“People are really holding onto summertime,” says Anne Robinson, beverage director at the newly opened Westlight on the roof of Brooklyn’s William Vale Hotel. “They want to be outside and enjoy the weather while we still have it.”
It’s that thinking that helped inspire the bar’s opening menu, which includes a range of cocktails meant to usher in the cooler weather. Like many bartenders, Robinson finds that designing an early fall cocktail isn’t so much about devising a new seasonal template as it is about building upon that of summer. Subtle additions and changes—like swapping in darker, aged spirits and fall-friendly flavors—can add just enough richness and warmth to help a drink transition seamlessly between seasons.
Take the Delores Royale, a clear wink at the seasonal change, whose mezcal base gets weight from apricot liqueur and amontillado sherry—then is brightened by citrus (in the form of mandarin vodka and lime) and topped with sparkling wine, in a refreshing nod to late summer spritzes. And though the Prince Kuragin from Kachka’s Israel Morales also calls apricot liqueur and sherry (this time, the lighter fino style), it takes a left turn with herbaceous, celery-infused gin, proving the versatility of these between-season flavors.
The Golden Handcuffs, on the other hand, enlists a more tropical base entirely: Plantation Pineapple Rum. Stirred with Aperol, spicy Swedish punsch and a dash of Angostura, the drink is topped with an Aleppo pepper-dusted orange wheel. Then there’s Westlight’s False Start, a stirred drink garnished with a cucumber that balances reposado tequila with bitter, nutty Cardamaro, rosso vermouth and Cynar, for a drink that’s rich but surprisingly light on its feet.
Finally, in an equally unorthodox spin on a classic that has now become a classic in its own right, there’s the 19th Century, a fall-ready riff on the 1930s’ famous Twentieth Century cocktail, which subs in bourbon for gin. One more swap—Lillet Rouge in place of Blanc—allows this shaken drink, laced with crème de cacao, to transition from summer to fall, and on into even cooler weather.
Many thanks to to Westlight for hosting our photoshoot at their rooftop bar.