The Best Halloween Party Drink Requires 3 Bottles of Booze. Is It Worth It?
Spoiler: Yes, with caveats. Behold the Drink-O’-Lantern, your Halloween party savior.
If you can serve clam chowder in a bread bowl and vodka in a watermelon, why can’t you serve a cocktail in a pumpkin? That was my thinking when I decided to finally make a pumpkin keg, the decorative-gourd season version of the watermelon keg. What could be easier than filling a large-format piece of produce with booze and sticking a tap in it? With the negroni finding newfound TikTok fame thanks to HBO’s House of the Dragon stars Emma D’Arcy seductively telling Olivia Cooke the Italian cocktail was their favorite drink, albeit made in the “sbagliato” style (aka with prosecco), it was time to mix up a big batch of that Florentine mixological marvel, put it in a pumpkin, and give it a good name. Thus the Drink-O’-Lantern was born. In my head at least. Now I just had to make it. Here’s what I learned to do. And what I learned most definitely not to do.
Get a Corer
A Google search for “pumpkin keg tap” will turn up any number of tapping kits, some packaged with orange and black straws and pumpkin coring tools. I settled on a heavy-duty steel beer tap from Keg Works that didn’t come with all the extraneous seasonal accouterments.
Skipping the pumpkin-keg tap kit did deprive me of one useful tool: the kind of corer typically used for apples. While I thought I could cut a serviceable small hole in the pumpkin with a paring knife, even the sharpest of knives will never yield the perfectly circular hole you need to get a good seal between the threaded shaft of the tap and the wall of the pumpkin. The corer needs to be smaller than the tap’s shaft, so pay attention to the dimensions of your tap and the corer to ensure leak-free tappage.
Get a Good Sized Pumpkin
At the risk of sounding incredibly obvious, if you’re going to be making drinks for a crowd, you’re going to want a big pumpkin. The point of making a big batch of cocktails is convenience. Make one big drink at the beginning of the night and you’re done. A small pumpkin will require you to make multiple batches throughout the evening which defeats the purpose.
Carve It. But Not Too Much!
Cleaning out a pumpkin is like riding a bicycle. You can’t unlearn it. Unlike riding a bicycle it’s slimy, tedious, and not in the least bit fun. Once you’ve cut a lid for the top, don’t let your muscle memory take over and start carving a face. You need this pumpkin to hold your beverage securely, not allow it to bleed, Carrie-like, out of the eyes.
Cut the Hole
Ideally using a corer, cut the hole for the tap as low as possible on your pumpkin. You don’t want the tap sitting higher than the liquid inside the pumpkin. If the liquid can’t reach the tap, you’ll have to tip the pumpkin forward to get the last dregs of the drink.
Paint the Face
Use a black sharpie or matte black acrylic paint to create a classic Jack-O’-lantern face. Paint the mouth around the tap hole so the tap can sit in the center of the mouth like it’s a pipe.
Secure the Tap
Insert the tap into the hole and tighten the tap from the inside taking care to screw the nut tight enough that it slightly countersinks into the pumpkin and makes a waterproof seal.
Fill It Up (But Maybe Not with a Negroni Sbagliato)
Researching pumpkin kegs I noticed the vast majority of them suggested filling the pumpkin with beer or apple cider punch. After making the super-sized sbagliato I realized why: Beer and cider are cheap. Top-shelf liquor is expensive. A large pumpkin is deceptively cavernous. The better part of three bottles of top-shelf spirits and a bottle of decent prosecco barely brought the liquid over the level of the tap. That’s $120 worth of booze. That’s a high price to pay for an on-trend cocktail, so next time around I’m going to mix up some high-volume, low-cost adult beverages like a spooky sangria or bourbon-spiked apple cider.