A Dash Of Pumpkin Spice Lends Warm Sweetness To Your Manhattan

The Manhattan cocktail is a truly classic drink. Consisting of only whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and cherries as a garnish, it's as easy to make at home as it is to enjoy. In fact, a primary selling point of the drink is its simplicity, which means any twists have to walk the line between bringing something new to the table without overwhelming its original charm. With that in mind, we recommend one small innovation for your Manhattans this fall: add pumpkin spice.

Pumpkin spice gets a bad reputation for being cloyingly sweet and artificial. While many items that advertise this flavor lend that belief some credence, the spice blend itself isn't to blame. In fact, true pumpkin spice, also known as pumpkin pie spice, has no sugar — or pumpkin — at all; rather, it is a humble combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. These spices are often used in baking and sweets, but they themselves range in taste from warming and spicy, to earthy and floral. Cinnamon and whiskey, as well as cherry and cloves, are popular flavor combinations, and they continue to get along well here with each enhancing the other. In addition, all of these spices are intensely aromatic, and any spirits enthusiast will tell you the importance of scent when it comes to appreciating liquor. As such, slipping a few shakes of pumpkin spice into your drink doesn't make your cocktail taste like a candle but rather an infinitely elevated and more complex beverage.

How to add pumpkin spice to a cocktail

There are several approaches to adding pumpkin spice to a Manhattan, and which you choose comes down to preference. The most direct strategy is to simply sprinkle a pinch or two of the spice into your drink; however, this may result in a slightly grainy mouthfeel that some people won't enjoy. Alternatively, you can experiment with infusing either a simple syrup or the whiskey itself with the spices. This will give your drink all of the flavor benefits without any extra texture. Infusing simple syrup will take much less time than infusing whiskey, but will also add a sweetness to the cocktail that is often unwanted, in which case infusing the spirit is the way to go.

If you are seeking just a hint of autumnal aroma, you can instead opt for using the spice to rim your drinking glass or get creative with garnishes. To do the former, simply dip the lip of your glass in water and then into a plate filled with pumpkin spice. To achieve the latter, you can create a deconstructed pumpkin spice experience by garnishing your cocktail with a cinnamon stick, studding the cherry with whole cloves, adding a sliver of fresh ginger, and finally, grating a small quantity of fresh nutmeg overtop.