Headless Horseman Cocktail: Raise a Glass to Halloween!

When I was a kid, Halloween meant dressing up and trick or treating. As an adult, I still want to dress up, but instead of roving the neighborhood now I throw Halloween parties instead! This Headless Horseman cocktail is one of my favorite drinks, and perfect for the occasion!

headless horseman cocktail recipe dinners done quick

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

The Headless Horseman is a character from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow who is, in short, a ghost looking for his missing head after the war.

But despite its spooky origins, the Headless Horseman cocktail really isn’t spooky at all! In fact, this drink only requires 3 ingredients plus ice. It’s eerie how simple it is!

It doesn’t require a lot of fancy things – in fact, you probably have most of the ingredients in your bar already! That’s because this cocktail is a twist on a Moscow Mule, with the addition of bitters and an orange slice instead of lime.

two tall glasses of headless horseman cocktail against a black backdrop

The name comes from the fact that you add the bitters on the top of the drink, creating a β€œheadless” topper to your cocktail. Add a drop or two of red food coloring if you wanted to get really creepy!

If you’re looking for more beverages for your adult Halloween party, make sure to check out my recipe for a Candy Corn Shot as well. It’s fun, sweet, and perfectly themed!

Ingredients List

ingredients to make headless horseman cocktail at home
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4-8 ounces ginger beer (see notes)
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura regular or orange bitters (plus 2 drops red food coloring – see notes)
  • Ice
  • Orange slice garnish (optional)Β 

Ingredient Notes and Tips

  • Plain vodka works best for this recipe, but you could also use citrus flavored. You may also substitute gin if you don’t like vodka
  • The ginger beer may be swapped for ginger ale if you don’t want the stronger flavor. The amount you’ll need depends on the strength of the cocktail desired, the shape of the ice, and the size of the glass
  • How many dashes of bitters you need really depends on the width of your glass, so adjust accordingly. If you use orange bitters like I am here, they are usually clear. Add 2 drops of red food coloring before adding to the drink for effect. Regular bitters are usually brown so you don’t need the coloringΒ 
  • Variation: Add 1-2 ounces of orange juice in with the ginger beer to give the drink a more opaque, orange look to contrast with the bitter topper
  • You could also garnish with candied ginger or a lime slice instead of the orange. I prefer blood oranges here for the color, but most times don’t find them until after Halloween so I have to use regular navel instead

Step-By-Step Recipe

  1. Fill your glass with ice
first fill your headless cocktail glasses with ice
  1. Pour vodka into the glass
pour vodka over the ice in your cocktail glasses
  1. Add the ginger beer until the glass is nearly filled
add ginger beer over the vodka until the glass is nearly filled
  1. Combine the food coloring with the bitters if needed. Then, pour the Angostura bitters slowly over the top of the drink (start with 2 dashes, adding a third if it doesn’t cover the whole top of the drink)
add the food coloring and bitters to top off the drink
  1. Garnish with an orange slice and enjoy
overhead view of two headless horseman cocktails garnished with orange slices

What to Serve With Ginger Beer Based Drinks

  • Fish and chips
  • Grilled meats
  • Tacos
  • Curry
  • Stir fry
  • Sushi
  • Aged cheddar
  • Blue cheese

The real ginger that ginger beer is made from is the perfect complement to many spicy cuisines. Look for Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and similar fare with ginger-based sauces for the perfect option.

It also pairs well with bold cheeses for a charcuterie, or with whatever is on the grill at your backyard barbecue!

Try my Headless Horseman cocktail with my fun Taco Stuffed Shells in the Air Fryer, or some spicy panko fish tacos made with Air Fryer Mahi Mahi. You could also make Air Fryer Crescent Dogs wrapped in thin strips like mummies to fit the Halloween theme!

Recipe FAQs

What is the Origin of the Headless Horseman Cocktail?

The Headless Horseman cocktail draws inspiration from Washington Irving’s classic short story, β€œThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which features the infamous Headless Horseman character.

While there isn’t a specific historical origin, mixologists and enthusiasts have crafted this cocktail to capture the essence of Halloween and the spooky legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Are There Any Alternatives to the Traditional Ingredients?

Yes, there are various ways to customize the Headless Horseman cocktail. The classic recipe typically includes vodka, ginger beer, and bitters. However, you could use bourbon or whiskey, and ginger ale or sparkling apple cider for another option.

You can also add some fruit juice like orange juice or apple cider to the mix to change the color palette.

Can I Make a Non-Alcoholic Version of the Headless Horseman Cocktail?

