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Celebrating the Day of the Dead With Heavenly Cocktails

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The Jack Skellington at the Thirsty Crow.
Halloween may be over for another year, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to celebrate the otherworldly and pay homage to the dead as the seasons change. Las Perlas in downtown LA has a special cocktail for just that occasion. The Los Muertos, appropriately, is an homage to Día de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead (November 1st and 2nd). This traditional Mexican and Latin American holiday is a time to recognize and remember one's ancestors and heritage.Las Perlas bartender and manager Raul Yrastorza created the Los Muertos specifically for the holiday, and while it’s not particularly spooky, it is deeply evocative of Fall. “During Day of the Dead, ofrendas (offerings) are given to the dead, and range from fruits to music, tequila, song and dance," explains Raul. "Inspired by the open-air fruit and spice markets of Oaxaca, Mexico, this cocktail combines flavors of apple, agave and ground spice. It is - at its core - an offering, paying tribute to the dead in its combination of traditional gifts often left at altars.”

The drink is a blend of Espolon Reposado tequila, muddled apple, cardamom amaro, apple butter infused agave, lime juice and an apple cider vinegar shrub. It’s topped with an apple cider foam and a swirl of black strap molasses and garnished with a vinegar-soaked apple.

The Los Muertos reminded me of nothing so much as the first taste of a tart fall apple - the citrusy bite that so often gets lost when the apple is broken down for ciders or pies or other traditional dishes of the season. I loved the taste, but admittedly, it’s messy - the combo of foam and molasses got all over, since Raul nixed the use of a straw in order to encourage experiencing all the flavors together. (For the record, grab a straw. I appreciate the aesthetic, and the pleasure of sipping everything simultaneously, but for me, sticky trumps all and it muted my enjoyment of the drink).

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Other bars around town are also celebrating Fall with specialty cocktails. The Thirsty Crow in Los Feliz debuted a new menu about a month ago, and one of the featured drinks is the “Jack Skellington”, a tasty concoction of fresh pumpkin, Sapling Vermont maple liqueur, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram with a graham cracker crust rim. You may have missed Tim Burton at LACMA, but you can still enjoy the Halloween meets Christmas time extravaganza.

Another appropriate libation, on the other side of town, is Westside Tavern’s Corpse Reviver #2. While it is part of their regular menu, why not swing by tomorrow and enjoy a little boost of gin, star anise and lillet to bring you back from the dead (or just the deadening effects of a 40-hour work week)?

Finally, Lola's on Fairfax has a pumpkin martini and a spiced pear martini available at both their traditional 5:30-7:30 and Wednesday late night (10:30-12:30) happy hours.

Not in the mood to branch out, but still want to celebrate? El Carmen is offering Day of the Dead specials on Wednesday November 2nd from 8 p.m.-2 p.m. $5 classic margaritas and $4 Tecates.

Want to try your hand at creating your own Day of the Dead Cocktail? The recipe for the Los Muertos is below, and here's a link to last year's featured cocktail at The Varnish: The Marigold Ofreda by Christopher Bostick.

Los Muertos Created by Raul Yrastorza, Las Perlas, Los Angeles

2 oz Espolón Tequila Reposado
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz Apple Cider Vinegar Shrub
.5 oz Cardamaro Amaro
1 bar spoon Apple Butter Infused Agave Nectar
4 muddled Apple Chunks
Apple Cider Foam for garnish
Blackstrap molasses for garnish


Muddle apple chunks in bottom of a mixing glass. Shake all ingredients together with ice and double strain into a rocks glass over ice. Top with apple cider foam and drizzle with blackstrap molasses.