The summer months are perfect for the likes of vodka, gin, and light rums. Meanwhile, fall and winter are well suited for Scotch, rye, and bourbon. But though we never get sick of Booker’s Bourbon and Glenlivet Scotch Whisky, we also enjoy mixing it up during the cooler months. Aged tequilas, for instance, can have nuanced, rich flavors on par with aged whiskeys.
“I’d even enjoy a reposado tequila such as Partida,” says Mary F. Wiley, bartender at Sabroso+Sorbo at The Notary Hotel in Philadelphia. “The smokiness is perfect for fall.”
Once you start thinking beyond whiskey, fall spirit choices are endless. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best non-whiskey spirits for autumn drinking. From rums to mezcals to aquavits, this list has everything you need to stock your home bar for an epic season.
Tanqueray 10 Gin
Allie Torres, bartender at Refinery Rooftop in New York City
I’m a whiskey girl, for sure, but colder months definitely open the door for more adventurous options. I personally love martinis in colder weather. There’s something comforting about an oversized sweater and a crisp Tanqueray 10 Vesper, steakhouse style.
Privateer Queen’s Share Rum
Alexis Brown, founder of Causing a Stir in Chicago
I’m currently lusting over Queen’s Share Privateer Rum by Maggie Campbell. You might not think of rum when it comes to fall drinking, but this one is perfect.
Cabo Wabo Blanco
Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia
Tequila is amazing in the fall. Simple infusions have taken this agave-based spirit from a seasonal favorite to a four-season offering. Tequila pairs great with cinnamon, pumpkin, herbs and lots of classic fall ingredients.
My personal favorite is Cabo Wabo Blanco. This excellent, sipping tequila has found a second life with bartenders as a vessel for infusions.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum
Brittany Villafane, head sommelier and mixologist at db bistro moderne in New York City
I love a quality rum for sipping in the colder months. My go-to is Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. The rich notes of maple, orange peel, and spice make it great to drink on its own with a cheese plate.
St. George Pear Brandy
Drew Hairston, beverage director at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC
I feel like brandy and eau de vie get overlooked often, especially when looking for seasonal flavors. I love St. George Spirits’ Pear Brandy. It’s so versatile for cocktails but doesn’t have the same sweetness or heavy mouthfeel of some of the Poire Williams out there.
Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin
Brian Krux, mixologist and bartender at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vermont
I have to go to Barr Hill. Their ‘Tom Cat’ gin is aged in charred oak barrels and walks a fine line between gin and whisky. The oak aging delivers depth and roundness not found in any other gin I’ve tasted. It works so well in cocktails like a negroni. One moment it tastes like a boulevardier the next a negroni.
Mariel Burns, head bartender at Trademark Taste + Grind in New York City
I love Amaro Montenegro as an after-dinner drink or a low ABV shot with friends. It is sweet, floral and only slightly bitter which is great when introducing Amari to novice drinkers.
Don Julio 70th Tequila
Dave Whitton, co-owner of Prank in Los Angeles
For the fall, it’s definitely Don Julio 70th. It is made like a bourbon with beautiful caramel and vanilla notes, but with the comfort of a bourbon in a tequila.
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
One of my favorite fall sippers is Braulio Amaro. I really love alpine-style Amari and with Braulio you can almost taste the mountain air. It’s also great to drink after a heavy fall meal.
Mezcal Vago Elote
David Bliszcz, bartender at The Franklin in New Orleans
Mezcal. Always. For fall drinking. For all drinking. My favorite producer is Mezcal Vago. Each of their mezcals has a distinct, unique flavor. Each is created by small batch mezcaleros, who for generations have been perfecting their craft deep in the mountains of Southern Oaxaca. Each is absolutely lovely.
My preferred Vago is the Elote. Produced by Aquilino García López, the Mezcal Vago Elote is infused with toasted corn and has traditionally been made for special occasions like weddings or baptisms. I suppose toasted corn is more commonly associated with summer, but its flavor profile certainly extends to spring and fall. Its smoky aspect makes it appealing in winter. As I stated above, perfect for fall drinking, perfect for all drinking. It truly is a blessing to now be able to enjoy this spirit not just on special occasions, but any occasion.
Tequila 512 Blanco
Dakota Marchio, lead bartender at Caroline in Austin, Texas
Fall in Texas is a hot one so I’ll be sipping on Tequila 512 Blanco, most likely as a Ranch Water (Topo Chico, lime juice, and tequila).
Rhine Hall La Normande
Cameron Shaw, Head Bartender at The Lookup in New York City
La Normande from Rhine Hall is one of the most delicious and decidedly fall things I’ve ever had my taste buds on. A classic pommeau, it’s a blend of aged apple brandy and fresh cider finished in bourbon barrels. It’s slightly lower proof, ever so slightly sweet, and totally delicious served over the rocks or alongside a slice of pecan pie.
Hennessy XO Cognac
Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty in Carlsbad, California
A cool fall night, Cognac goes down nicely. If I’m drinking it slightly warmed, in a snifter, I would have to treat myself to Hennessy XO. Rich and elegant layers of flavor that you can only get from aging.
Lamarr Hawkins, bar manager at Brooklyn Cider House in New York City
Brennivin Aquavit is an amazing spirit for the fall weather. The addition of caraway gives this drink a smooth and unique profile especially when served chilled. Pairing with a wild fermented cider is incredibly satisfying.
Del Maguey Mezcal
Samantha Barton, brand ambassador for Tequila Avión
No question about it, Del Maguey mezcal is the first thing I grab for fall. Its fruity yet smoky taste is undeniably complex. Mezcal can get easily overlooked, but a Del Maguey old fashioned is the perfect way to stay warm as the weather gets cold.
Hilary Chadwick, director of food and beverage at Viviane in Beverly Hills
In the fall, I always pour some Amaro Nonino. It’s the perfect after-dinner drink but honestly, it’s delicious any time. It’s also a great digestif after a long autumnal meal.
Ransom Old Tom Gin
Christopher Stephenson, bartender at The Vault in Salt Lake City
In the fall, I like Ransom Old Tom Gin. The combo of oak and botanicals gets me ready to start setting up my Halloween yard display.
Drew Breen, bar manager at Jianna in Greenville, South Carolina
Anything digestive. I love Fernet-Branca more than almost anything. When the weather calls for it, I lean into Amaros whenever possible and there’s a reason almost every bartender enjoys Fernet.
Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
Alex Gregg, bar manager at Curadero in San Diego
Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy. Drink it straight, alongside your favorite fall brown ale, shake it in a sour style cocktail or stir it into an Old Fashioned or Manhattan variation. Its’ super versatile and at 100 proof, its sure to warm you up. Oh, it absolutely sings in a hot toddy.
Los Vecinos del Campo Mezcal
Brandon Lockman, lead bartender at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon
If I’m not drinking whiskey in the fall, it’s most likely Mezcal. Los Vecinos del Campo is a pretty tasty, affordable option. Great smoky and vegetal flavors perfect for fall cocktails.