Bitter is not one of the five tastes that usually springs to mind when you think about how you want something to taste. But when that something is a drink, bitter works quite well. And when it comes to alcoholic drinks, bitter works very well (e.g. beer, bitters, amaro, etc.). The Bitter Pumpkin combines many bitter elements in one drink, and is a bitter sweet Fall spiced cocktail that is delicious!
1 ounce rye
1/2 ounce amaro (I used Averna)
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 barspoons pumpkin butter
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Ale or dark lager, preferably a seasonal Fall beer (I used Sixpoint's Autumnation)
Add rye, amaro, lemon juice, simple syrup, pumpkin butter, and bitters to a shaker with ice. Shake well. Double strain into a lowball with a large ice cube. Top with ale or dark lager.
The star of the Bitter Pumpkin is the pumpkin butter. It adds a slight sweetness to the drink but more importantly adds depth with the pumpkin and Fall spices. I recommend having some around this time of the year since it is great to use as a spread (that's right...I don't just dream about cocktails but also about food!). One thing to keep in mind here is that the pumpkin butter is fairly thick. So when double straining, if the strainer is too fine then it will clog.
For those who are not familiar with the technique of double straining, most shakers have a strainer. If you use a 3 piece cobbler shaker, then the holes in the top half of the shaker act as a strainer, ensuring that the ice and other large items will not find their way into your drink. If you use a Boston shaker then the Hawthorne or Julep strainer serves the same purpose. In both cases, very fine items, such as ice shards, bits of muddled herbs, and in this case, pumpkin fibers, will pass right through. By pouring the drink through another finer strainer (hence double straining) you will remove these smaller items.
The Bitter Pumpkin is a rare drink that is purposely bitter. For you cocktail nerds, the Negroni likely just sprung to mind. Yes, you can add more simple syrup to balance the drink, but the drink would surely be less enjoyable. The scant amount of simple syrup and the pumpkin butter add just enough sweetness to ensure that you are not hit over the head with bitterness. But just as surely as you enjoy bitter dark chocolate, bitter coffee, and bitter beer, you will enjoy the Bitter Pumpkin!