I have no idea why I am doing this recipe, I thought a few weeks ago. It’s like one of those “people you might know” windows that pops up on your Facebook feed: there are always people in there you don’t really care about but somehow know from your past or know a friend of a friend. In this case, I ignored this recipe long enough and it finally got the best of my curiosity.
Curiosity or not, this is the thing: I do not share the undying love of pumpkin spice everything that many people do this time of year. It’s not that I don’t love a pumpkin panna cotta. Or a great pumpkin cookie. Or a perfectly set pumpkin caramel. Or soup! But when it comes to pumpkin drinks, such as pumpkin lattes from Starbucks, I have no qualms about rolling my eyes and making fun of nearby drinkers, drinks piled high with whipped cream and extra caramel flavoring. If American coffee shops did a better job of actually using real pumpkin and not artificial crap, I might give this “dessert in a glass” a chance. To this day, my lips have never touched a Starbucks’ Frapuccino, iced coffee, mocha, cocoa, or espresso…. basically anything except a hot coffee. Which I don’t like either. (I like coffee but not Starbucks’ coffee. I can often by found in the pantry huffing my husband’s bag of coffee beans. Seriously.)
So I challenge you to this: make this liqueur and use this in your coffee instead, with real ingredients and real flavors.
As I cooked this recipe, I went from disdain to gentle true interest. The combination of spices is reminiscent of my mom’s holiday mulled wine. The color of this pumpkin liqueur is a beautiful golden brown, like the color of leaves on my college campus or the color of my eldest’s eyes. I tasted this liqueur and realized it was not just the pumpkin spiced sweet rum I was tasting but also crow. Dare I say that crow might taste better with a Pumpkin Martini….
UPDATE FOR COCKTAIL IDEAS: There was a lackluster response to my plea for favorite pumpkin cocktails when I asked on Facebook just before Thanksgiving — so I concocted my own. This spiced pumpkin apple cider fizz was a big hit for our Thanksgiving meal, mixing each component to your liking.
Here’s what we did: Fill a glass with a couple of ice cubes, add a hefty splash of pumpkin liqueur, fill 2/3 of glass with chilled apple cider (not apple juice), and add a splash of seltzer water. Stir gently, add a thinly sliced apple for garnish.
Author: story of a kitchen (slightly adapted from http://www.chow.com/recipes/30899-homemade-pumpkin-spice-liqueur)
Recipe type: Drinks
Although the recipe is from CHOW, I added more spices and extracts for a slightly different flavor.
2 cups (475 ml) water
1 cup (200 g) white sugar
1 cup (170 g) packed light brown sugar
One 15 ounce (425 g) can of pumpkin purée
4 (3- to 4-inch) cinnamon sticks
6 to 8 whole cloves
One whole cardamom pod, gently smashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 drops orange oil
2 cups aged rum. The original recipe suggests using Appleton or Flor de Caña. I used the former.
Special equipment: thick cheesecloth or clean tea towel, heatproof bottle that can hold at least 1 quart
Set a medium fine strainer over a large heatproof bowl and line it with cheesecloth folded a couple times over itself. Set aside.
Put water, white sugar, and brown sugar in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, and flavored extracts. Mix and simmer.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer while stirring occasionally. This is to infuse the syrup with flavor. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
Pour the pumpkin mixture through the cheesecloth and allow to drain without touching until most of the liquid has passed through. This will take about 15 minutes. Press gently on solids to release remaining liquid and discard the solid contents. (NOTE: If you pick out the chunky spices, the solids would work in a pumpkin pie recipe, though you may have to adjust the sugar quite a bit.)
Add rum to infused syrup (there should be about 2 cups of syrup). Stir well and set aside to cool to room temperature in a 1 quart container. This may take one to two hours.
Transfer to a tightly sealed container and store in a cool dark place for at least two days before serving. The liqueur may sit for about three months before serving, if desired. This is perfect to do well ahead of Christmas for gifting.
This syrup tastes great in coffee (not Starbucks for me), or mixed into an Italian soda, or added to whipped cream.
ALTERNATE ENDING: If you want to leave the rum out altogether, you will be left with a very sweet spiced syrup that can be use in similar dishes listed above. The alcohol does give it a nice nip but it's not necessary.