S andals one day, sweaters the next. Greenery last week, autumnal confetti this. Breezy cocktails and refreshing ales a month ago, rich concoctions and dark brews now.
As New Haven advances deeper into fall, the city offers plenty of ways to drink it all in. Delaney’s in Westville (882 Whalley Ave, New Haven) is an excellent place to begin, especially with its good view of West Rock and attendant fall foliage from outside.
The crown jewel at this well-loved bar is its beer list, with plentiful seasonal choices. I’m guessing most of us missed the actual Oktoberfest, the annual 16-day festival held in Munich, Germany, that just finished up, but Oktoberfest isn’t just a celebration. It’s also its own class of beers, and if you hurry, you may be able to catch the last of what’s left from Delaney’s Oktoberfest beer section. The variety is typically smooth, slightly sweet, copper-colored, and mildly hoppy. The bar—sticking to tradition—only sells it to coincide with the festival but tells me there’s still a bit of both the Spaten and Ayinger Oktoberfests left ($7 and $7.25 a pint, respectively).
On the other hand, pumpkin beer is there to stay awhile. Delaney’s has five delicious options on tap. Two popular choices are the praiseworthy Ithaca Beer Company’s Country Pumpkin ($5.50 a pint), a malty ale with flavors of mild pumpkin and notes of cinnamon, ginger and allspice, and the standby Harvest Pumpkin Ale from Sam Adams ($6 a pint). In coming weeks Delaney’s expects more pumpkin-y favorites from Southern Tier, Shipyard and Dogfish Head.
Let’s say you’re ready to mix it up, though. For a cocktail menu that’s taking seasonal flavors to soaring heights, head to the elegant bar at ROÌA (261 College Street, New Haven) which occupies the lofty space that was once the glitzy dining room of the historic Taft Hotel.
While you’re ogling the high ceiling and ornate molding, get into the autumntime mood with a Monsieur Valentino, invented by ROÌA barkeep Jill Hartmann (and pictured above). Its ingredient list—Banknote scotch, Meletti Amaro liqueur, beets, figs and fennel bitters in the drink itself, with a garnish of candied beets resting across the rim of the glass—is both unexpected and unexpectedly tasty. It’s nice to look at, too, with a deep garnet color. If you’re more drawn towards sugar-and-spice, try the bright and bubbly Grimaldi Fizz, concocted with aged rum, allspice dram, ginger beer and rosemary.
For a more casual scene, try Duffy’s Tavern, a cozy Irish pub at 241 Campbell Street in West Haven. The seasonal drink menu includes a number of intoxicating treats that could double as dessert following lunch or dinner there. The most popular is the Pumpkin Martini, a mix of vanilla cream and pumpkin-infused vanilla vodka made by the bar’s owner Chris Walsh. He says the drink is the bar’s “biggest martini of the year,” meaning it sells as sweetly as it tastes.
This season Duffy’s is also serving up a Cinnabon Martini, made with Smirnoff Cinna-Sugar Vodka, RumChata, Kahlúa and vanilla cream; a Caramel Apple Martini, featuring Smirnoff Apple, Sour Apple Pucker, Amaretto and butterscotch liqueur; and a Spiced Pumpkin Coffee, with Kahlúa Spiced Pumpkin Liqueur and a Whipped Cream Cinnamon Sugar topping. The martinis are $8, while the coffee is $6.
At another end of the spectrum is the one-ingredient fall drink experience, and nothing beats back brisk autumn temperatures like the smoky warmth of a good whiskey. If you’re eager to do a little sampling, The Owl Shop (268 College Street, New Haven) will be holding a Scotch Whisky tasting on October 17 for $15 a person, featuring seven high-end varieties. If you can’t make it or can’t wait, the bar offers flights of the stuff and other spirits at your pleasure.
Don’t fall apart, but do fall in. Before you know it, the season will be gone, like that warming, spiced drink you just guzzled.
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.