Summer beverages are all about the thirst-quenchers: lemonades, iced teas, and beers the palest shade of yellow. Winter, on the other hand, is the time for hot cocoa, toddies, and anything that will erase the agony of the cold.
So what about fall, the season in between? Clever marketing may have us believe that it’s the time to scarf down pumpkin spice everything, when really it should be about featuring the fruits of the season. We’re talking about beverages with apples, pears, grapes, cranberries, and pomegranates. The sort that have way more actual products of the autumn harvest in them than some dubiously-made goop from a squirt bottle.
It’s time to end the parade of pumpkin-like flavors and reclaim fall for its real fruits, in their many shades of russet, ruby, and amber. We’ve collected 17 drink recipes to lead the way.
1. Green Apple Sparkler
The seltzer might give this alcohol-free Italian soda it’s sparkling name, but it’s really the prickly flavor of Granny Smiths that dazzles and shines. Get our Green Apple Sparkler recipe.
2. Brandy-Apple Punch
Fruit punch can be so much more than a candy-like medley of tropical fruits. This version is downright autumnal with its mix of apple, cranberry, and brandy. Get our Brandy-Apple Punch recipe.
3. Bobbing for Mezcal
Okay, "bobbing" for mezcal may be a bit of a stretch when the smoky agave liquor is so easy to pick out among the ingredients. Regardless, that headstrong aroma brings a mouthful to savor against the sweetness of apple cider, maple syrup, and ginger beer. Get our Bobbing for Mezcal recipe.
4. Cranberry-Apple Shrub
Shrubs (sweetened and infused drinking vinegars) are addictively acerbic. This cranberry and apple version can serve as the base for a wide array of pucker-y creations. Get our Cranberry-Apple Shrub recipe.
5. Cranberry Shrub Spritz
You can mix the above shrub with a few ounces of seltzer for a carbonated drink that’s a complete 180 from your sugary sweet colas. Get our Cranberry Shrub Spritz recipe.
6. Rum and Cranberry Shrub Cocktail
Or you can shake it with some dark rum, which gives it a molasses-y edge. Get our Rum and Cranberry Shrub Cocktail recipe.
7. Le Petit Hibou
This “little owl” amplifies the fruity qualities of a pinot or sauvignon blanc, blending it with apple juice and Lillet apertif. Get our Le Petit Hibou recipe.
8. Autumn Chiller
Think of the autumn chiller as a brisk, summer juice with the flavors of fall, suited for sipping on those still-warm days between the two seasons. Get our Autumn Chiller recipe.
9. Hot Mulled Sherried Apple Cider
Hot mulled cider is well known for its ability to accommodate healthy glugs of whiskey and rum. But sherry? It turns out that nutty amontillado is ideal for accentuating the mellow spices that are also thrown into the mix. Get our Hot Mulled Sherried Apple Cider recipe.
10. Slow Cooker Spiked Wassail
A wassail is made by slowly mulling juices with a handful of aromatic spices. It’s then spiced with apple brandy and served with whole roasted apples that skim the surface—could you get much more autumnal than that? Get our Slow Cooker Spiked Wassail recipe.
11. Concord Grape Martini
Concord grapes have an unmistakable, almost aggressive flavor, one that can be tricky to mix with others. Luckily, it finds a mate in the juniper and bergamot notes of gin, making a martini that’s fruity without being frivolous. Get our Concord Grape Martini recipe.
12. The Crushed Grape
Think of this as a seasonally appropriate alternative to the mimosa or bellini that fits in just as easily at brunch. With red grapes, pisco, and the obligatory dash of sparkling wine to top it off, it feels at home alongside waffles and benedicts. Get our Crushed Grape recipe.
13. Grilled Sangría
If you're enjoying an Indian summer and haven’t yet put away the grill, you can make the most of the situation with this sangria that uses fall fruits for backyard barbecue purposes. The skewered apples, grapes, and citrus take on a smoky flavor that then plays off the full body of red Rioja. Get our Grilled Sangría recipe.
14. Spiced Brandy-Pear Punch
Don’t forget that cider season isn’t just about apples—pears make for a perfectly sweet, floral, and refreshing drink, too. This punch allows hard pear cider to go deep, marrying it with cinnamon and Courvoisier. Get our Spiced Brandy-Pear Punch recipe.
15. Spiced Pear-Champagne Punch
For a completely different pear-centric punch, add champagne. Effervescent and cheery with bubbly, spices, and blood orange, this large-format drink is fit for special occasions. Get our Spiced Pear-Champagne Punch recipe.
16. Sparkling Rum and Pomegranate Punch
Pomegranate juice is powerful and straight to the point, but rum and sparkling wine can help sweeten its aggressive edge. Serve this punch with a stunning pomegranate and lime ice block, which not only looks good, it will also help keep the drink cool without watering it down. Get our Sparkling Rum and Pomegranate Punch recipe.
17. Cranberry Culprit
The cranberries here are only guilty of improving on a bar staple, swapping out the amaretto sour’s cloying lemon-lime mix for the briskness of cranberry. Get our Cranberry Culprit recipe.
Header image: Bobbing for Mezcal from Chowhound
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.