufacturers haven’t held back: pumpkin pie M&M’s, pumpkin spice Life Cereal, and even a bottled version of the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte—which got its start in DC—have all hit shelves in the past few weeks.
Thankfully for drinkers, DC bartenders are proving there’s more to the trend than artificial flavoring and food dye. Check out the real autumnal cocktails below, and get sipping.
Iron Gate “Squash Without Zucca”
1734 N St., NW
Mezcal—the smoky agave-based spirit from Mexico that’s become the darling of barkeepers—makes an appearance in Iron Gate’s autumnal drink. It’s mixed with pumpkin, pomegranate, angostura bitters, and nutmeg, plus a dash of bitter Italian averna liqueur to cut the sweetness.
Toki Underground “Leaves on Shibuya”
1234 H St., NE
Named after the bustling shopping district in Tokyo, Leaves on Shibuya is a fall-inspired gin cocktail that’s equal parts creamy and boozy. Homemade pumpkin shrub—made with the signature gourd, brown sugar, spices, and apple cider vinegar—blends with lemon juice, cardamom bitters, and Jos. A Magnus Vigilant gin. The garnish keeps with the seasonal theme: a dehydrated apple slice with shaved cinnamon.
Del Campo “Smoked Pumpkin Old Fashioned”
777 I St., NW
Old fashioned fans can try a seasonal spin at this South American spot. Barkeeps mix bourbon, smoked canella (a cinnamon-like spice), and a house-made pumpkin cordial for a warming libation.
PUB Dread “David S. Pumpkins”
1839-1843 7th St., NW
Like the Saturday Night Live sketch that inspires this drink, the David S. Pumpkins cocktail has a lot going on: two different kinds of rum, cognac, Sherry, allspice dram, coconut, and pumpkin. The flavor is similar to a piña colada, with a spicy seasonal punch. Any questions?
Hank’s Cocktail Bar “Becky Just Got Her Hair Did”
819 Upshur St., NW
Fans of citrusy vodka drinks should try this fall upgrade. Absolut Elyx vodka and fresh citrus juice are spiced up with pumpkin seeds, nutmeg, and cinnamon. An egg white is thrown in to give the cocktail some added oomph.
Quarter + Glory “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”
2017 14th St., NW
This 14th Street cocktail spot makes a mean beer-tail with the help of Schlafly pumpkin ale. Rye, allspice, demerara syrup, apple brandy, and fresh lemon juice are mixed, poured over ice, and topped with the pumpkin beer. A shower of fresh nutmeg crowns the cocktail.
The Rye Bar at Rosewood “A Bourbon Pumpkin”
1050 31st St., NW
The Rye Bar’s “A Bourbon Pumpkin” doesn’t skimp on flavor: a couple ounces of whiskey and a splash of Cotton & Reed‘s allspice dram are mixed with orange juice, maple syrup, and homemade pumpkin syrup—which is really just the “essence” of pumpkin. The syrup is made with one of pumpkin’s most popular relatives, butternut squash, plus cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. (But hey, that’s still more gourd than the pumpkin-free PSL).
City Tap Dupont “Last Name Crane”
1250 Connecticut Ave., NW
This up-cocktail incorporates fresh pumpkin right into the alcohol. Pumpkin-and maple-infused vanilla vodka is mixed with ginger liqueur, becherovka (a cinnamon-y, herbal liqueur), and black walnut bitters. It’s nutty, sweet, and with four different kinds of liquor, packs a strong punch.