Skull & Brew: a Halloween Cocktail Made Two Ways

It has finally FINALLY dipped down to the 60s in Los Angeles and I can’t even tell you how happy these last two days of cooler, overcast weather has made me. (Apparently, I’m officially an Angeleno because I’m celebrating the brief disappearance of sunshine.) LA may not have all the autumnal magic of the Northeast, but it IS #SweaterWeather, y’all! And I’ll take it.

I’ll also take a Halloween-inspired cocktail that celebrates the season without giving me too much of a sugar hangover. I’ll save that for the mini candy bars that I’ll pretend to buy for the kiddos but will inevitably end up in my gullet…

I wanted this drink to be an easy, large format cocktail that could be made ahead of time. And I knew that I needed to use Crystal Head Vodka’s Aurora expression for this. If that bottle doesn’t scream Halloween, I don’t know what does! The bottle, which took two years to execute, is made by Milan-based glass manufacturer Bruni Glass. Also, those skull shot glasses?! SO good.

Crystal Head Vodka, made in Newfoundland, Canada was created by actor Dan Aykroyd and artist John Alexander in 2008. Free from additives – no glycerol, citrus oils or sugars – the Aurora expression is made from English wheat from North Yorkshire, England and is distilled five times in a traditional column still and then reduced with Newfoundland water. Aurora is filtered using activated charcoal and then filtered three times through Herkimer diamonds. Diamonds, y’all! We fancy for All Hallows’ Eve!

The other key ingredient that I wanted to experiment with for this seasonal cocktail was beer from a new Mexican-influenced craft brewery in San Diego, California, SouthNorte Brewing Company. They only just launched last month, but their two releases, No Güey (Mango IPA) and Sea Señor (Mexican Lager) are already getting noticed.

Sea Señor, is SouthNorte’s flagship Mexican-style lager. Clean and refreshing, their inaugural release is classic in style with a slightly sweet malty quality. The No Güey Mango IPA was inspired by street vendors in Mexico selling fresh fruit with lime and chili. The flavors are subtle enough here to not overwhelm this hop-forward IPA, but there is a very lively fruit quality and slight zing that adds quite a bit when used in a cocktail. These beers are both clearly very good on their own, but I couldn’t help using them to create different styles of the same basic cocktail, with slightly different results!

A lager will definitely be a mellower version of this drink, and I loved the Sea Señor in this. It was crisp and bright and went down waaaay too easy. The No Güey added more of a bite with the addition of hops and spice. And for some reason the apple cider seemed to pop more. Whichever way you go, the Skull & Brew should be your go-to drink tomorrow night.

When all the kids are getting hopped up on candy, you can get “hopped up” grown-up style.

Skull & Brew – makes 1 drink
2 oz Vodka
2 oz Apple Cider
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Maple Syrup
4 oz Beer (IPA or Lager)

Fill a shaker with all of the ingredients except for beer. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled pint glass or something similar. Top with beer and stir.

Large Batch Skull & Brew – makes 10-12 drinks
1 750 ml bottle Vodka
3 cups Apple Cider
1 cup Lemon Juice
1 cup Maple Syrup
6 cups Beer (IPA or Lager)

Batch all ingredients in a large canister, stir and serve immediately. Since this is not shaken with ice, you may need to serve with a few cubes to cool down.

I'd love to hear what YOU think! Scratch a few thoughts down there, why dontcha?