Absolutely! To create a non-alcoholic version, omit the vodka and bitters. Add orange juice in place of the vodka, and create a float with another dark liquid.

Apple cider would work as a gradient at the top, or you could spoon on chocolate syrup for a rich, dark color.

What Are Some Garnish Ideas For This Cocktail?

The most popular garnish idea for the Headless Horseman cocktail is an orange slice, or blood orange if it is in season.

However, you could also serve it with a slice of candied ginger or a lime wedge. A rim of red sugar can add a spooky touch as well!

Is This Cocktail Traditionally Served Hot or Cold?

The Headless Horseman cocktail is traditionally served cold, over ice.

If you wanted a hot variation, you could use a ginger tea or similar warm drink in place of the ginger beer. Omit the ice cubes as well, and serve in a rocks glass instead.

Recipe Pro Tips

  • Glassware. The best glassware for this cocktail is a pint glass, Collins glass, or highball glass. Use clear glass for the best effect of being able to see the colors!
  • Storage. Due to the carbonated nature of this drink, it cannot be made in advance or stored easily without losing its effervescence
  • The longer the drink sits, the more the bitters will blend in (and if you use food coloring it will get more pink over time). Make sure to serve immediately after preparation for best results
spooky headless horseman cocktail with pumpkins and a skull mug

More Vodka Cocktails to Try

Final Thoughts

The Headless Horseman cocktail is the perfect choice for your Halloween party, but delicious enough to enjoy all fall and winter! I like to serve them up alongside my Snake Calzone for a spooky meal!

With just 3 required ingredients, it only takes a couple minutes to mix up the perfectly frightful treat! If you love a classic Moscow Mule, you’re sure to love this spooky Halloween cocktail twist.

Whether you’re throwing an adult Halloween party, a horror movie watching night, or just looking for a new autumnal drink to try, you’re sure to love this cocktail!

If you love fall flavors, make sure to add my Caramel Apple Jello Shots to your party planning list as well!

headless horseman cocktail recipe dinners done quick featured image

Easy Headless Horseman Cocktail

This easy Headless Horseman cocktail requires just 3 ingredients plus ice, or you can jazz it up a little to make a perfect drink for your Halloween party!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Servings 1
Calories 192 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
Β Β 

  • 2 Ounces vodka
  • 4-8 Ounces ginger beer (see notes section)
  • 2-3 Dashes Angostura bitters (regular, or orange with 2 drops red food coloring added)
  • Ice cubes
  • Orange slice for garnish (optional)

Instructions
Β 

  • Fill your glass with ice
    Ice cubes
  • Pour vodka into the glass
    2 Ounces vodka
  • Add the ginger beer until the glass is nearly filled
    4-8 Ounces ginger beer
  • Combine the food coloring with the bitters if you’re using the orange variety. Then, pour the Angostura bitters slowly over the top of the drink (start with 2 dashes, adding a third if it doesn’t cover the whole top of the drink)
    2-3 Dashes Angostura bitters (regular, or orange with 2 drops red food coloring added)
  • Garnish with an orange slice if desired, and enjoy
    Orange slice for garnish

Notes

  • Plain vodka works best for this recipe, but you could also use citrus flavored. Sub gin if you dislike vodka
  • The ginger beer may be swapped for ginger ale if you don’t want the stronger flavor. The amount you’ll need depends on the strength of the cocktail desired, the shape of the ice, and the size of the glass
  • How many dashes of bitters you need really depends on the width of your glass, so adjust accordingly. If you use orange bitters like I am here, they are usually clear. Add 2 drops of red food coloring before adding to the drink for effect. Regular bitters are usually brown so you don’t need the coloring
  • The best glassware for this cocktail is a pint glass, Collins glass, or highball glass. Use clear glass for the best effect of being able to see the colors!
  • Storage. Due to the carbonated nature of this drink, it cannot be made in advance or stored easily without losing its effervescence
  • The longer the drink sits, the more the bitters will blend in (and if you use food coloring it will get more pink over time). Make sure to serve immediately after preparation for best results
  • Exact nutritional values will vary based on brand and flavor of ingredients, size of glass, and quantity consumed, so please consider this a guideline only

Nutrition

Serving: 245gCalories: 192kcalCarbohydrates: 16.2gSodium: 13mgPotassium: 2mgSugar: 15.9gCalcium: 6mg
Keyword fall inspired drinks, halloween cocktails, halloween mixology, headless horseman cocktail, headless horseman cocktail recipe, headless horseman cocktail vodka, spooky cocktail recipes, themed party beverages
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Katie Vine