Food & Drink

Your Complete DC Fall Cocktail Primer Is Here

Published On 11/11/2015 Published On 11/11/2015
Courtesy of Ripple

The Maize Rummer


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Cleveland Park

If fall reminds you of hitting up a county fair, you probably remember coming home with sticky fingers from pillaging a bag of caramel corn, not to mention Batman face paint. That’s what Ripple’s Caroline Blundell is trying to capture with her fall concoction “The Maize Rummer” made with buttered popcorn syrup, white and dark rum, Cardamaro, and Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters. There’s a sweet skewer of popcorn serving as the garnish, for those who like things literal.

Greg Powers

Smoked pumpkin Old Fashioned

Del Campo

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We didn’t want to play the pumpkin track on repeat, so we limited ourselves to including only the best gourd-forward cocktail: a smoked pumpkin Old Fashioned at Del Campo combining Bulleit bourbon, house-made pumpkin cordial, Angostura bitters, and a charred pumpkin ball garnish. The smoking occurs tableside over flaming cinnamon, so at least you get some drama and envious stares from nearby diners for your $15.  

Laura Hayes/Thrillist

Roasted corn-infused soju


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Adams Morgan/Mt. Vernon Square

A hard day’s work goes into this corn maze in a bottle. Mandu’s beverage director Phil Anova coats corn with the stuff dreams are made of (butter, salt, nutmeg, and honey) and slow cooks it on the grill before tossing it straight onto the coals for more charred flavor. Once stripped off the cob, the corn, plus some sliced leeks are introduced to the soju and left to rest for a couple of days. What results is a sweet and savory gulp that’s sweet from the honey and smoky from the grill. Try it by the bottle with friends for $20.

Laura Hayes/Thrillist

Made for Selfies


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14th Street

Oktoberfest may be a fuzzy memory by this point, but your season of drinking from a boot doesn’t have to end thanks to Tico’s aptly named Made for Selfies. You’re at Tico, remember, so obviously tequila is the lead actor, but there are some surprises in there including Drambuie, five-spiced pomegranate, orange, lemon, cardamom bitters, and even a little Belgian ale for fizz. Just try not to sing that airwaves-amputating song by The Chainsmokers.

RW Restaurant Group

Autumn Song

Brasserie Beck

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Mt. Vernon Square

Apple cider: it’s been done. But, what about apple and butternut squash cider? Now that’s something to wrap your newly gloved hand around. Try the AppleJack brandy-spiked potion that’s steeped with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, peppercorns, and nutmeg at the RW Restaurant Group's restaurants including Brasserie Beck, Mussel Bar & Grille, Wildwood Kitchen, Villain & Saint and beyond. Wait, we almost forgot the part where the magic happens. Once the cider is nice and warm, bartenders pour it over house-made citrus compound butter.

Courtesy of Southern Efficiency

Fall to Pieces

Southern Efficiency

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Southern Efficiency bartender Paul Taylor says his inspiration for this bad boy was musical: the slow tempo and cadence of Patsy Cline’s 1961 song “I Fall to Pieces” is mirrored in the drink, which should be enjoyed slowly. Perhaps that’s because it’s pretty boozy thanks to both Laird’s apple brandy and Rittenhouse rye. Also in Paul’s cocktail: Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Amaro Averna, and Angostura bitters. You should taste fall flavors like apple, baking spices, and vanilla.

Laura Hayes/Thrillist

The Hennessy Jed


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All bartender Julien-Pierre Bourgon needs to bring a smoking tempest of a cocktail to your table at Masseria is a little camper burner and a small Turkish coffee pot. That’s because the black walnut-infused glycerin smoke has a very low smoke temperature. It swirls in a snifter holding Hennessy VS cognac, Angostura bitters, and DC’s own Don Ciccio & Figli nocino, which is made with black walnuts. In order to make sure the fall-smelling smoke makes it to your table, Bourgon traps it with a black-linen coaster. Expect it to taste a little like a clementine made hedgehog-like in appearance using cloves -- a craft you may have completed at Christmas.

Courtesy of Urbana

The Fallen Leaf


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Dupont Circle

There’s no high-proof spirit leading the charge in this fall charmer, making it surprisingly light. It could even be a session cocktail should you fall (!) in love with it. Must be that whole low-alcohol cocktail trend setting in. Instead of gin, whiskey, or rum, the Fallen Leaf contains only an Italian amaro called Punt e Mes, allspice dram, Nux Alpina walnut liqueur, lemon, and hard cider. It’s nutty and fizzy without being sweet.

Courtesy of Bourbon Steak

Buttered rum

Bourbon Steak

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The warmth radiating off Bourbon Steak’s beloved buttered rum basically mandates that you drink it outside on the fire pit-equipped patio with one of those faux fur blankets wrapped around you on your first date. After browning butter, the bar team adds cinnamon sticks, allspice, star anise, sliced ginger, cloves, and vanilla and lets the mixture steep before adding brown sugar and spiking it with dark and light rum. On top is thick whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg. It won’t lose you pounds, but it will gain you a second date.  

