Every four years, autumn shepherds the start of election season. As the leaves turn colors, so do cocktails and specials in restaurants around the country. In honor of that and National Voter Registration Day, we present election drinks and dishes that embrace the spirit of the campaigns and the candidates. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find many of these specials at restaurants in our nation’s capital.
SideBAR, New York, New York
This Union Square sports bar is game on with a couple of fun presidential candidate cocktails. They are: Hillary Clinton’s Secret Server, an Apple Martini which gives a nod to her stint as the Big Apple’s Senator but which also features blackberries because, well, you know. And, wait for it…The Donald Drumpf, a towering Apple Pie Punch (Amaretto, Sour Apple Pucker, and Goldschlager with gold flakes, and served in a Mr. Potato Head.) The cocktail is priced at $50 “because like Trump, it’s ‘huuge’,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. Oh dear. Make a reservation at SideBAR.
Del Frisco’s Grille, Hoboken, New Jersey
Del Frisco’s has debuted political burgers — The Donald and The Hillary — nationwide in its 21 restaurants “to give diners the chance to enjoy a couple of classic American burgers before moving to Canada.” Order The Donald and you’ll get a well-done prime beef patty (he’s known to order steaks well done), aged cheddar cheese, heirloom tomato, and Bibb lettuce on a gold bun served with a side of tiny pickles. The Hillary burger is classified — Grille guests can send an email to TheHillary@dfrg.com to receive burger details. Oh boy. Make a reservation at Del Frisco’s Grille.
FireLake Grill House, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The bar team here crafted a cocktail menu inspired by this year’s presidential mix: Feel the Bern, (Illegal Mezcal Joven, fresh lime juice, Sprite, and sriracha hot sauce). For the Republican presidential candidate “that always must have the last word,” FireLake came up with the Last Word, pictured, (J. Carver Grimm Farm Gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo, and fresh lime juice.) And, as a shout out to Ted Cruz being born in Canada, there’s the Maple Leaf cocktail with Evan Williams Bourbon, lemon juice, and maple syrup garnished with a cinnamon stick. Make a reservation at FireLake Grill House.
The Grill Room, Washington, D.C.
Executive chef Frank Ruta of this D.C. politico favorite restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel has curated Red and Blue Plate prix-fixe lunch specials. A sampling: from the Red Menu, you’ll find the Texas-Style Pulled Pork Sandwich on Texas Toast. From the Blue Menu, check out the Maine Lobster Salad. And bartenders Cecilio Silva and Ismael Barreto crafted three election-themed cocktails to pair with the lunch specials — Thyme to Decide (gin, honey syrup, lemon juice, and blackberries, garnished with a thyme leaf), The Green Card (vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and Blue Curacao, garnished with blueberries and lemon twist), and Pacific Blue (Mescal, honey, lime, ginger syrup and garnished with a lime wheel and basil leaves). There’s also weekly informal polling to see which cocktail gets the popular vote, too. Make a reservation at The Grill Room.
Lincoln, Washington, D.C.
This restaurant is a shout-out to Honest Abe, and if you cast your order for one of the presidential cocktails through Election Day, your sip preference will be tallied on a blackboard at the bar. The results of the cocktail voter poll are updated every Friday on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Drink choices include The Trump Tower, a smug twist on the classic Negroni with Earl Gre- Infused Absolut Elyx, Aperol, and Dolin Blanc. Hillary’s Inbox features nonclassified ingredients — Absolut Elyx, Drambuie, Blue Curacao, Orgeat syrup, lime juice, and soda. Make a reservation at Lincoln.
Teddy & the Bully Bar, Washington, D.C.
A nod to gallant American President Teddy Roosevelt, this capital-area restaurant is endorsing the same election cocktail antics as sister restaurant Lincoln (see above). Order The Trump Tower, a twist on the classic Negroni with Earl Grey-Infused Absolut Elyx, Aperol and Dolin Blanc. Or, go with Hillary’s Inbox, made with Absolut Elyx, Drambuie, Blue Curacao, Orgeat syrup, lime juice and soda. Bully! Make a reservation at Teddy & the Bully Bar.
Bourbon Steak, Washington, D.C.
There’s a spirited political contest underway at this Four Seasons Hotel restaurant. Show your true colors with one of the presidential cocktails crafted by head bartender Torrence Swain, and you’ll also get a vintage-style ballot to toss into the Dem or Republican whiskey barrels. There’s the Wizbanger, inspired by President Eisenhower (scotch, grenadine, absinthe, dry vermouth, and orange bitters), and the Sherry Cobbler, inspired by Buchanan (Lustau Sherry, Brandy, muddled berries, lemon juice, and ginger bitters). Five dollars of these $25 sips go to non-partisan, non-profit, Rock the Vote. The fun begins October 8. Make a reservation at Bourbon Steak.
Legal Sea Foods, Boston, Massachusetts
Beginning in October, you can voice your opinion and elect to order either the Blue Plate or Red Plate special at any of Legal’s 30-plus restaurants that are located up and down the East Coast. The Blue Plate special is the Secretary of Steak (blackened tuna steak jasmine rice, bacon-braised Brussels sprouts, and blackberry beurre rouge). The Red Plate is the Trump Towers (scallop mango ceviche, king crab, marinated mussels, shrimp cocktail, oysters, and littlenecks on the half shell). Make a reservation at Legal Sea Foods.
Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.