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Trick Up Your Halloween Cocktails

On Halloween, in between handfuls of candy corn, snack-sized Butterfingers and packets of Pop Rocks, it's important to have a good cocktail to wash it all down.

But what makes a cocktail right for Halloween? The best ones will have seasonal flavors and unusual colors, provide an otherworldly effect (like smoke or fire) and satisfy a crowd.

H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of San Francisco's Elixir and Cocktail Ambassadors, believes that people are drawn to "anything that's custom designed, whether it's an original cocktail menu or something thematic." Top hotels across the country understand the impact of a unique cocktail, and some hire Ehrmann to create seasonal cocktail menus.

For your signature Halloween cocktail, Ehrmann recommends using fall flavors, because "people want a drink to remind them of the season that they're in." Another tip is to get creative with Halloween-inspired cocktail names.

To satisfy these requirements, try a Pumpkin Nog (recipe below). It was created by modern mixologist Tony Abou Gamin, who is best known as Chef Mario Batali's bartender on Iron Chef and partner in Magic, Martinis and Mario, an upscale private event.

H. Joseph Ehrmann concocts the Blue Blazer.

If you don't have the cash to hire Abou Gamin and are worried about getting stuck behind the bar, go with a group drink. "Punches are great for Halloween," says Ehrmann. "People almost expect it."

"I encourage people to research punch recipes online," says Ehrmann. He recommends cocktaildb.com and Robert Hess' drinkboy.com, as well as books including David Wondrich's Imbibe and Dale Degroff's Craft of the Cocktail.

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