Fall — finally! I, for one, am in desperate need of a crisp, warm, comforting cocktail to ring in the cooler weather.
Think spicy, rich flavors, lush, dark cognacs, seasonal apple and pumpkin accents, a touch of mystery. If you're craving a good autumn drink as much as I am, step into the strange and whimsically macabre world of Annabel Lee Tavern in Highlandtown. Proprietor Kurt Bragunier has been serving up delicious, dark drinks at his Edgar Allan Poe-themed restaurant for four years and admits his favorite drink, back on menu this season after a two-year hiatus, is a bit of an enigma to patrons.
Maybe it's the name, The Gold Bug (taken from Bragunier's favorite Poe short story), or the reputation he says hot drinks seem to have. "It's sweet and hot, which makes it seem 'frou-frou," he says. "But believe me, it's potent."
I took his word for it, especially after noting the double dose of rum in the ingredients. The Bug, Annabel's take on a Colonial Rum Punch, is just right for sitting at the bar on a cool night. The smell of warm cider, mixed with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, sets a romantic mood (the menu calls it "phantasmagoric"). Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Myer's Rum deepen the buttery taste and highlight the apple flavor without overpowering the drink. Bragunier also adds a cloved lemon and cinnamon stick to finish the drink. I recommend smelling the cloved lemon rather than steeping your drink with it. The aroma is enough to fill your senses.
Bragunier's concoction inspires visions of falling leaves, a smoky fireplace, and a plate of warm comfort food – luckily, Annabel Lee has all three (yes, it has a fireplace and falling-leaves décor). Nostalgic and cozy, The Golden Bug is the perfect fall spirit to cheer up the weak and weary. Poe would agree.
How to make The Gold Bug
8 oz. Apple Cider
1 oz. Myer's Rum
1 1/2 oz. Captain Morgan's Rum
1/2 tsp. butter
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Lemon slice, cloved
Heat cider, mixing in butter, sugars and cinnamon; serve hot; garnish with lemon and cinnamon stick
Where to get it
601 S. Clinton St., Highlandtown