Most of us have moved on from the days of trick-or treating. We don’t have to give up Halloween indulgences.
At these Central Jersey bars and restaurants, that comes in the form of pumpkin spice tequila infused in-house, caramelized walnut and pistachio garnish, and sweet and spicy flavors that send the message of autumn right to our taste buds.
These hangouts are in Somerset, Hunterdon Middlesex, Middlesex, and Union counties. Enjoy Halloween cocktails that are better than any Reese’s cup, Hershey bar, or Hershey bar.
Autumn Leaves at Stage Left Steak & Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick
Since their openings 30 and 15 years ago respectively, Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi are staples in Hub City. For nearly just as long — a decade — customers have also headed to the sister restaurants and vertical neighbors for Autumn Leaves, a seasonal cocktail available through Thanksgiving.
The $15 cocktail has Woodford Reserve Bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, lemon juice, honey syrup, cinnamon syrup, vanilla syrup and a garnish of cinnamon and nutmeg. The St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram can be purchased at the restaurants’ wine shop at bit.ly/39YLWBc.
“We took the idea of a hot toddy — whiskey, spices, lemon, honey — and re-imagined it as a cocktail, a ‘cold toddy,’ if you will,”Francis Schott is co-owner of both restaurants. “People love it and look for it to return every year.”
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Autumn Paradise at Grain & Cane, Berkeley Heights
At New American restaurant Grain & Cane, customers clamored for the Mango In Paradise cocktail all summer long. The team at Grain & Cane decided to keep the tradition alive through mid-December by adding a twist.
The drink includes Blanco Tequila, allspice liqueur, Averna Amaro, lemon juice, mango syrup, chocolate bitters and Downeast hard cider for $15.
“Starting with the two eye-catching ingredients of tequila and mango, the Autumn Paradise takes one on a tropical journey through fall flavors,” said beverage manager John Kloehn. “Balanced with bright fruit, baking spices and notes of apple, this refreshing cocktail is sure to transport one to an autumnal island paradise.”
Go: 250 Connell Drivw, Berkeley Heights; 908-897-1920, grainandcane.com.
Funkin’ Punkin’ at Roosterspin, New Brunswick
Roosterspin’s Korean fusion dishes include bulgogi sliders or ramen tacos. This extends to the cocktail list. Its newest creation, Funkin’ Punkin,’ features chilled espresso, spiced rum, cinnamon simple syrup and pumpkin puree syrup rimmed with cinnamon and brown sugar, then topped with ground cinnamon and nutmeg. The $13 cocktail is served in a tiki mug with a Halloween twist.
It all began when spiced Rum was ordered instead of white Rum for a signature cocktail. So, general manager Wayne Hendricks decided to make the best of it.
“While rum is often used it fruity cocktails and tiki drinks, I wanted to do something completely different, as is the Roosterspin way,”He said. “I thought, ‘What do people enjoy most in the fall that they also drink year-round? Coffee.’ Many have suggested (jokingly) that we open up a drive-thru and serve these on their morning commute into work.”
Go: 120 Albany St., New Brunswick; 732-545-4500, roosterspin.com.
Killing Me Slowly in Barca City, New Brunswick
With Malabar rum, Kraken black spiced rum, agave, lime juice, sour mix, egg white frost, and a garnish of caramelized walnuts and pistachios, the $9 Killing Me Slowly cocktail at Barca City Cafe and Bar has a lot in common with spooky Halloween themes, said owner Gus Sleiman.
“It’s addictive and keeps you going for more until you’re buzzed. It’s like a good poison,”Sleiman laughed. “I thought of sipping it slowly, since it’s full of flavor.”
The cocktail, which Sleiman describes as mildly spicy with a touch of lemon and sweetness, will be available at the lively Spanish tapas restaurant through Thanksgiving.
Go: 47 Easton Ave., New Brunswick; 732-640-1155, barcacity.com.
Oh So Chill at Verve in Somerville
New Jerseyans are all in agreement that our summer is too short. Verve, a French bistro, has been a landmark spot for cocktails and high-end food for 25 years. Now, they’re keeping it going with a bright drink that still has autumn flavors.
Oh So Chill includes Redemption Rye, Starlino Arancione, hot honey syrup, lemon juice and egg white for $14. It’s refreshing with a kick,” said Verve creative consultant and brand consultant. Steve Fette.
“I wanted to make a cocktail that reminded me of the warmer days of autumn in New Jersey with bright citrus, floral honey from local farms and a little heat,”He said.
Go: 18 E. Main St., Somerville; 908-707-8655, vervestyle.com.
Salted Lime in Somerville: Pumpkin spice horchata
Rose Sciarrillo, Salted Lime bartender Rose Sciarrillo, isn’t the only one “basic”Lover of all things pumpkin spice. Her newest creation at modern Mexican restaurant Salted Lime — a $12 pumpkin spice horchata — is blowing the eatery’s traditional horchata out of the water.
