Great Drinks for Fall Weather 

Drinkers, rejoice! As I write this column, the temperature is still hovering in the upper 80s. But by the time this week's Flyer hits the streets, fall will have arrived via a cold front that promises 40 degree lows at the end of the week.

Nothing like a cold snap to make me long for the crispness of autumn drinks.

Wine-wise, I've already begun gravitating away from my typical array of pinot grigios and vinho verdes. Over the last few weeks, my tastes have migrated a bit northward on the European continent — to Austria and the Czech Republic, the home of Grüner Veltliner.

A dry, zesty white wine, the Grüner Veltliner varietal, which is most closely linked to Savagnin, dates back to Roman times and flourished post-WWII, gaining traction in the 21st century after topping several "best of" lists. Today, it's also grown in the New World, popping up in vineyards in the Pacific Northwest, in Canada, and in Australia and New Zealand.

I love the crisp, oaky-meets-peppery taste of Grüner Veltliner. It's the perfect white wine for real fall nights, when the sandals and short-sleeved shirts are finally put away until next year. Dare I say that it yearns for boots, tights, and jackets? Yes, I do.

Best of all, my favorite bottles leave plenty of room in your budget for fashion. Both the Hugl Grüner Veltliner and Skeleton Grüner Veltliner come in at under $11 per bottle, and each provide the tart, acidic equivalent of biting into a Granny Smith apple. Both are easily found locally — I search for the Hugl by its red-and-white striped screw cap. The bottle of Skeleton makes a perfect gift this month, too, should you have any dinner parties or Halloween fright fests on the horizon.

click to enlarge spirits_img_15441.jpg

Speaking of apples, I decided last weekend that in honor of the new calendar month, I was going to try an Apple Smash, weather be damned. I saw Steven Stern's recipe in The New York Times, picked up an apple in the produce department, and made the drink on Sunday afternoon. It was easy, unique, and utterly delicious.

First, I made simple syrup, then let it cool. Then I sliced a Honeycrisp apple, and, following the recipe, muddled one slice in a cocktail shaker. Apple slice sufficiently smashed, I added two ounces of white rum, a quarter-ounce of fresh lemon juice, a half-ounce of the simple syrup, and a dash of bitters. I shook it with ice, per a recommendation in the comments, and strained the concoction into a highball glass filled with ice. I bypassed the garnish, an apple slice dusted with cinnamon, since there was no one but the dog to impress. I'll definitely be making this again as the season progresses.

On Food & Wine magazine's website, I found several more worthy apple cocktail recipes. I love the concept behind the Pomme Pomme Squad, a Calvados-based cocktail that also includes Cognac, absinthe, brown sugar syrup, and allspice liqueur, but honestly, my liquor cabinet isn't sophisticated enough to make it.

The Apple Bomb, on the other hand, is more my speed. This drink combines two ounces each of applejack (or apple brandy) and apple juice, 1 ½ ounces ginger beer, and an apple slice as garnish. Served on the rocks, it packs an apple-gingery punch that's quite satisfying.

I also love the hard cider sangria, made with apple brandy, hard cider, apple juice, lemon juice, an orange, and thinly sliced red, green, and yellow apples.

I'm not the only autumn-lover with an eye on the weather. According to their Facebook page, this Thursday, October 11, the folks at Long Road Cider are hauling their apple-crushing equipment outdoors for the public to learn about the process. Head up to their headquarters at 9053 Barret Road in Barretville to participate, or just watch and taste the fruit of their labors — in liquid form, that is. It's just a 40-minute drive from Midtown, and they'll keep the party going from 4 until 9 p.m. Call 352-0962 for details.

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