Fall’s best boozy bets

The Autumnal equinox has descended upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is starting to feel cool and crisp outside, as the leaves crunch under our boots. Full-on sweater weather and Hallow’s Eve are just around the corner. October in Derby City seems replete with more fall festivals and pumpkin-spiced parties than a girl can fit into her social schedule, but don’t fret. I’ve got a few ideas for celebrating Halloween in style — bloody and buzzy, if you will.

One of my favorite Halloween traditions in Louisville is seeing “Dracula” at Actors Theatre (actorstheatre.org). Exceptionally bloody, haunting and even funny at times, from Renfield to Van Helsing, the cast always executes this age-old tale in Louisville’s iconic theater with precision and gory grace. And, really, what’s a show at Actors Theatre without grabbing cocktails and a bite at MilkWood (located in the basement of the theater) beforehand? Recently, MilkWood eliminated all Coke products from its lineup, in favor of local or artisanal, soda alternatives, such as Cheerwine and Ale-8. This means bar program manager Stacie Stewart is mixing up all sorts of delectable cocktails with said sodas, which makes for some delightful pre-show samplings. Stewart suggests Boylan’s Birch Beer with Fernet as the perfect fall libation (hint: you had me at Fernet). Pro-tip: MilkWood offers a pre-theatre menu of three courses for $30 for Actors Theatre patrons (plus booze, of course). Sit at the bar and ask for Dane or Dave. Just do it, friends.

I wrote on the disturbing delights of Octo-Claw’s Bizarre Bazaar recently, and it is worth mentioning again when designing your fall social schedule. The Halloween Spooktacular remains different than the Zombie Walk kick-off to the haunt season, as these circus shows (taking place Oct. 28 and 31) are the wildest bashes of the year. “It’s the one show in which all the folks from Octo-Claw’s Bizarre Bazaar are involved,” said co-creator, Camilla Jasis-Wallace. “Drag queens and kings, burlesque and belly dancers, aerialists . . . we go all out.” While Galaxie will be hosting the show on Oct. 28, OCBB’s annual blood wrestling takes place only on Halloween night at The Cure Lounge, which will be slinging $3 Halloween Jell-O shots all night. Jell-O in your mouth. Blood on the dance floor. A “queer, punk circus,” as they say. What more do you need?

Louisville’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is an incredible, glowing art show featuring over 5,000 delicately carved pumpkins along a quarter-mile trail in Iroquois Park. It features such incredible carvings as the GOAT — Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali — actual, working clocks, intricate Native-Americans, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and more. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is a treat for the whole family. What may not be a treat for the whole family, but for those of a rightful age, is making a slow-cooker cocktail prior to the trek and packing several Yeti thermoses full of said delight. Is it bad that I’d rather walk through a trail of glowing pumpkins with a solid buzz? Probably. Is it going to be more fun? Definitely. Might I suggest a bourbon apple cider (cider, mulling spices, caramel, apples and bourbon) simmered on low for a few hours? Just don’t forget to add more bourbon when you pour it into the mug, as the alcohol can reduce right out in the slow cooker. Honestly, you should pack a flask, just to be safe.

Let’s be real — we can always find a reason to organize a bar crawl, and fall in Louisville is just as good a reason as any. Luckily, the folks at Rabbit Hole Distilling have orchestrated a seasonal cocktail competition in NuLu, “Nightmare in NuLu,” of which 10 bars have designed their own Rabbit Hole cocktail for patrons to sample and then vote on through social media tags. Why not grab a crew of your friends and promenade around town to sample Taj’s “Cathulu” (Rabbit Hole, ginger syrup, carrot juice, lemonade and ginger beer) or Garage Bar’s “Fatal Attraction” (Rabbit Hole Rye, spiced apple syrup, lemon juice and Porto Kopke Fine Ruby Port)? Hallow’s Eve Rabbit Hole bar crawl, anyone?

Ahhhh, fall in Louisville. Halloween in River City. With a myriad of activities, it’s almost impossible to fit it all in.

Whatever your seasonal rituals are, from cuddling pumpkins, to throwing cider in the air, to sprinkling crunchy leaves on your roasted acorn squash… don’t forget to add bourbon.