Marissa Bialecki

The Meletto #3

Iron Gate

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Dupont Circle

Meletto means orchard in Italian, so it’s a safe bet the Meletto #3 contains some apples. Indeed, the up drink from Jeff Faile stars Daron Calvados -- an apple brandy made from tart fruit of the Pays d’Auge region of France. It’s shaken and stirred with Cardamaro (for bitter balance), cinnamon syrup, and lemon. This is the third in a series of apple-centric drinks Jeff has rolled out, hence the numeral.

Courtesy of Republic

The Flannel Pig


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Takoma Park

Major points for the name because it conjures up the image of a rather adorable meme. The Flannel Pig, so named for the Pig’s Nose blended Scotch that leads the charge also includes Dolin Génépy, an Alpine French liqueur, and Alexandro Moscatel Dulce sherry from where else but Spain. Garnishing this bad boy are slices of Angostura-soaked apples. Unlike that half pour of a Manhattan you get on 14th Street, this cocktail is well worth its $12 price tag, given the blended Scotch and somewhat esoteric ingredients.

Courtesy of Succotash

PB & J


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National Harbor

For those still stuck on the secondary educational hamster wheel, fall still free associates as back to school season. That’s why you’ve been craving mom’s PB&J. We can’t help you get one of those, but how about an adult, glass-bound version at Succotash? The new restaurant swirls Bulleit bourbon, oloroso sherry, peanut potlikker, ‘Bama grape jelly, egg whites, and salty peanuts. What’s peanut potlikker you ask? The savory liquid left behind after boiling peanuts.

Courtesy of Centrolina



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This light and bright sipper is how you’re starting a meal at Centrolina. Amaro Montenegro counteracts any sweetness from the Foggy Ridge cider and Bluecoat barrel-aged gin brings the buzz. The Amaro Montenegro is lighter than other amaro styles and brings baking spice notes like cloves, cinnamon, and orange peel. Props to the bar team for using a sparkling cider from Virginia.

Laura Hayes/Thrillist

Fall Pimm’s Cup

2 Birds 1 Stone

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14th Street NW

If you’ve got the blues, demand a Fall Pimm’s Cup at 2 Birds 1 Stone. The house-made ginger beer that burns in the best way can cure anything from NFL woes to the common cold. The soda is the base of the warming cocktail that also contains cinnamon-infused Pimm’s and gin. It was so popular last year, it’s making an encore and no one’s complaining.

Courtesy of Boundary Stone

Apple of My Rye

Boundary Stone

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Boundary Stone offers a wallet-friendly ($10) fall cocktail in the form of cinnamon- and clove-infused J.P. Wiser's Canadian rye whiskey, cold-pressed apple cider from Earth N Eats farm, and a shaved apple garnish. It’s a serious upgrade over any spiked cider attempts you may have undertaken.

Courtesy of Garrison

Jessica Appleseed


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Barracks Row

If Johnny Appleseed and Jessica Rabbit had a booze baby, it would be Garrison’s Jessica Appleseed. While that may be true, the drink is actually named for Jessica Moyer, the bartender who created the tangy martini-like concoction. House-pickled honeycrisp apples from Path Valley Farms make the drink otherwise composed of gin or vodka and spiced Dolin blanc stand out. You’ll order a second, surest bet in Vegas.

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1. Del Campo 777 I Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Using a wood-fired grill is one way to cook a steak, and at Del Campo, that smoke helps add another level of flavor to the meat. This upscale Argentinian restaurant in Chinatown is a beautiful tribute to Argentinian grilled meats, all served in an elegantly rustic space outfitted with oak wood floors and leather sling-back barstools- perfect for enjoying the 48oz ribeye on the menu.

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2. Mandu 453 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

This is the larger, Downtown location of Dupont's Korean diner -- rocking decorative wooden ducks and bamboo flooring that creeps up to the ceiling, the spot's serving latenight eats like Korean Tacos.

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3. Tico 1926 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

The bright and graffic graffiti murals are the first clues that your visit to Tico, an outpost of original Boston tapas bar, is going to be a colorful one. Inspired by Schlow's travels in Latin America, Spain, and Mexico, Tico offers bold small plates with Latin leanings, like roasted cauliflower with cotija cheese, black bass ceviche, and a velvety tres leches cake for dessert. There are multiple taco varieties too, but what keeps fans coming back for more are the addictive hibiscus margaritas.

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4. Brasserie Beck 1101 K St NW, Washington, DC 20005

From noted chef Robert Wiedmaier comes the European-style Brasserie Beck in McPherson Square. Brews include classic Belgian styles like dubbels, tripels, and saisons, while eats count options like a ratatouille crepe, classic steak frites with bearnaise and bordelaise, and Maine lobster pappardelle. Maine is notably not in Belgium, but doesn't that sound damn good?

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5. Ripple 3417 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

Boasting a linen-lined, curtained rear dining room and a 40ft tiled bar backed by huge mirrors and flower-patterned lightboxes up front, Ripple's a casually airy, beige-walled winer n' diner.

