Sips of the Season: Hot (and Cool) Fall Drinks in D.C.

By Linah Colgrove, Foodable Contributor

With the chill of October in the air in Washington, D.C., it’s time to start sipping seasonal. While a pumpkin spice latte can hit the spot on a brisk morning before work, many Washingtonians are looking for fall drinks with more of a kick. Apples, pears and chestnuts are in season, and area cocktail menus are filling up with more dark rums, bourbons and brandies to whet the palate and warm the soul. 

Sugar ’n’ Spice

Spiced drinks are the way to go this time of year. There’s something about the natural flavors and soothing aromas of seasonal spices. Whether you’re sipping a cool pre-meal cocktail or wrapping up your dinner with a warm apéritifbrown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and a hint of honey help coat the throat, helping the “medicine” go down. 

The “Honey, Spice, & Everything Nice” cocktail at Jack Rose Dining Saloon is made with gin, spiced rum, housemade apple butter, honey syrup, and lemon. Yes, that ingredient is indeed apple butter – and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of the fall favorite in or on just about anything. 

Downtown, new-to-the-scene NoPa serves a powerful punch with brandy, spices and brown sugar served warm. A particularly strong drink, this beverage will cure whatever ails you. For vodka drinkers, NoPa offers the Chinatown Shake made with pear-flavored vodka, hard cider, plum bitters and sage. Alcohol, fruit, spices and herbs all in one glass? Yes, please.  

Le Pain Quotidien spiced apple cider

Le Pain Quotidien spiced apple cider

If you feel like a more traditional spiced apple cider without booze, Le Pain Quotidien serves up a delicious version with ginger, star anise, and cinnamon that’s lightly sweetened with organic honey. 

Fall Holiday Booze

Between adult Halloween parties and that big Thanksgiving Day feast, there are plenty of opportunities to try a holiday-themed drink in the city. 

“Death in the Dead of Night” at the highly regarded cocktail haven The Passenger combines just two ingredients for a lethal combination: absinthe and black fang cider. From the same DC-born owner of The Passenger comes the new Petworth Citizen, promising a seasonal cocktail in the form of hot caramel punch as Turkey Day draws near.

“Something Wicked” – dark rum, amaro, lemon juice, blueberry jam and bitters – is sure to be worth the trip to Rockville’s highly acclaimed Quench, which offers a list of seasonal drinks and a weekend mixology class

Booze with a View 

What better way to toast the season than with a view of the fall foliage among the monuments in the nation’s capital? Great for locals and tourists alike, POV Lounge in the uber hip W Hotel offers a number of fall drinks including the Broken Blackberry, made with bourbon, blackberries, lemon, honey, cinnamon, and elderflower. Enjoy this citrusy concoction while checking out the national monument and the White House from this rooftop (enclosed in the cold months) bar. 

Get an Asian twist on fall beverages with a view at The Source. The Xiang Li “Fragrant Pear” includes pear vodka, ginger liqueur, pear purée, and lemongrass ginger syrup – and you can drink it in a beautiful space atop The Newseum right on Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Featured Spirits 

A New York Sour from Jaleo [rye, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and a float of red wine]

A New York Sour from Jaleo [rye, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and a float of red wine]

At Jaleo, the spirit-of-the-month is rye, a type of whiskey, and the cocktail menu boasts several ways to drink the comforting liquor. Enjoy a New York Sour, complete with rye, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and, surprisingly, a float of red wine. You’ll like this pucker beverage even if you aren't a whiskey drinker.

If, after all these options, you’re still partial to pumpkin, head to Graffiato, where the Smashing Pumpkin reigns supreme. Made with pumpkin moonshine, lemon, allspice dram, maple syrup, and pumpkin beer, you’ll get two doses of jack-o-lantern juice and a whole lot more. 

While cherry blossoms draw the crowds in the spring, many locals argue that fall is the best time of year to enjoy this city. With a wide selection of watering holes serving up sensational seasonal drinks, and a bit of luck with the weather, you really can’t go wrong.