Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Bottoms Up!

Bottoms Up!

A carefully selected bottle of wine elevates a Thanksgiving dinner from good to great –but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for cocktails. This year, spice up the hours before and after dinner by serving guests cocktails brimming with the flavors of the season and featuring aperitifs and digestifs. An aperitif is an alcoholic beverage with a slightly bitter or acidic edge intended to make the mouth water and stimulate the appetite before a meal is served. Digestifs are sweet and strong beverages that aid in digestion and are served after a meal to provide a grand finale to the evening. Typically, aperitifs and digestifs are sipped solo, but they also make flavorful ingredients that add extra complexity to cocktails. We tapped talent from five local restaurants and bars that specialize in seasonal craft cocktails for drink recipes that will surprise and delight your guests.


The Fortune Teller Bar

The Fortune Teller Bar refers to itself as “a bar lost in the mists of time and space.” The Cherokee Street watering hole embraces the unconventional and bartender and co-partner Kristin Dennis has certainly found her place amid the bar’s kitschy décor. What sets her intoxicating concoctions apart is the use of adventurous flavors. Your drink might be spiked with dill, a walnut or pine liqueur or house made ingredients such as dandelion tincture, vodka infused with pineapple and jalapeño or pickles or chile simple syrup. “Seasonal cocktails are the most fun because it’s always an attempt to capture a particular spirit of the time,” Dennis says. “From the freedom and adventure of a hot, sticky summer to the spice-laden traditions of a snowy winter, seasonal cocktails attempt to embody a moment in a glass. It’s a shared memory in liquid form and when you taste it, you know if it’s right.”


Elaia and Olio

Olio’s relatively small cocktail menu focuses on classic drinks with quality ingredients and simple recipes. “I find joy in rediscovering drinks that may be overlooked or lost by the wayside for some reason or another,” says bartender John Fausz. Fausz rotates the menu monthly to keep his drinks hyper-seasonal. “Fall is a season of contrasts, so our menu highlights drinks with surprising combinations of ingredients,” Fausz says. He points to the Monkey Gland (gin, absinthe, grenadine and orange juice), the Zubrowka Clubland (Bison Grass vodka, white port and Angostura bitters) and the Lion’s Tail (bourbon, allspice dram, lime and Angostura bitters). “Fall is also a great time to use some bright flavors before the long, bourbon-drenched winter,” Fausz notes. November 11 marks Olio’s first birthday, and Fausz plans to return to the best of the 100-plus cocktails the bar has featured thus far in order to create a “year in review” menu.


The Libertine

A libertine is one who puts an emphasis on the pleasures of the senses. The much-lauded team behind the bar at Clayton’s The Libertine has kept that ideal close to heart when creating a cocktail program based on boutique spirits, fresh preparations and precisely crafted drinks. Bar manager and co–general manager Nate Weber’s seasonal cocktail menus feature classic recipes given a twist to reflect the changing season. “This can be done by playing around with the base spirit,” Weber says. “I also like to think about what we can make in-house that will enhance the drink, whether it be concocting bitters and tinctures to season the cocktail or creating sodas to elevate it.” The Libertine’s fall drink menu follows this formula, featuring darker spirits essential to many cold-weather favorites.


The Libertine

This is a Thanksgiving-themed take on the classic Jack Rose. If there isn’t enough time or stove space to make the cranberry syrup, you can use grenadine instead. Fee Brothers makes a delicious but not too sweet version.



There’s something to be said about opposites attracting when developing a cocktail menu with universal appeal. “Our bar staff is pretty spread out when it comes to our favorite ingredients to use,” says Cleveland-Heath bar manager Samantha McCulloch. “I love making drinks with gin and bitter liqueurs, and [Eli Barnes, bartender] loves whiskeys and Scotches. Having folks with different tastes behind the bar has so many advantages. Not only does it help in covering all your bases on a cocktail menu, it also encourages education and diversity.” The drink menu at Cleveland-Heath has no problem standing out, with a staff that’s always devising distinct concoctions. “As of late, we’ve been experimenting with carbonated cocktails,” McCulloch says. “One is a play on the traditional Bicyclette (Campari and dry white wine with a lemon twist). Instead, [we] used Aperol and dry Riesling with lemon bitters, carbonated it and bottled it.” Fall will bring warming whiskey drinks to the popular Edwardsville eatery, as well as new creations featuring chai liqueur and pumpkin infusions.


