Tonight the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch. He flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world. -Charles Schulz (It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown)

Every year when pumpkins begin appearing at the markets, I go a little crazy–a good kind of crazy. I can’t really explain it, but it’s as if with all those carefully arranged rows of orange orbs, something in my world shifts…Even as I start to accept the reality that fall is here, that the days are growing shorter and that the only way to be anything resembling warm in the mornings is to turn the oven on, I find myself getting excited. My step becomes a little lighter and my head is full of fall fantasies, from creamy butternut squash soups to pumpkin-scented bread. And don’t even get me started on our traditional Thanksgiving bourbon pumpkin cheesecake.

When this season comes to an end, I can’t help but feel a little bereft and I try to recapture the magic whenever possible. Back in college, I would express my pumpkin love throughout the year with Alice’s Tea Cup’s Pumpkin Scones. In Japan, I briefly abandoned the pumpkin ship, but with all of the mochi pastries stuffed with sweet beans, I didn’t feel this was such a problem; I more than made up for this lack of pumpkin by having my cell phone email (yes, even back in the dark ages of 2006, Japanese phones made American ones look pathetic) be the Japanese word for pumpkin: kabocha. And, in these grad school years, I’ve found myself buying pumpkin ale maybe a tad before it’s seasonally appropriate–and this from a girl who claims not even to like beer.

This year, however, pumpkiny things kept falling into my lap, and well beyond their typical expiration date. A prime example of this was when the Greek took me to Aziza for my birthday. I saw a pumpkin cocktail on their menu and, even though it was the middle of May, I just had to have it (to be fair, in foggy Richmond, it felt like fall anyway). It was, as cocktails sometimes can be, nothing short of phenomenal; it had tang, sweetness and that ideal note of spice that you just can’t help but associate with all things pumpkin. I tried to get the recipe from the waiter, who was very vague in his response (my sense was that, in addition to the restaurant cookbook, there is now a cocktail book in the works). I briefly considered playing the birthday girl card and seeing what would happen, but then decided that I could just recreate my own version at home. I wrote down my impressions, consulted the Greek’s palate (when it comes to drinks, it’s infinitely better than mine) and now, four months later, I finally got around to making it.

While I can’t say that I’ve perfectly replicated what may have been one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had in my life (since I went to college in New York City, this is saying a lot), I think my version has a lot to recommend itself. It’s got plenty of pumpkin, just the right note of cinnamon and a combination of freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice–and some zest. I also couldn’t resist making a simple syrup out of demerara sugar; not only is it a beautiful golden brown color, but I also wanted a hint of molasses to complement the rum. The interesting thing about this drink is that, due to the pumpkin puree, it’s thicker than you might expect and slightly grainy. But there’s nothing wrong with a cocktail that has some substance; in a way, I see this cocktail as the pumpkin equivalent of a Bloody Mary (perhaps this is a post-Thanksgiving brunch tradition waiting to happen; it really is just the way to use up that little bit of leftover pumpkin). As an inspiring friend showed me recently, good things can happen when you substitute tomatoes for pumpkins; I’m inclined to believe that this exchange can work in the other direction, too. 
Happy pumpkin season to you all! 
Pumpkin Spice Cocktail
Inspired by both a trip to Aziza and the course I took on mixology many moons ago
Yields two cocktails

Both the Greek and I really liked this drink, but we debated some possibilities for playing with it. He suggested a little more rum, while I felt the cocktail was already strong enough. I then suggested an ounce of Triple Sec instead, which would give it some extra oomph and help to cement the orangey undertones. We also considered straining the cocktail with some fine mesh cheesecloth. I would say that, no matter what you do, this cocktail will be a winner. If you make it and try any of the above suggestions, please let me know what you think! This was definitely an experiment and experiments require retesting and feedback!

For the simple syrup: 
 3/4 cup demerara sugar
1 cup water
For the cocktail: 
 4 heaping tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 orange, juiced
about 6 inches of orange peel, zested
2.5 ounces dark rum
4 tablespoons demerara simple syrup
about half a tray of ice cubes, for both shaking and serving
orange pieces, to decorate
-Combine the demerara sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool as you assemble the cocktail.
-Add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, lemon and orange juice, orange zest, rum and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker.
-Then, add 3-4 ice cubes to the shaker and shake gently.
-Remove the top of the shaker and pour into highball glasses. 
-Sit back and imbibe the taste of fall.

6 thoughts on “A Cocktail for Pumpkin Lovers

  1. My eyes turned into saucers when I saw the first picture! Oh friend, you are inspired! I wish I could be there to raise a glass with you, but I will take trying these on our own as a close second. Thanks for sharing the glories of fall!

  2. Thank you! So glad to have given you a joyful surprise this morning! It would be lovely to meet at 5, to have some cookies (perhaps snickerdoodles) and a pumpkin cocktail…

    I really hope you like them! Let me know what you think or if you make any modifications. This was the first time I made them and I'm curious to see how they taste to other pumpkin lovers!

    Love how our posts were in dialogue today: the swan song of summer meets the glories of fall. 🙂 x

  3. I adore pumpkin and how it signals this glorious season. Drinking it seems like a lusciously creative twist — I love it!
    I'm also excited to see that you eased into mint recently! Your mild, minty white frozen treat sounded and looked far more perfect than most. Yum!

  4. Mmm… I love pumpkin, but never before considered adding it to a beverage! Thank you for the recipe — pumpkin, orange and rum seem like a natural combination, now that you mention it 🙂

  5. Thank you, Moriah!! The only thing I can say is that I must be branching out–at least when it comes to mint! As for pumpkin, I've always been and always will be one of its biggest fans. 🙂

    If you get around to trying the cocktail, I hope you like it! I think it would please a fellow pumpkin lover.

  6. You're welcome, Ann! It's definitely a pleasure for me to spread the pumpkin love! 🙂 I'm thinking there are lots of ways to play with it, though; maybe its next manifestation at our place will be with bourbon and a little cream (in honor of our favorite cheesecake)? In any case, as I experiment, I'll update the post with little notes.

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