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The cocktails of autumn


Fall can be so confusing. One day it's Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and the next, spring break in Tijuana. What to do about a cocktail then? Go for cinnamon and clove or fresh limes and blue agave?

Here in seasonally minded and oh so creative Wine Country, there's lots of places to choose from for a fall drink.

Agave: This Oaxacan eatery in Healdsburg's Safeway shopping mall has a host of single-village mescals behind the bar, perfect for sipping. But when it's just one of those fall days when a little pick-me-up is in order, come by for the Michelada, a blend of Tecate beer and tomato juice, shaken and served with a splash of lime juice and served in a frozen, salt-rimmed glass, equal parts cocktail and cure.

1063 Vine St., Healdsburg, 433-2411, agavefreshmex.com.

Ang?e Restaurant & Bar: Napa's Ang?e has always hit all the right notes in terms of food, drink and ambiance. It's a riverside oasis and finely tuned spot for Francophiles, meaning it's always been the go-to for pastis and, more recently, absinthe-based cocktails. It's hard to argue with a current favorite, though. It's the English Garden, made with Charbay Green Tea vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, apple juice, lemon juice and cucumber, a refreshing elixir for fall.

540 Main St., Napa, 252-8115, angelerestaurant.com.

Girl & The Fig: Sondra Bernstein's Sonoma mainstay is always about the fresh and the now, so it's no surprise that the drink of the moment is its Garden Margarita, made with tequila, radishes, Domaine Canton ginger liqueur, lime and lemon verbena. It's a testament to the bounty of radishes and lemon verbena still coming out of the restaurant's gardens.

110 West Spain St., Sonoma, 933-3000, thegirlandthefig.com.

Goose & Gander: At master bartender Scott Beattie's St. Helena stomping grounds, you could just sit back and invite him and his fellow bartenders to create something inspired by the day of the week (Mondays are good for fresh herbs and edible flowers) or stop dithering and order a Bali Spice Old Fashioned. It's a combination of St. George Breaking & Entering Bourbon, clove, cinnamon, star anise, orange and bitters.

1245 Spring St., St. Helena, 967-8779, goosegander.com.

Morimoto Napa: In addition to the fine selection of shochu and sake, including aged ones and several made by the master chef himself, Morimoto puts its own spin on cocktails, making it an intriguing place to try different combinations of flavors. Right now, go for the Japanese Manhattan, made with Yamazaki 12 (a 12-year-old Japanese whiskey), Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and orange bitters.

610 Main St., Napa, 252-1600, morimotonapa.com.

Solbar: It's such a summery place no matter the time of year, where the option to sit poolside is so inviting. But nonetheless, Solbar does think seasonally, and right now what's really good is its R?olte du Solage. It's a creamy, flavorful blend of Distillery 209 gin, housemade Meyer lemon cordial and vin d'orange, egg whites, house lemon-thyme bitters, lemon and lavender dust. Or you can of course just forget the impending cool weather and go for the refreshing Grapefruit Margarita, made with Espolon blanco tequila, grapefruit, agave nectar and Grand Marnier, a taste of heaven on earth in a glass.

755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, 226-0850, solagecalistoga.com.

Spoonbar: Its cocktail list was originally created by seasonally driven barmeister Scott Beattie (now at Goose & Gander), and carried on with many of his inspirations in mind. Spoonbar does summertime pitchers of cocktails very, very well but should not be forgotten come fall. The Shiso Floral, made with Flor de Cana dry rum (a gorgeous slow-aged Nicaraguan rum), hibiscus, lime, pomegranate and shiso, is the right drink for right now.

219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 433-7222, h2hotel.com/spoonbar.

The Thomas at Fagiani's: This is a sophisticated take on a once-historic piece of Napa, Fagiani's Cocktail Lounge and Liquor Store, that had been closed since a murder occurred there in 1974. The Thomas at Fagiani's is both a fine-food mecca, with food by famed New York chef Brad Farmerie, and an old-fashioned bar, updated to reflect our current obsession with seasonal fruit, housemade this and homemade. Don't miss the top-floor bar overlooking the Napa River. It's the perfect place for a Pimm's Cup, the classic English aperitif, garnished with cucumber and apple.

813 Main St., Napa, 226-7821, thethomas-napa.com.

(Virginie Boone is a freelance wine writer based in Sonoma County. She can be reached at virginieboone@yahoo.com.)