Blood & Sand

Blood & Sand’s extensive cocktail list represents a spectrum of flavors, textures, spirits and techniques, ensuring that there is something on the menu for everyone. “We keep a consistent set of house classics that are permanent fixtures on the menu, as well as rotating, seasonal offerings,” says bartender Jayne Pellegrino. When it comes to creating seasonal drinks, Pellegrino begins by taking note of what ingredients are available locally and what executive chef Chris Bork is playing with in the kitchen. “I prefer a holistic approach with our bar menu, so that it complements the offerings on our food menu,” Pellegrino says. “This creates a very unified, well-rounded experience for our patrons.”



By John Fausz



“After dinner is the perfect time for a small, high-impact drink that can prepare you for a nap and happy digestion,” Fausz says. “This very simple Manhattan variation is named after J.P. Sousa’s jilted successor to the conductorship of the Marine Corps Band. Playing with the type of amaro you use – and the flavors of cocktail bitter – can result in some fun combinations. Try it with a spicier amaro such a Ramazzotti. The Fanciulli comes from The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book and can be stirred to chill and dilute it, although the recipe states ‘devotees normally take it without ice.’”

Serves | 1 |

  • 1½ oz rye whiskey
  • ½ oz sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano)
  • ¼ oz to ½ oz Fernet-Branca

| Preparation | Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice and stir. Strain into a Manhattan glass and serve.

Blood & Sand:

By Jane Pellegrino


Apple of my Eye

“Apple, fennel and ginger complement each other very well and bring a fresh, crisp taste of fall right to your cocktail glass,” Pellegrino says. “The Champagne and lemon keep this cocktail dry and light, making it the perfect holiday aperitif.”

Serves | 1 |

  • 2 oz Calvados
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz fennel simple syrup
  • ¼ oz The Big O ginger liqueur
  • 2 dashes baked apple bitters
  • dry Champagne
  • dehydrated apple chip

| Preparation | Shake the first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne. Garnish with a dehydrated apple chip.


By Kristin Dennis


Bend and Sway

“Tequila gets a bad rap sometimes for the ill-effects it can have on those who overindulge,” Dennis says. “But good tequila must not be confused with ‘that one night in college.’ It works well in this cocktail paired with the overtly herbaceous Fernet-Branca and the more slyly saline Nux Alpina walnut liqueur. Equal parts simple [syrup] and lime serve to balance the competing flavors and make it both a hearty and refreshing sip that will settle down rather than antagonize a turkey gorge.”

Serves | 1 |

  • 1 oz blanco tequila (preferably Espolón or Lunazul)
  • ½ oz Fernet-Branca
  • ¼ oz Nux Alpina walnut liqueur
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice

| Preparation | Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass and serve.


Recipe by Samantha McCulloch


Know What I Mean, aVERNa?

“Amaro is a classic digestif ingredient,” McCulloch says. “And this drink really does its job of settling the stomach and creating an ending to the evening. Ginger always makes your tummy feel better after a big meal, and what’s better than a little whiskey at the end of dinner?”

Serves | 1 |

  • 1½ oz Averna Amaro
  • ½ oz The Big O ginger liqueur
  • ½ oz Bulleit Rye
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

| Preparation | Combine all ingredients in a mixer filled with ice and shake. Strain into a coupe glass and serve.


* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Gezelligheid is the noun form and describes the coziness and love and joy of being together that we associate with the holidays.

A nice sweet vermouth with hints of spice will play nicely with tart cranberry juice. The bitterness of Campari cuts through the sweetness of the vermouth without overshadowing the Irish whiskey, while the orange cream bitters and cinnamon tie all the notes together, complementing each ingredient nicely.