With so many bars, taprooms and wineries to choose from and so little daylight to spare, it's hard to know where to start on the quest for the quintessential seasonal beverage. Rest assured, we've done the footwork for you.
The Tomodachi at Tomo (708 Ninth St., Arcata) is a cool weather go-to, though it can also be served cold for those balmy, summer months (which we apparently have now). The mixture of Sho Chiku Bai sake and Takara Plum wine is a Tomo original. Translated from Japanese, tomodachi means "good friends." It's intended to be shared, but if you order the small, it›s pretty easy to selfishly toss down alone. The plum wine adds just enough sweetness to cut through the potency of the sake without overindulging the sweet tooth. It settles nicely in the stomach, with or without the accompaniment of sushi rolls.
Come October, the retro-cozy Speakeasy (411 Opera Alley, Eureka) brings its fall specialties out under its ceiling of winking stars. The Baked Pear, semi-translucent and steaming, is one of those drinks that will sneak up on you. The combination of Absolut Pears, DeKuyper Buttershots, house-made spiced simple syrup, lemon and a twist of orange has a deceivingly non-alcoholic taste. It's more tart and less sweet than a mulled cider, and goes down so easily. Granted, the heat keeps you from gulping it too quickly, but once it cools, all bets are off.
The Dia de los Muertos brings pumpkins into the limelight. If you've ever eaten a pumpkin pie and thought, "I'd sure like to drink this," then you are in luck. The bartender fills the graham cracker-rimmed martini glass with puréed pumpkin, Absolut Vanilla, Bailey's Irish Cream, DeKuyper Buttershots and a dash of cream. It's sweeter than the baked pear and probably isn't the sort of drink you'd want to repeat through the evening (unless you like a sugar crash). But it's perfect for capturing the essence of autumn.