The only thing scary about most Halloween-themed cocktails is how frightfully bad they taste. From the ghastly Candy Corn (equal parts Baileys, vanilla liqueur and butterscotch Schnapps), to the merely gut-wrenching Jack-O-Tini (bourbon, sour-apple Schnapps and cranberry juice), devil's night drinks tend to taste more like tricks than treats. Which is why I'd suggest you shake up one of the following concoctions (unless, of course, you really are trying to poison your guests).
These cocktails can be enjoyed at any time of the year, despite their spooky-sounding monikers.
As with most parties involving more than a half-dozen revelers, batching drinks beforehand means you get to spend more time with guests than slinging cocktails. To batch these or most any cocktail, just multiple the amount of each ingredient by the number of drinks you want to make.
BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITA
A sanguinary take on the classic tequila sour.
1 1/2 oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz Combier or Cointreau (or 1/2 oz agave nectar)
2 oz blanco tequila
Combine all ingredients, along with generous amount of ice cubes, in shaker and shake like the devil's chasing you. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or old-fashioned glass (either may be salt-rimmed, if you like) filled with ice. Garnish with a blood orange wedge and a sprig of fresh sage.
West Coast bartender John Coltharp's riff on the Jack Rose. Earthy and spicy and appley, this drink is fall distilled in a glass. And with a spooky name for Halloween. Keep in mind that you should use only real grenadine (equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar, dissolved).
1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz Laird's applejack
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 oz grenadine
Combine all ingredients, along with ice cubes, in shaker and shake the beetlejuice out of it. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Fresh grate a little cinnamon over the top.
CORPSE REVIVER #2
An old-school cocktail with a ready-made Halloween name, the Corpse Reviver #2 just happens to be a lovely and very complex cocktail.
1 oz gin
1 oz Combier or Cointreau
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-3 drops absinthe (Yes, it's legal again.)
Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish by dropping in a stemless cherry. Note: please don't use some Day-Glo excuse for a maraschino cherry packed with artificial colors and flavors. Hunt down a jar of real maraschino cherries. Luxardo, the same company that makes maraschino liqueur, also produces marasca cherries in syrup.
And where would you be these days without a drink dedicated to the undead? Hailing from The Hungry Cat in Hollywood, this chiller is a very tasty re-working of the Tiki standard, the Zombie.
1 1/2 oz light rum
3/4 oz coconut milk
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz chile simple syrup (below)
Spoonful of grenadine
Shake all ingredients except grenadine with ice and pour into a double old-fashioned glass (or any tallish glass). Float a small spoonful or two of grenadine over the top and garnish with lime zest or a lime wheel.
Chile Simple Syrup
Boil 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup sugar and a two quartered chiles (Fresnos are called for, but any hot chile works fine) in a sauce pan until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and use. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks.