I’m just going to be honest here: I’ve never actually been frightened by a drink. Have you?
Nevertheless, this is the time of year when food writers — ordinarily a wise and sagacious bunch — write about cocktails that are frightening or scary or spooky.
But when they say “frightening” or “scary” or “spooky,” what they mean is “kind of fun for Halloween.”
In anticipation of the annual celebration of costumes and candy, I made a six-fingered handful of cocktails that are kind of fun for Halloween.
Most have been given names that are supposed to imply some amount of fear. Do not be fooled by them. These are just excellent cocktails that are delightful for Halloween or any other day of the year.
Take, for example, the Zombie, a classic that has been around since 1934; it was invented at the famous Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood. It’s only considered frightening because of its name, and it only got the name because it is so potent that drinking too many of them could turn you into the walking dead.
But it’s a great cocktail if you like rum, or even if you don’t (but it’s better if you do). Three types of rum go into it: white rum, golden rum and the surreptitiously lethal 151 rum, which is 151 proof. These are mixed with orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of lime juice, to give it that tiki-bar tropical feel.
Pomegranate Rum Punch is both full-flavored and refreshing, and is made in a large enough batch to be a hit at a Halloween party.
The blood-red color comes from pomegranate juice, and so does the primary flavor. But strong hibiscus tea adds charming floral notes, with cinnamon providing a touch of exotic spice and spiced rum bringing an alluring kick.
Fresh-squeezed orange juice is a mild counterpoint to the pomegranate, and the punch is turned immediately effervescent with a bottle of prosecco.
The next cocktail I made, Witches’ Brew, is just a lot of fun. It is a bright neon green, courtesy of Midori melon liqueur, which blends remarkably well with an orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec.
Those liqueurs are both on the sweet side, so the Witches’ Brew adds fresh lemon juice to create a sweet-and-tart combination that is unusually pleasant.
The next two cocktails I made are pitch black, which is admittedly a great look for Halloween.
Both are made with black vodka, which is a problem. There is apparently only one brand in the world that makes black vodka, Blavod, and it can be hard to find. So I made my own.
Black vodka is just vodka that is colored black. All I did was take plain vodka and added food coloring to it. I couldn’t easily find black food coloring, so I just kept adding blue, red and green food coloring to the vodka in small amounts until it essentially turned black.
I used the black vodka to make a Black Magic cocktail, which is simple yet delicious. It, too, is a sweet-and-tart drink, of the most elemental sort. Along with the essentially flavorless vodka, all it has is a squeeze of lime juice and an equal amount of simple syrup.
The black vodka makes it look cool, and a swirl of edible pearl dust (it’s used for baking) adds a mystery of white specks.
The other drink using black vodka is called a Black Heart Cocktail, and it is seriously amazing — if you like figs.
I love figs, but I had not even heard of fig vodka. Nevertheless, it exists, and a Black Heart Cocktail mixes a tablespoon of it with a tablespoon of black vodka and three tablespoons of crème de cassis, the liqueur made from blackcurrant berries. A few drops of dry vermouth help to cut the sweetness.
My final cocktail takes a classic and adds an autumnal twist. A Cider Sidecar takes the cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice that makes up a traditional Sidecar and adds a hefty helping of fresh apple cider.
Yield: 1 serving.
Adapted from Country Living
2 ounces apple cider
2 ounces cognac
1 ounce Cointreau or other orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, triple sec)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
Strip of lemon zest
Brandied or maraschino cherries
2 blueberries, optional
2 lychee nuts, optional, see note
Place cider, cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, cover and shake until the shaker feels very cold to the touch, about 20 to 30 seconds. Strain into a glass and top with zest and cherries.
If desired, place blueberries into lychee nuts to form “eyeballs” and serve with drink.
Note: Lychee nuts are available canned in international food stores.
Per serving: 290 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 25 g carbohydrate; 23 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 17 mg sodium; 7 mg calcium
Pomegranate Rum Punch
Yield: 12 servings. Adapted from Country Living
4 hibiscus tea bags
1 small cinnamon stick, smashed
3 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup spiced rum
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 (750 ml) bottle prosecco or other sparkling wine, chilled
Pomegranate seeds, for serving
Place tea bags and cinnamon stick in a large measuring cup. Add 1 cup boiling water; let steep 5 minutes. Strain and cool to room temperature.
Combine tea, pomegranate juice, rum and orange juice in a pitcher or punch bowl. Slowly stir in prosecco. Serve over ice with orange slices and pomegranate seeds.
Per serving: 146 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 15 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; no fiber; 9 mg sodium; 19 mg calcium
Black Magic Cocktail
Yield: 1 serving.
Recipe from elletalk.com
2½ ounces black vodka, see note
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup, see note
Edible pearl dust, optional, see note
Place black vodka, lime juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until cold. Sprinkle edible pearl dust in bottom of a martini or coupe glass. Strain in drink. Add more pearl dust if it is not shimmery enough; stir with a bar spoon to combine it.
Notes: Black vodka is made by Blavod, but it can be hard to find. Make your own by adding black food coloring or gel into a bottle of vodka, a few drops at a time, and shaking until it becomes black. Or add blue, red and green food coloring or gel into a bottle of vodka, a few drops at a time, and shaking until it becomes black.
To make simple syrup, boil together equal amounts of water and granulated sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves; can be stored in a clean jar in the refrigerator for several months.
Edible pearl dust can be found at baking supply stores or in the baking aisle of craft stores. Do not use similar products that do not specifically say they are edible.
Per serving: 207 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 12 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; no fiber; 1 mg sodium; 3 mg calcium
Yield: 1 serving.
Recipe from acouplecooks.com
1½ ounces Midori
1½ ounces Cointreau or other orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, triple sec)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 small piece (½-1 inch) dry ice, optional
Add the Midori, Cointreau and lemon juice to a glass or cocktail shaker, add ice and stir until cold. Strain into a lowball glass. Garnish with cocktail cherry.
If desired, carefully add a piece of dry ice. Do not drink until the dry ice has dissolved.
Per serving: 243 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 26 g carbohydrate; 23 g sugar; no fiber; 4 mg sodium; 8 mg calcium
Black Heart Cocktail
Yield: 1 serving.
Recipe from minted.com
½ ounce black vodka, see note
½ ounce fig vodka
1½ ounces creme de cassis
Dash of dry (white) vermouth
Pour black vodka, fig vodka, creme de cassis and vermouth into a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake until cold, and strain into a glass.
Note: Black vodka is made by Blavod, but it can be hard to find. Make your own by adding black food coloring or gel into a bottle of vodka, a few drops at a time, and shaking until it becomes black. Or add blue, red and green food coloring or gel into a bottle of vodka, a few drops at a time, and shaking until it becomes black.
Per serving: 268 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 21 g carbohydrate; 18 g sugar; no fiber; 2 mg sodium; 30 mg calcium
Yield: 1 serving. Recipe by Daniel Neman
1 ounce white rum
1 ounce gold rum
½ ounce orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier or triple sec)
1½ ounces fresh orange juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup, see note
1½ teaspoons grenadine
½ ounce 151 rum
Pour white rum, gold rum, orange liqueur, orange juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup and grenadine into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until cold. Fill a tall glass with ice and strain drink into it. Carefully pour 151 rum on top; do not stir. If desired, you can light top of drink on fire.
Notes: To make simple syrup, boil together equal amounts of water and granulated sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves; can be stored in a clean jar in the refrigerator for several months.
If you do not have a ½-ounce measure, use 1 tablespoon.
Per serving: 350 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 36 g carbohydrate; 32 g sugar; no fiber; 6 mg sodium; 11 mg calcium