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Beyond Pumpkin Spice: Fall Drinks That Keep You Warm

Spiked or alcohol-free, these festive drinks are perfect for toasting

Sangría con naranjas, manzanas, arándanos y especias

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En español | Chilly weather is a great excuse to get festive with spice-spiked cold-weather cocktails and toddies. Though pumpkin spice has many fans, there are a multitude of other flavor options for pouring a taste of autumn into your mug or cocktail tumbler.

"They key to fall flavors is in the spices,” says Rachelle Lucas of “The Travel Bite,” a popular food and travel blog. “Cinnamon and nutmeg are especially comforting, and invoke a bit of nostalgia, too.”

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Lucas and bartenders across the country shared a few of the drinks they're raising into the crisp autumn air to toast fall fun.

A fire pit sangria

A sweaty pitcher of sangria loaded with ripe berries typically conjures summertime entertaining. But you might be surprised by how easy it is to give the beloved Spanish drink a fall twist by whipping up Lucas’ Autumn Sangria on your stove top. You can drink it warm or refrigerate for a cooler version.

"I've been making autumn sangria every year for over a decade now, so it's a bit of a tradition,” says the Orlando-based blogger, “The trees here in Florida might not change color, but I know when I taste that first sip of sangria, the season has arrived.”

This aromatic sangria just begs to be sipped fireside — but people in Florida and other warm parts of the country will enjoy it, too.

Autumn Sangria

  • 2 bottles merlot
  • 1 bottle ginger ale
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 4 to 6 apples
  • 6 to 10 cinnamon sticks

Instructions:

1. Combine sugar and ground spices in a small bowl and mix well.

2. Pour merlot into a large pot, add the sugar and spices, then let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

3. Pour into a pitcher or other container. Chop apples and add them along with the cinnamon sticks to the sangria mixture. Add ginger ale. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

A shot of pumpkin pie

Pumpkin Pie Vodka Shots

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Alex Ervin, a bartender at the Viceroy Snowmass, a Colorado ski property, provides inspiration on how to spike hot chocolate or imbue an espresso cocktail with the perfect punch of pumpkin flavor.

"The toughest part about these drinks is keeping it to just one,” says Ervin, “Thankfully they stay relevant all the way through Thanksgiving."

Pumpkin Pie Shot

  • 1/2 ounce Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka (available at specialty alcohol shops like Total Wine & More)
  • 1/2 ounce Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

Instructions:

For an espresso cocktail: Shake pumpkin pie shot with ice and strain into a martini glass atop a chilled shot of espresso. Serve with whipped cream.

For spiked hot chocolate: Stir alcohol into 6 ounces of hot chocolate and garnish with fresh whipped cream.

An apple orchard in a mug

Here's another recipe from the Viceroy Snowmass that hails fall — and it's just as appealing with or without alcohol. Just add a shot of bourbon if you prefer it spiked.

Salted Caramel Apple Cider

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • Caramel syrup for garnish
  • Cinnamon sticks for garnish

Instructions:

1. In a saucepan on medium heat, mix brown sugar and whipping cream.

2. Once the sugar is dissolved, slowly stir in vanilla, salt and apple cider and simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Serve warm and garnish with a whole cinnamon stick, whipped cream floater and a drizzle of caramel syrup.

A surprising hot toddy

For a nontraditional spin on a hot toddy that takes its flavors from the great outdoors, mix up the Blue Ginger Toddy from Pine Bluffs Distilling, a family-owned distillery and tasting room near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

"The ginger and maple syrup of this cocktail balance out the bourbon, making it feel like fall in a cup,” says head bartender KeeLee Abeyeta. She suggests sipping it with a game of cards on a cool autumn evening.

Blue Ginger Toddy

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4-inch ginger wheel
  • 1 orange slice

Instructions:

1. Pour hot water into an 8 ounce glass to warm it up, then pour the water out once the glass is hot.

2. Muddle the blueberries (reserving three or four for a garnish) with the orange slice, ginger wheel and bitters in a shaker tin with one ounce of hot water. Then strain into the hot glass.

3. Add the maple syrup, bourbon and more hot water to fill the glass. Garnish with blueberries and orange peel.

A wizardly concoction

Homemade butterbeer

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If your kids or grandkids have been to Universal Orlando, chances are they've sampled (or pleaded for) a butterbeer — the iconic beverage from the Harry Potter novels sold inside the theme park's Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade attractions.

Score some points by whipping up this perfect-for-fall Hot Butterbeer at home. It goes great with coffee, too. “I love that butterbeer was a British tradition before it became known in wizard pop culture,” says Lucas, who traced butterbeer's origins back to a 1588 recipe and shares her own recipe.

Hot Butterbeer

  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
  • 8 ounces whipping cream
  • 1 cup cream soda, room temperature
  • 1 pot hot water or freshly brewed strong hot coffee

Instructions:

1. Add butterscotch chips and butter to a large glass microwavable measuring cup.

2. Heat in microwave for 30-45 seconds or until chips are melted, then stir together until well blended.

3. Add sweetened condensed milk to butterscotch mixture, stir together, and heat in microwave for an additional 30-45 seconds.

4. In a separate bowl or using a stand mixer, whisk the whipping cream on high speed until foamy and bubbly, but not stiff.

5. Add 1 cup cream soda to whipping cream and continue to whisk for 1 minute.

6. To serve, divide the butterscotch mixture evenly among 6 muggle-sized mugs. Pour hot water or hot freshly brewed coffee (the stronger, the better) over the butterscotch mixture in each mug until it's about three-quarters full. Stir with a spoon until butterscotch mixture is blended well with the water or coffee.

7. Next, spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the cream soda whipped cream into each mug and lightly stir, being careful not to disturb the foamy bubbles.

Gingerbread lattee

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Gingerbread lattes warm up mornings

Gingerbread lattes used to be a staple at Starbucks but were discontinued by the coffee giant in 2019, much to the dismay of loyalists. The good news is it's simple to create your own at-home version of the cult favorite—and you can prepare a sober or spiked drink. Trust us, fall mornings at home feel that much cozier when you fill your usual coffee mug with this ginger-laced latte.

Gingerbread Latte

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 3/4 cup milk (whole or 2 percent works best for frothing)

Instructions:

1. Use a whisk to gently mix the coffee, spices, molasses and sugar in a measuring cup, then pour into a mug.

2. Froth milk or simply warm it up on the stove and pour slowly atop the coffee mixture.

3. Garnish with a Biscoff or shortbread cookie and/or a drizzle of salted caramel syrup.

4. For a spiked version: swirl in 1.5 ounce of cognac or brandy

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