We're exploring twelve seasonally-inspired cocktail recipes this year alongside our candle subscription with writer, historian, and cocktail creative Al Culliton.
Jump to the Mystrica Recipe: Here Simple & Non-alcoholic Versions: Here New to cocktail making? Read our Drinks101 post first.
There’s a marked change when October sweeps in with its crisp, cool air. In the modern day, October can be quite hectic — people are back into their routines after the transitional (and often very warm) month of September, and calendars fill up quickly. The Labors of the Month, which we’ve been studying this year, tell us that October was also a busy time of year for medieval Europeans. As we’ve seen in past months, it’s yet another month of sowing seeds to be reaped in the future, both literally and metaphorically.
October was a key time for sowing winter cereals like rye and red wheat. These seeds are planted in autumn and harvested beginning in May and throughout the summer. In wine-producing regions like France and Italy, the Labors of the Month dictate that wine should be transferred to barrels for aging.
Labours of the month October, harvesting the grapes Source
Preparation for the future aside, fall is a season that a great many people look forward to, and its delights — pumpkin patches, apple picking, peak foliage — only last for so long. We’d do well to bear in mind our Keap theme words — wandering, being in nature, and resting — as they focus on how to live in the moment and enjoy the season.
You may choose to do some rambling on a hiking trail you’ve never done before. Maybe a little canoeing on a lake, where it seems there are double the trees, with the orange, yellow, and red reflected in its placid waters. Or perhaps it’s simply resting with a book and a cup of coffee or tea out on the porch, wearing the jacket and scarf you’ve just dug out of the closet for the first time this year.
Tres Riches Heures du Jean Duc de Berry, 15th century, French Source
Traditions encourage us to stop and take notice of the season we’re in, acting as little reminders of what makes each month special. These don’t need to be fixed traditions like holidays. They can be something like “every October, I make my first apple crisp of the year.” In October, I love to lean into the traditional flavors of the season — aged spirits, spices, ginger —and make lots of cocktails for friends that revolve around these comforting flavors.
This month’s cocktail is called Mystrica, which is part of the Latin word for nutmeg. It’s a wonderful sour that takes its inspiration from punches of 200-300 years ago. Rye brings to mind the sowing of winter grains and contributes a spicy note. Cognac, a very traditional base for old punches, lends richness and texture and references the grape harvest and wine making. Oloroso sherry, a fortified wine from Spain, dries out the mixture and imparts a nutty, oxidized quality. Lemon and a honeyed ginger syrup team up to create a balance of sweet and sour, an essential element of any punch. And a traditional garnish of freshly grated nutmeg puts the finishing touches on the drink. This drink is sure to be a hit at your first soirée of the season…just make sure you’re prepared for guests to order more than one.
A single-serve punch with rye, Cognac, sherry, lemon, and spiced ginger syrup, topped with nutmeg; autumn in a glass.
¾ oz. rye whiskey
¾ oz. Cognac
¾ oz. oloroso sherry
¾ oz. lemon juice
1 oz. spiced ginger syrup
Grated nutmeg, for garnish
Combine all in a shaker. Add plenty of ice and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a Keap tumbler over ice. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
1 cup (~130g) ginger, peeled
1½ cup water
1 cup honey
A small pinch of salt
Neatly slice ginger. In a small saucepan, combine ginger, water, honey, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 1-4 hours. (Longer = stronger flavor.) Strain syrup into a jar.
On Punches and Sours
Punch is one of the oldest forms of mixed drink. Dating back hundreds of years, its earliest form was built on arrack, a sugarcane and fermented rice-based spirit that originated in Indonesia. Dutch and English colonizers became fond of Punch, a mixture of arrack, citrus, sugar, and water or tea, which was typically garnished with nutmeg. With the rise of single-serve drinks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Punch was shrunk down to an individual size and, eventually, its level of dilution decreased. This gave birth to what we now call the Sour, as well as bygone templates like the Fix. Our drink this month is a great example of a Sour that takes its inspiration directly from Punches popular two hundred years ago.
THIS MONTH'S SIMPLER RECIPE
Looking for a simpler twist or a non-alcoholic option?
Simple recipe: In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 oz. rye whiskey, 1 oz. Cognac, ¾ oz. lemon juice and ¾ oz. simple syrup. Add ice, seal shaker, and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a Keap tumbler over fresh ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Non-alcoholic version: In a cocktail shaker, combine 3 oz. chilled black tea with 1 oz. lemon juice and 1 oz. simple syrup. Add ice, seal shaker, and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a Keap tumbler over fresh ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.