“She took our house horchata recipe and improved it for all of her ‘basic’ girls out there,”Director of operations Danny McGill laughs. It worked — despite his initial thought that the pumpkin spice horchata would only sell as an after-dinner cocktail, many patrons have been enjoying it as their drink of the evening, he said.
What does a fall-themed cocktail like a pumpkin spice Horchata taste like? “Rose describes it as what wearing a flannel, a cozy sweater and Uggswhile watching ‘Hocus Pocus’ would taste like if you could turn that activity into a flavor,”McGill stated.
Go: 46 E. Main St., Somerville; 908-864-4403, saltedlimerestaurant.com.
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Rocky Hill Inn Rocky Hill, Rocky Hill Pumpkin martini
The Rocky Hill Inn is known for a beer list that satisfies ever hop-head — it has 20 beers on tap, with at least seven from local breweries at all times — but it also has a seasonal cocktail list that is switched up every quarter.
The $13 is now on the list white pumpkin martini with RumChata, Stoli vanilla vodka, Disaronno amaretto, a touch of cream and a “generous” helping of pumpkin spice, said manager Dan Notarmuzi.
“The key component is the RumChata,” Notarmuzi said. “The cinnamon and vanilla flavors match perfectly for fall … add in the vanilla vodka, the sweet almond and stone fruition presence of the amaretto and the flavors just scream autumn. And of course, the color contrast from the pumpkin spice just adds to it.”
Go: 137 Washington St., Rocky Hill; 609-683-8930, rockyhilltavern.com.
Pumpkin spice tequila at Red Cadillac, Union
The Red Cadillac is a master of Mexican street food, offering nachos, tacos, quesadillas and guacamole. That includes its drinks, too — the Mexican restaurant featuring elevated, classic eats makes six flavored house-infused tequilas, which currently includes a pumpkin spice tequila with cinnamon bark, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice.
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The Red Cadillac has offered the pumpkin spice tequila seasonally for three years, It became a top-selling seasonal flavor, according to Jolie Montes (general manager and working partner).
“Its fall in a shot glass,”She said.
Visitors can find it on the menu this year through December It can be served neat or in shot glasses. Flasks and bottles are also available for grab-and-go.
Go: 2258 Morris Ave., Union; 908-349-8411, theredcadillacnj.com.
You can also make these cocktails at your home
All Harrah’s Eve
John Dougherty, beverage operations manager at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, suggests the All Harrah’s Eve cocktail.
“Created with a local favorite gin, the All Harrah’s Eve is the perfect cocktail to sip on before dining at one of our fabulous restaurants or hitting The Pool After Dark,” Dougherty said.
2½ ounces Alibi Gin
1 ounces Aperol
¼ ounce simple syrup
½ ounces strawberry puree
Use Mediterranean Tonic to float
3 muddled orange pieces
Mix three orange wedges together in a glass. Then, add ice, gin, Aperol, simple syrup and strawberry puree to the glass. Mix well, then strain the mixture over ice. Top with Mediterranean Tonic. Garnish the drink with a mint sprig.
Skulls Down, Bottoms On!
Mountain Bar, located at the Wild Wild West at Caesars, in Atlantic City is gearing up for a fright-fest this holiday.
“Skulls are down, bottoms are up, grooving across the dance floor as we are back in action,”Cori Edley is the regional beverage operations manager at Caesars Entertainment Atlantic City.
2 ounces Patron Anejo Tequila
1 capsule activated charcoal
2 teaspoons of grenadine (to dissolve carbon)
Use sour mix to fill the bowl.
Float Grand Marnier
2 ounces of apple juice
For the rim, use amethyst dust (edible shimmer)
A lime wedge
In a shaker tin, mix the charcoal powder with the grenadine. Next, add ice and tequila to the shaker. Next, shake and strain the mixture. Float Grand Marnier over the top. You can also add apple juice to enhance the flavor. Add amethyst dust to the rim.
If you’re looking for a fun and spooky cocktail, the Ghostbuster is the way to go, said Justyna Kuzian, general manager of A’Dam Good Sports Bar at Tropicana Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.
“The Ghostbuster will surely get you into the spooky spirit,” Kuzian added.
1½ ounces New Amsterdam Berry Vodka
¾ ounces DeKuyper Melon Liqueur
Add a splash of sour to your mix
3 oz Sprite
Garnish with a gummy worm
In a shaker, combine Melon Liqueur, Berry Vodka and sour mixture. Mix the ingredients together and then strain into a glass. Top it off with Sprite and add a gummy worm for a creepy garnish.
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. Register or activate your digital subscription today to have unlimited access to her stories on food, drink, and fun. Contact: [email protected] or @JIntersimone.
Hira Qureshi contributed this report