“That time of year thou mayst in me behold, when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang, upon those boughs which shake against the cold, bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang,” William Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 73, of the beloved seasonal equinox we call autumn. While Shakespeare spoke sadly and longingly about the fall, we modern, 21st-century folk know how to truly savor the season. When the brisk, autumnal air creeps into Derby City, and the St. James Court Art Show begins to sprawl its booths about the streets of Old Louisville, Louisville natives begin to rejoice — crunching leaves, boots, lattes, oh, my! So as thirsty Louisvillians, what can we expect to imbibe when it comes to fall flavors in our libations? Will our cups runneth over with sparking apple cider concoctions and mulled wine? I’ve put together my hopefuls for what I believe could be on the seasonal horizon for trends in our spirit scene — some may exist in our establishments and some, I hope to see in the near future.
Grab your Ugg boots and a sweater — we’ve got drinking to do.
Lately, at the end of a meal with friends or my boyfriend, I find myself looking around and asking, “Does anyone want a shot of Fernet?” Turns out, I’m not the only one who has got the insatiable appetite for a bitter and herbaceous Italian amaro, aperitif, digestif or even a vermouth on its own. Amari have taken the stage in the bar scene and are continuing to gain popularity, as they can be well-paired before or after a meal, or take the starring (or supporting) role in a lower-proof, well-crafted cocktail. Try the Wizard Motor from Butchertown Grocery: Hangar 1 Vodka, Fernet Branca, dry curacao, and lapsang souchong tea syrup. I think we’ll be seeing a growing number of wide amaro and vermouth selections in Louisville bars and restaurants, including a new Italian-spirit forward restaurant, Ciao, that’s staked its claim in the former Baxter Station location (opening date TBD).
A trend that’s got bartenders and beverage directors alike reaching into their gardens, and wandering through Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, is the use of foraged ingredients in cocktails. While herbs and edible flowers have been infiltrating the bar scene for a bit, keep your eyes peeled for wild greens, shrubs and syrups infused with herbs and even weeds. Innovators across the country are finding new ingredients for dehydrating, pickling, and muddling their way into our glasses. Pro-tip: Check out the fall cocktail list at La Chasse to begin your trek through the garden.
Cocktails on tap have been popping up in innovative bars all over the nation, and I can only hope the Louisville bar scene will grab onto this trend with both hands. Kegs full of pre-batched cocktails are not only smart, as far as service and efficiency goes, but interesting and delightful flavors can be birthed through the marrying of ingredients, and these bars can begin to better control the consistency (the chance of measuring error goes out the window, and every drink is as it should be). Monkey Wrench has been tapping cocktails for a bit — who’s next?
We all know that fall brings all things basic — from the token PSLs to yoga pants galore, basic seems to have gained a negative reputation in recent years. Yet a trend in the bar scene this fall is something positively delightful: a return to the basics. This autumn, I think we’ll see bar programs chop away at the sheer number of ingredients in a cocktail and move from an eight-to-nine (ingredient) pickup libation to a drink that lets a quality spirit shine. Patrons can often get overwhelmed when faced with a menu that includes ingredients they’ve never heard of and drinks that seem to take forever to craft. We’ll be welcoming a return to simplicity and a focus on high-quality and stellar ingredients.
So, what do the folks out in LEO land believe is next on the front for fall imbibing? Will establishments take a note from Garage Bar’s oyster shooter and begin incorporating food into cocktails? Will boozy teas and coffee libations begin to take hold? Will mezcal continue to flex in the bar scene and gain momentum in dive bars and restaurants alike? Whatever it may be, we’re here, and we’re always thirsty.