I am leaning in to Halloween this year. I don’t know why, but I am ready for all of the holidays and this first is always one of my favorites. So, I have been staring longingly at the leaves, willing them to change, looking to the north for a chill that does not come and waiting for that crisp bite in the air that announces the season of the witch. October took its sweet time about it, but finally here in the waning days that wind picked up and blew those leaves from the trees to announce that, indeed, something wicked this way comes. To kick things off properly, we made some chili, lit some candles and settled in to introduce the wife and child to some old friends from Santa Carla. So, in honor of those lost boys and the girls who love them, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Vampire’s Kiss.

First off, there are a handful of drinks with this name that pop up this time of year, mostly involving vodka, cranberry juice or Kool-Aid and dry ice. This is not one of those. This an actual craft cocktail, created by Robby Dow and Ally Marrone at Brooklyn’s famed Grand Army. It is is a loose riff on the Kalimotxo, that classic Spanish red wine and Coca-Cola combo with a twist of lemon. I am a fan of the original and I am intrigued by where this one is going, so let’s make it and see how things turn out.

First off, we need to make an ingredient, cola syrup. Nothing could be simpler, just mix 1 part Coca-Cola with 2 parts sugar in a saucepan over medium heat till it is incorporated, then bottle and chill for use later. It will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge and is so sweet it will make your teeth hurt just thinking about it. That done, grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of red wine, I went with Winking Owl Shiraz; 3/4 of an ounce of cola syrup, 1/4 ounce of Fernet Branca, 1/2 an ounce of lime juice, 2 dashes of angostura bitters and 1/2 an ounce of Punt e Mes. If you don’t have that handy, a 2:1 mix of Sweet Vermouth and Campari will substitute nicely, which is what I usually do. Add some artisanal ice and give it a good shake to the beat of “I Still Believe” by Tim Capello from The Lost Boys soundtrack. When well blended and chilled, strain into a wine goblet over rocks and top with 1 ounce of club soda. Garnish with a dehydrated orange or two and call it a drink.

That is wonderful. Just wonderful. All the elements of the original are there. Obviously, this one is going to lean into your wine selection and my shiraz made it a little sweet, almost like a funky herbal sangria. There is also a ton of sweetness coming from that cola syrup, but the citrus and Campari balances it nicely, before the Fernet Branca comes in with a most a amazing finishing move. The end of the sip is reminiscent of an old school soda fountain coke, with that hint of herbal bitterness right on the end. Honestly, this is everything I want the Kalimotxo to be. An excellent drink all the way around, with a certain More-ish flavor, is my grandpa would have said.

I’m glad it finally feels like Halloween here at Stately Monkey Manor. I have been looking forward to it, but it has been hard to get into the spirit while wearing shorts and linen. Last night we took a walk in the dark as a cold breeze blew the leaves past us down the street. Strange noises emanating from the trees, eerily haunting, as we reassured ourselves that it was just the wind. It’s the kind of walk that only happens in October, when the walls between the worlds get thin, as they say. Like watching cheesy horror movies, it is always fun to indulge in that safe sort of fright. Well, it is fun till you hear a growl in the distance and all those childhood fears pop up to keep you company as you walk a little more quickly back toward the relative safety of the front porch light and the grin of a flickering jack o’lantern. Safely home again, there is something comforting about sipping this drink by candlelight looking out on the night. A little kiss before bedtime, never hurts, right? Stays safe, stay sane and stay spooky, my friends.