Theories abound, but no one really knows when alcohol began to be called spirits. Some speculate that the word comes from alchemical practices or from al-ghawl — the Arabic word that forms the root of the English world ghoul. Whatever the origin, there is no greater time to enjoy spirits than the end of October, when both Halloween and Día de los Muertos are celebrated. No wonder bartenders all over San Antonio have been inspired to create so many soulful cocktails this season. Here are five of grave importance.
Biga on the Banks
Like '80s decor and '70s prog rock, everything deserves a second chance. Yes, bitter flavors can scare even the most adventurous palates, but somehow the River Walk’s Biga has managed to tame the beast. Redemption of the Dark Side takes espresso-infused Redemption rye, Amaro Nonino, and orange bitters and blends it with Spanish Licor 43 to take the edge off. Hocus pocus? Maybe. But we could all use a little bit of this magic.
Cork Bar at Hotel Contessa
The Day of the Dead cocktail at this River Walk lounge is awash with the colors of the season. The base is Don Julio tequila and lime juice with a touch of spicy Ancho Reyes liqueur, then harvest hues are layered with blood orange juice and pomegranate juice. Add a Tajin black salt rim and a wedge of blood orange and you have a drink so beautiful, it will take your breath away.
Downstairs at Esquire
The newest concept from James Beard Award-nominated Esquire Tavern takes their craft seriously, so don’t expect some candy-colored Halloween goof to come from their bar. Instead, their Midnight in Mexico cocktail nods to Día de los Muertos tradition with a mezcal, Ancho Reyes, and Fernet-Vallet libation meant to honor both the living and the dead. This dark garnet sipper is only available during the holiday, and is sure to keep you in high spirits.
Haunt at the St. Anthony Hotel
There are plenty of things that go bump in the night at the St. Anthony, from the misanthropic specter of Walter Emerick to the decidedly more pleasant Lavender Lady. But no ghost proves that hope truly does spring eternal than the leisure-suited lothario still looking for a little action in the St. Anthony Club. His clothing may be tattered and his toupee may have seen better days, but the Haunt’s Crooked Wig — a balanced blend of anejo tequila, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, and hibiscus liqueur — proves his spirit is still swinging.
Peggy’s on the Green
They say the devil is in the details. If so Boerne’s Peggy on the Green couldn’t have come up with a better name for their Halloween offering. The Diablo starts like many margaritas with reposado tequila and freshly squeezed lime, but then the plot takes a turn with the addition of ginger beer and cassis liqueur — perhaps the most goth spirit this side of absinthe. The result is a balanced fall cocktail that has us saying, “Hell yes!”