Photo courtesy of Affäre

By Pete Dulin

Cool weather and autumn leaves turn the landscape into a kaleidoscope of color and also inspire a craving for seasonal flavors. Kansas City’s bars and restaurants offer numerous options for cocktails with complex, layered flavor prepared with craft spirits, and savvy use of citrus, spices and herbs. For non-alcohol drinkers, ask the bartenders at these establishments about fresh-made mocktails that pack plenty of flavor into a beverage without spirits.

Here are some of the best drinks to warm up with in KC:

Journeyman Café

Photo by Pete Dulin

Journeyman Café co-owner Kit Boje suggests reaching for the Pumpkin Spice Tini. Vanilla vodka is blended with spices, natural pumpkin pie filling, heavy whipping cream and nutmeg, a perfect, handcrafted autumn comforter for latte lovers to snuggle up to this season. The Winter in Rio Manhattan is another option that unites Cachaca, Cocchi Torino Vermouth, Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters, orange zest and fresh ground cinnamon. Boje says, “It’s a sophisticated rum drink for the whiskey drinker. The hint of chocolate and cinnamon is perfect for the season.”

The Antler Room

For its unnamed autumn cocktail, The Antler Room’s team added persimmon syrup to bourbon, Cardamaro and lemon, stirred and served the drink up with a lemon peel. “We were inspired by persimmons from Linda Hazel’s Prairie Birthday Farm,” says co-owner Leslie Newsam Goellner. “The kitchen dehydrated them and then made a syrup during the rehydration process with orange peel and coriander.”


Travel to East of Eden without leaving the city. El Dorado dark rum, The Roasterie’s Midnight Espresso liqueur, graham cracker syrup and chocolate bitters are your passport at Affäre. Ready for adventure? Bartender Chelsea Almeida says, “The fall menu is one of my favorites to put together. This year we used some wonderful local and small-batch spirits. East of Eden is over ice but warm spices in the graham cracker and the espresso liqueur combined with dark rum make for a very autumnal after-dinner cocktail.” 

The Westside Local

The Westside Local's Gallifrey Cobbler is a savory sipper made with Art in the Age Sage, Rainwater Madeira, St. George Spiced Pear liqueur, lemon, orange and dried Missouri figs. "Inspired by a 19th Century Sherry Cobbler but with a modern sensibility, this drink is a crisp, refreshing libation that tastes like autumn in a glass," says bartender Arturo Vera-Felicie. “This drink will take you back to better times.”


Photo by Pete Dulin

Bluestem bartender Andrew Olsen’s Fall is Coming cocktail is direct and to the point. Matilde Poire, a French pear-infused liqueur, yellow chartreuse, sparkling wine and a float of Peychaud’s bitters creates a cocktail as beautiful and enticing as a femme fatale or handsome man of mystery. “The drink is quite deceiving. It carries the clarity of the sparkling wine with a beautiful ambre from light ruby to a very straw-like color,” says Olsen. “Once you take a drink, the aroma and flavor is very off-dry—creole, fennel and pear.”

Extra Virgin and Michael Smith

Social Currency, a cocktail served by Berto Santoro and his fellow bartenders at Extra Virgin and Michael Smith, awakens the senses. Made with Angel’s Envy Bourbon, locally produced J. Rieger Cafe Amaro and rosemary peppercorn, the aroma of herb and pepper draws attention first. The creamy cloud atop the drink evokes the nostalgia of an ice cream float. A sip or two later, the smooth balance of bourbon and coffee-based amaro delivers subtle, refreshing bitterness on the finish, sure to warm you through the cooler seasons. 


Keely Edgington, co-owner of Julep with husband Beau Williams, shares Dr. Raymond Stantz, “a boozy homage to the classic and comforting sweet potato dish Grandma would make every year at Thanksgiving.” This cocktail is made with El Dorado 5-year Rum, sweet potato, honey, cinnamon, lemon, Angostura Aromatic Bitters and toasted marshmallow. Edgington says, “The sweet, refreshing, golden-hued libation is topped with a housemade, caramelized marshmallow that makes this nostalgic cocktail complete and a delight from first sip to last drop.”

The Rieger and Manifesto

The Lowland Jack and Sunset Over Jalisco are my hands-down favorites,” says bartender Brock Schulte. In these seasonal cocktails, Lowland Jack uses Auchentoshan American Oak, a triple-distilled, single malt Scotch whiskey. Matured exclusively in first-fill American oak bourbon casks, the whiskey’s vanilla and fruit notes are complemented by Le Pére Jules Pommeau, Gran Classico, pear, lemon, casein and smoked fig. One of several mocktails that The Rieger’s bartenders can craft starts with Harney and Sons organic black tea, adds salted walnut syrup and is served chilled with fresh grated cinnamon.

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