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