Pumpkin Cocktail: A Winter Squash Infusion

Roasted Pumpkin Cocktail

A roasted pumpkin cocktail is somewhat unexpected. Most every pumpkin cocktail you’ll find out there starts with canned pumpkin puree and is typically a sweet drink that is trying to capture the essence of pumpkin pie. I’ve seen some very good examples of that style of pumpkin cocktail, but honestly they’re just a bit too much like a grown-up dessert for my palate.

Still, it’s pumpkin season and I want to be included in all the pumpkin madness out there. This Roasted Pumpkin Cocktail started with my book Savory Cocktails. In the book it’s called Winter Squash Cocktail. I worked with Phoebe Wilson on this drink, she’s co-owner of The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin in Crested Butte, Colorado. I love her culinary take on cocktails and adapted this one to take advantage of the unusual squash-infused vodka she taught me to make. In it, vodka is infused with winter spices and warm roasted squash; creating a drink with deep, earthy sugar and spice flavors. Perfect for the season.

I’ve made this cocktail quite a few times over the past few years. While I was working on the book I typically made this pumpkin cocktail using butternut squash, which was Phoebe’s intention. Butternut squash has a sweet, slightly nutty flavor– often compared to pumpkin. It’s a wonderful choice for this savory cocktail. In fact butternut squash has always been my go-to winter squash. Lately however, kabocha squash has been getting more and more of my attention.

Kabocha, is also known as Japanese pumpkin. It’s a variety of winter squash with a hard, knobby, dark green skin. It has exceptionally sweet, yellow-orange flesh and tastes similar to the other pumpkin flavors you may be used to, only a bit earthier. So for pumpkin season I’ve chosen to adapt my Winter Squash Cocktail using kabocha.

Before you make this wonderful roasted pumpkin cocktail, let me warn you, kabocha squash is tough to cut. But it’s so worth it! Thoroughly wash and dry the exterior of the squash, then place it on a cutting board and get out a large, sturdy knife. Cut the squash right down the center, through the stem end. Rock the knife carefully back and forth to work your way though the middle of the squash. Do be very careful, kabocha is so hard that it’s easy to let the knife get away from you while cutting. I’ve never had an accident, but I can certainly imagine having one, so please be careful. After halving, scoop out the seeds. Place the squash face-down in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 1 hour, or until the skin is blistered and easily pierced with a knife. If in doubt err on the side of more cooking. GREG

kabocharoasted pumpkin cocktail

Roasted Pumpkin Cocktail 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Source Adapted from my book Savory CocktailsPublished

Prep time does not include infusion.

Roasted Pumpkin Cocktail


  • 1 small kabacho squash also called Japanese pumpkin (about 3 lbs, halved and fibers and seeds removed)
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle vodka
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • fresh sage leaf (as garnish)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg


Make infusion: Place the oven rack in the center position. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place kambocha halves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Bake until blistered and soft enough that the blade of a sharp knife can easily piece through the skin, about 1 hour. Once cooked remove from oven and set aside until it’s cool enough to handle, but still quite warm. 

Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh out in large chunks. Place the chunks into a large non-reactive container or Mason jar. Add the vodka while the flesh is still warm. This will assist in the infusion process. Cover and set aside in a dark area for 3 to 5 days, swirling the mixture occasionally.

Taste the infusion at this time, it should have a pronounced sweet pumpkin flavor and be amber colored. If so, strain the liquid through a wire-mesh sieve double-lined with damp cheese cloth into an airtight container, discarding solids. This infusion makes more than you need for just one cocktail, it may be covered and refrigerated up to 1 month.

Make cocktail: Combine 4 ounces pumpkin-infused vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice and lime juice in a cocktail shaker ⅔ filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into a chilled 6 ounce cocktail or martini glass. Float a sage leaf on top as garnish. Mix the cinnamon and nutmeg together and sprinkle lightly on top. Makes 1.