Say sayonara to the spiked seltzers, palomas, mojitos, and crisp white wines of summer, and hello to some of our fall favorites – whiskeys, rum, liqueurs, and seasonal beers and wines – to start stocking up within your own bar.
The cooler weather is rolling in, which, to many, often implies the start of sweater weather and other favorite pastimes like apple-picking and leaf-peeping. But for our restaurant bartenders, the change in seasons signifies a time to get busy behind the bar, taking stock of their selection and swapping things up to best sync with the flavors of fall. And Sean O’Brien, lead bartender at the Harborside Hotel Spa & Marina, is no exception. As a native of New Hampshire, he has worked for Opal Collection and its affiliate restaurants (including Salt Kitchen & Bar at Wentworth by the Sea on New Hampshire’s seacoast and City Farmhouse in Portland, Maine) since 2014, which means he knows a thing or two about what kind of flavors autumn brings in Northeast. It’s also why we’ve tapped him to share his personal list of essential fall spirits, liqueurs, and the seasonal wines and beers (some local to Maine, some not) that you should consider stocking up on in order to spice up (and we mean that quite literally) what you’re drinking this season.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon
Known for warming you from the inside out, whiskey might as well be the official spirit of the fall – thanks to three core types – bourbon, scotch, and rye – that cater to all sorts of flavor preferences (sweet, smoky, and spicy). And O’Brien doesn’t mince words when he says his fall favorite is a good bourbon, particularly this twice-barreled spirit. “With a full-bodied flavor of vanilla, dark caramel, hazelnut, apple, fruit, and spices, it can be served alone or worked into coffee or coffee-inspired cocktails,” he says.
Oban 14-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch
Scotch is another popular type of fall whiskey known for its classic smokiness that naturally pairs well with sitting by the fire. But perhaps the reason that patrons of Harborside Hotel’s La Bella Vita regularly opt for this producer’s flagship medium-bodied single malt is for its superb combination of rich sweetness and smoky dryness with notes of autumn fruits like dried figs and honey-sweet spices. While many might say its sacrilege to drink scotch any other way than up, this is a good one to get creative with when added to a cider cocktail.
Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum
“People tend to think of rum as an essential summer cocktail ingredient thanks to piña coladas, daiquiris, and dark and stormies,” says O’Brien. “But many rums – particularly the dark ones – translate exceptionally well to fall-inspired concoctions.” One such example: this robust and bold aromatic rum finished in charred bourbon casks that offers up notes of gingerbread, lychee, and toffee (we suggest you try it in a “Rum Old-Fashioned”).
Liqueurs, Bitters & Beyond
Maine Root Ginger Brew
“Moscow Mules are certainly refreshing on hot summer days, but they’re also very holiday-appropriate beverages for their strong and spicy ginger flavor,” says O’Brien. And there are few ginger beers that pack as much of a natural ginger punch than Maine Root’s version, which blends pressed ginger, cane juice, and spices. For an even further fall-inspired twist on the classic: Mix Maine Root Ginger Brew, apple pie vodka, and a splash of sparkling apple juice, and you’ve got the makings of a “Harvest Mule.”
Amaro di Angostura
While it’s quite normal to drink Amaro – an Italian herbal liqueur commonly served as an after-dinner digestif – on its own, it has become a popular way to infuse spice into a fall-inspired cocktail. But unlike most amaros that are bitter and sweet in varying degrees, this particular version also adds in a touch of cinnamon and chocolate, which makes it great in an old fashioned, paired in a bourbon cocktail, or in a twist on the white Russian (vodka and Amaro di Angostura topped with a layer of whipped cream).
Patrón XO Cafe Incendio
Tequila certainly has a place in the fall-lineup (particularly if you’re one for mezcal, a Mexican spirit with a funky, vegetal, smoky, and sweet character.). But there’s a whole lot you can do when you add this bold and spicy-chocolate liqueur to your cocktail quiver. Made from a blend of Patrón Silver, Criollo chocolate, and Mexican Arbol chile, it’s perfect as a kick in your coffee, as well as a myriad of cocktails and desserts, from a spicy and boozy hot chocolate to hot molten lava cake.
Wine & Beer
Atlantic Brewing Company’s Leaf-Peeping Ale
Breweries aren’t shy about cranking out the heavier, maltier beers once the temps drop. However, this version – made by one of O’Brien’s most beloved breweries that has been churning out handcrafted beers in Bar Harbor for more than 20 years – is both a malty and sessionable take on an amber ale that stands up to hearty dishes. Not to mention, its ruby red color is reminiscent of Maine’s fall foliage.
Maine Beer Company Fall Coffee Stout
Known for its cult IPA classic “Lunch,” this Freeport, Maine-based brewery also produces a seasonal, fall-inspired stout made with cold brew from Portland’s Coffee by Design. With a flavor profile that boasts dark chocolate, molasses, and, of course, roasted coffee beans, it’s the kind of brew that pairs well with a night spent in with a good movie and a cozy blanket.
Villa Pozzi Nero D’Avola
Since Harborside’s La Bella Vita is an Italian-style restaurant, it should come as no surprise that O’Brien makes a point to stock a worthy wine list. One of his favorite bottles to enjoy in the fall is this medium-to-full-bodied Sicilian red that pairs well with heavier dishes on cold fall nights, like the restaurant’s Garganelli Bolognese (featuring veal, pork, and beef ragu). “The wine has great intensity, but it’s also sweet,” he says, “a combo that goes great with pasta, pizza, and meats.”
Cellardoor Winery’s C’est de l’or
What could be more fall than wine blended with maple syrup? That’s exactly how the Lincolnville, Maine-based winery makes this specialty wine, C’est de l’or, which starts with a rich and flavorful syrah that is blended with locally sourced pure Maine maple Syrup and fortified it with unaged brandy. The result is a flavorful and warm dessert wine featuring flavors of spiced fig and rum raisin.
Where to Stay Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina