Cocktail of the Week: Roasted Pumpkin Spice Margarita
Pumpkin, along with apples, cinnamon and cloves, is one of the classic flavors of fall. The mere mention of this orange squash invokes images of the autumn harvest, jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
The incorporation of seasonal flavors and ingredients into our food and drink has made pumpkin a shining star once the leaves begin to change. Imbibers have a wide choice of delicious pumpkin beers and themed cocktails.
Some of my favorite pumpkin ales come from Schlafly in Saint Louis and Dogfish in nearby Delaware (where they spell it ‘punkin’). My only issue is that many of these beers start appearing in stores and on menus in late August and early September.
While a pint of Weyerbacher imperial pumpkin ale is fantastic on a brisk afternoon while admiring the colorful foliage, I have trouble enjoying spiced ale during D.C.’s Indian summer days – when temperatures continue to hover in the 80s. Even though Halloween is the first pumpkin holiday of fall, it is not uncommon for some of the pumpkin beers to be sold out and replaced by winter brews.
Thankfully for those who enjoy pumpkin cocktails, the selection usually remains constant through Thanksgiving. If you like to have your pumpkin cocktail and beer in one, the Copperwood Tavern in Arlington, Va., is offering a fall-themed version of the classic flip cocktail (a heated mixture of beer, rum, egg and sugar). Copperwood's version is forged from Cruzan rum, egg and pumpkin syrup, topped with Port City porter.
While pumpkins are usually associated with Americana, there is no shortage of international cocktails to try. For example, Daikaya, a traditional Japanese ramen shop in Chinatown, is offering a spiced pumpkin mule cocktail made with fresh pumpkin, cinnamon, clove, ginger, turmeric, lemon and bourbon.
Spanish hotspot Estadio is serving a pumpkin slushito, a mixture of scotch, pumpkin puree, black tea, lemon and beer. A surprising one, and the most refreshing tipple I uncovered this year, is El Centro’s pumpkin margarita. At first, the idea of altering this warm-weather favorite with pumpkin seemed a bit odd, but the key to this drink is its subtleness.
Instead of using a pumpkin puree or syrup, El Centro infuses the tequila with roasted pumpkin and spices. “We like infusing tequila,” GM Joshua Gray said. “It’s fun to play around with different flavors.”
I sampled the tequila infusion on its own, and its flavor reminded me of being enveloped in a cozy poncho on a cool night in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Bartender David Constantine shared my approval. “I’d drink it straight,” he said.
The flavored liquor is mixed with agave nectar and freshly squeezed lime, then served in a pint glass with a cinnamon-sugar rim. The result is a light and aromatic drink. The fall spices blend with the slightly peppery reposado tequila, adding some zing to the Mexican staple. The cinnamon-sugar rim adds a perfect amount of spice/sweetness to balance the tartness of the lime.
Unlike some heavy autumn elixirs, this pumpkin drink would be refreshing year-round. I just may be making pumpkin margaritas next July!
Roasted Pumpkin Spice-Infused Tequila
1 750ml bottle Sauza Blue Reposado
1.5 stars of anise
1 teaspoon cloves
1.5 half-sticks cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/16 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 29-ounce can pumpkin puree
Crush spices together using a mortar and pestle. Fold spice mixture and sugar into pumpkin puree. Spread flat onto a sheet pan lined with wax paper. Roast at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. Place cooked mixture into cheesecloth and tie tightly. Place cheesecloth-wrapped mixture into a glass mason jar. Fill with tequila. Let sit 5-7 days, agitating daily. Strain mixture.
To make a margarita, mix tequila with agave nectar and fresh lime and serve in a glass with a cinnamon-sugar rim.
Readers may sample the pumpkin margarita at either of El Centro D.F.’s locations: 1218 Wisconsin Ave., NW, and 1819 14th St., NW.