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6. Southern Efficiency 1841 7th St NW, Washington, 20004

James Beard Award nominated bar owner Derek Brown’s Shaw’s Southern Efficiency specializes in southern whiskey and eccentric southern recipes. Inspired by the concept of lazy southern Sunday afternoons with bourbon in hand, the beverage program encompasses seasonal whiskey cocktails, julep concoctions, beer, cider, and wine. The food roster is separated into appetizers and mains, boasting southern classics like a fried chicken sandwich, buttermilk biscuits, and Louisville chips and dip, which are accompanied by charred peppers, pickles, caramelized onions, and roasted garlic.

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7. Masseria 1340 4th St NE, Washington, DC 20002

Hidden in the rows of wholesale stores surrounding Union Market, you might miss Masseria if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Inside the wooden gate, the warehouse vibe gives way to a stylish courtyard, which leads to an industrial-chic covered patio and dining room. Both the decor and the menu are inspired by Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s fond memories of Puglia’s idyllic landscapes and welcoming country houses. The tasting menu is the only way to play, unless you take a seat at the bar for small plates. Choose between a three-, four-, or five- course meal -- or splurge on the customized six-course La Cucina menu. The dishes are modern and artistic takes on classics, like the linguine with XO sauce and the tripe topped with lobster. Don’t skip the cocktails, or you’ll miss the smoke show that is the Fumo di Uva.

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8. Urbana 2121 P St NW , Washington, DC, DC 20037

With a swanky lounge vibe, Urbana offers a classic Italian menu from Chef Ethan McKee that features artisan pastas, fresh-caught seafood, and locally grown vegetables. You can't go wrong with the bucatini with jumbo lump crab or the diver scallops. The cocktail program as Urbana is just as classic and quality, brimming with Italian liqueurs and house-made ingredients, plus a happy hour that never disappoints.

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9. Iron Gate 1734 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

This is easily one of the most beautiful restaurants in DC. From the lamp-lit stone entryway to the back courtyard complete with a gazebo, Iron Gate in Dupont Circle was made for dining al fresco. Chef Anthony Chittum has been in DC for a long time, winning multiple awards along the way, and his understated Mediterranean dishes are made just right. Wine Director Brent Kroll’s tightly curated wine list pairs perfectly with the food, focusing on Greek and Italian varietals. Ask for a table out back in the courtyard, go all-in with Chef Chittum’s tasting menu, then just point to the wine list and order a bottle.

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10. Republic 6939 Laurel Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912

This Takoma Park restaurant uses seasonal ingredients to build an American style menu in a refined bistro style setting. The menu is pretty seafood heavy, including a daily rotating selection of raw bar options and entrees featuring rockfish and crab. There is also a daily vegan special, called the "All Veggie Everything" and some killer housemade cocktails.

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11. Succotash 186 Waterfront St, National Harbor, MD 20745

Celebrity Chef Edward Lee’s National Harbor restaurant is now open and serving classic southern fare. Swing by their 4-7pm happy hour for drafts and wines by the glass, plus some mighty fine cocktails like a pitcher of “Belle’s Punch” for $25 or $5 milk punch made boozy with bourbon, rum, Averna, Carpano Antica and Creole bitters.

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12. Centrolina 974 Palmer Alley NW, Washington, 20001

Situated in Chinatown, Centrolina is a bright and stylish Italian restaurant with an on-site market, meaning you can either pick up coffee, prepared foods, and specialty groceries for an authentic Italian meal at home, or dine in with refined plates including gnocchi with beef ragu, and pappardelle with roasted mushrooms. The menu's standout items are those that are wood-grilled, such as lamb chops with celery root crema. Expect the utmost freshness at Centrolina, as the roster changes based on seasonal ingredients and the pasta is made in-house daily.

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13. 2 Birds 1 Stone 1800 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Situated in Logan Circle, 2 Birds 1 Stone may be hidden beneath Doi Moi off bustling 14th Street, but it’s far from unknown in the DC cocktail world thanks to its expertly crafted concoctions. The chic, often-crowded bar is known for its original creations (check out the punch du jour) and its re-imagined classics, such as a tequila-infused dark & stormy. The stylish, subterranean space is surprisingly bright, sporting plush seating and exposed brick.

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14. Boundary Stone 116 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Named for the mile markers that once shaped the city, Boundary Stone encapsulates DC style with exposed brick, original tin ceilings, oak bars, and even a stained glass DC flag. The Bloomingdale American restaurant boasts a menu of snacks, appetizers, sandwiches, and entrees, with favorites including daily changing deviled eggs and the honey hot chicken with honey hot sauce, bleu cheese, lettuce, and fries. Try one of the eight drafts on tap as you slide into one of the rustic, charcoal-colored wooden booths.

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15. The Garrison 524 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

Like Smeagle always says: Keep it seasonal, keep it safe. Rest assured, it'll be savory and succulent to boot.

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16. BOURBON STEAK DC 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, 20007

Bourbon Steak, located inside the Four Seasons Hotel, is a chic and modern restaurant brought to you by award winning Chef Michael Mina. It has a classy upscale hotel vibe, offering one of the most extensive selection of steaks, including dry-aged, grass-fed, corn-fed, and Japanese wagyu beef. However, it’s the kind of steakhouse where a trio of steak cuts can cost you up to three figures.