When autumn's chill becomes a factor in your food and drink choices, the usual suspects come to mind: stews, roasts, hot toddies, hard apple cider … hearty stuff we've known about since childhood.
But there is nothing so versatile as adult beverages for assuaging one's seasonal needs while allowing the imagination to roam beyond the limits of habit.
Creativity comes into play here, so don't be reluctant to experiment with your garnishes -- sprigs of fall thyme, blossoms of those colorful nasturtiums you might have been using to spruce up your summer salads, grated nutmeg, even a "floater'' of a lighter-density liquid layered or swirled atop the cocktail as if channeling a Starbucks barista -- to act as both an ingredient and a garnish.
For the latter, you are not limited to dense spirits mixtures. If your preference is for beers and ales, you may want to try the Black Pumpkin, a layered drink being recommended by the specialists at Anheuser-Busch.
It combines two brews popular this time of year from both major facilities and craft brewers around the country -- Irish stout and pumpkin spice ale. It's Anheuser-Busch's version of the classic Black-and-Tan from England, which is made from a blend of pale ale and a dark beer such as stout or porter, or the Half-and-Half, which uses a pale lager instead of ale.
In the Black Pumpkin, the stout -- the thicker of the two liquids -- is the base, with the ale very gently poured over it to create an interesting dynamic between the colors and the flavors. The stout should have a roasted, malty flavor and the ale provides a spicy, autumnal component.
The trick to proper creation and presentation is having a very steady hand. I'd suggest practicing with small glasses until you get the hang of it.
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