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These Excellent Cocktails Are Awash With Fall Flavors

By Kristine Sherred in Food on Oct 2, 2015 9:00PM

The Abuela at Tete Charcuterie.

Fall often seems, sadly, to be limited to a few flavors in our food and drink. With this change of season, cocktails and cupcakes all over town feature pumpkin a-plenty, but what about butternut squash, Granny Smith apple, or bay leaf? That's what you'll find on the new fall cocktail menu at Tete Charcuterie, available now.

Owen Worley leads the bar at the West Loop bar, and he is taking savory drinks to a level worthy of the fine charcuterie leaving the kitchen. He built cocktails at The Aviary and at the late but great Drawing Room, but his degree in bioengineering also plays a lively part in his encyclopedic knowledge of flavor.

One drink, the First Fire—a velvety blend of butternut squash cooked sous-vide to retain the inherent savory quality combined with black cardamom and a peated blended Scotch—is a textural delight. Worley is spot on in describing the butternut's fruitiness, but he tones it down with the addition of pecan and that smoky black cardamom, mixed in a small dose in the drink itself and spritzed on top for a subtle campfire aroma.

Worley uses spice smartly, transforming a simple vodka cranberry (yes, he went there) into a memorable highball via Quatre Epices—ginger, white pepper, nutmeg and clove. These traditional pâté spices marry with a lemon oleo (essentially citrus peels rested in sugar and water), which Worley heralds as a silky shake-free alternative to juice. He is one of the first bartenders I've spoken with who insists that shaking is inconsequential unless going for the assumed texture of a Daiquiri.

The Laurel at Tete Charcuterie.

Where most apple-y cocktails focus on the cinnamon and apple pie spice, the Abuela yields to the bracing tartness of the Granny Smith, soaked in absorbic acid to add acidity and assist in preservation. Joined by a vegetal Pisco and Tepache (fermented pineapple), Worley adds a mere 1/8 oz of lime juice. This drink is tart, not sweet, and showcases his deliberate approach to cocktailing.

If following the low-proof crowd, look for the Laurel, named for an ingredient that, I hate to admit, stood out (does bay leaf really pull that stock together?!) but it meshed well with a tinge of un-aged brandy, Darjeeling tea and an earthy but pleasantly jammy French Malbec. It was simultaneously refreshing and autumnal, suitable as a starter or during-drinner cocktail for those who prefer red with their choucroute.

Tete Charcuterie is located at 1114 W. Randolph St.