The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow #11

Thinks You Drink & Drink Accoutrements Edition

Perhaps Starbucks is to blame for kicking off the whole pumpkin spice fad with their lattes, but pumpkin spice drink seem to form a notable percentage of the various pumpkin spice products I try, so this time I’m going to group them, and things you might eat with them, together into one article.  There’s only one actual alcoholic drink on this list, because I haven’t found too many that I haven’t written about already (flashback: many are pretty good unless they’re beer, in which case they’re just beer), so not so surprisingly, the foods I’ll mention here are the sort of thing one might have with a cup of coffee or maybe even a latte, if your sugar intake (or ingesting palm oil) isn’t of any real concern for you.

365 Everyday Value 100% Juice Pumpkin Spiced Apple Cider 

I had thought all cider was by definition alcoholic, but looking up an “official” definition I found these two definitions, both from the same source:

  • “an unfermented drink made by crushing fruit, typically apples”
  • “an alcoholic drink made from fermented crushed fruit, typically apples”

So who even knows what words mean anymore?!  Not me, it seems. But as long as we’re crushing some apples, I’m good.  Damn apples…

So to be clear, this is the sort of cider that has no alcohol in it, but more of a “naturally flavored” apple juice, really, which is fine.  The ingredients list says it’s made of just that “natural flavor,” along with organic apple juice (not from concentrate), organic pumpkin puree, and organic lemon juice concentrate, so hey, here’s something you can drink without worrying about the trash in it!  That’s shockingly rare for prepared foods.

It is however something of a failure of a cider, should you attempt to drink it chilled.  The lemon underneath everything is too tart and struggles for attention, while the pumpkin’s gourdy flavor asserts itself all wrong.  Ugh. But wait, don’t write it off yet! Drink this cider heated and now you’re talking! All those flavors somehow blend completely differently into something much more smooth and enjoyable, almost like a Jekyll and Hyde thing.  Heat is the key to putting the monster back in the box, or bottle.

I have no idea what’s lurking inside that “natural flavor” though.  It’s certainly not “pumpkin spice,” but even without that, this is still a perfectly fine hot apple juice cider drink, if you like that sort of thing.  Just another example of disappointment as a pumpkin spice experience, but fairly good as its own thing. So it’s technically good – the best kind of good???

Upslope Pumpkin Ale

It says this is an “ale brewed with pumpkins and spices” right on the can.  If you say so, Upslope! Tastes like beer to me. I really should learn to stop falling for these beer-based seasonal come-ons, they will all just taste like beer and break my heart every time.  As usual though, it’s not at all a bad beer in and of itself, just not pumpkin spice beer.  I dunno, maybe beer shouldn’t be pumpkin spice?  Surely that can’t be right.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spiced Ginger Brew Sparkling Beverage

This stuff comes in one of those large bottles with the little clay stopper on top held in place with a wire contraption, like a big bottle of Grolsch beer or something.  That ridiculously overpowered stopper is needed, probably, because this non-alcoholic drink is very sparkling, meaning that the carbonation level is off the charts.  It’s made with some real ginger puree, so that sounds great right? Yet it’s probably the mildest ginger beer I’ve ever had, there was no ginger bite to it at all.   It’s also made with all four pumpkin spices so yay, but then what the hell, they threw in some cardamom as well which is a pretty big no-no for me. I mean,

  • I generally dislike flowery tastes to begin with, and
  • Once you’ve already got all four of the cardinal pumpkin spices, why the hell are you inviting someone else along?  This is like some expanded universe nonsense or poorly-paired crossover episode.

My fiancee quite enjoyed the cardamom’s presence, however, so if you’re a fan of that taste and heavy carbonation (I know, it says “sparkling right on the label, I shouldn’t hate it for being what it is), you may enjoy this as well.  I mixed mine with some Capt. Morgan’s Jack-O-Blast (see last year’s articles) and was able to wash it down at any rate, although I was getting sort of over-sweeted near the end of one glass, so I dunno, maybe I’m just not a fan of sodas, or cardamon.

Nonni’s Biscotti 

The bready part of Nonni’s Biscotti (which is fun to say out loud – try it!) is pleasantly pumpkin spicey, although I felt that they were aiming for gingerbread and missed – a rarity as that’s usually the other way round, but for once this is perfectly fine (a dog sits in a flaming house and dips biscotti into his coffee, “this is fine,” he says).  The “cinnamon icing” on top of each piece of biscotti isn’t really icing though, it’s that sort of waxy cloying “yogurt goop” rather than a real sugar-based icing. Still, there’s not too much of it on each piece so it doesn’t spoil the snack, unless you read the ingredients list and see that it includes, again, palm oil.  Spare the oil, spoil the snack I guess. The crunchy bread part itself is quite crispy without being hard as a rock and absorbs a dunk in coffee toot sweet, and, as each one is clad in cellophane, they’ll all be that crisp when you get to them. Personally I’m not a fan of having more trash to throw away afterwards, but as far as eating goes, these work.  They are made with real pumpkin, but the box also notes that that cinnamon icing is “gourmet”, so I guess palm oil is gourmet now? But the box also contradicts itself by saying this is “a traditional holiday favorite” and that “Nonni’s is excited to introduce” them, so… Look, Nonni’s says a lot of things.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Biscotti

In comparison, I liked this brand’s take on biscotti better, even if their webpage for it is a bit annoyingly hyperbolic, “A biscotto is a single, twice-baked, Italian-style biscuit.  More than one of these cookies makes biscotti, and we’re nearly certain that translates from Italian to English as ‘an abundance of riches.’”  Yeah, OK, Trader Joe’s. You write like me, more’s the pity for ya.

Smaller than the Nonni’s above, these icing-less cookies have a good flavor that strangely two of our cats also liked, indicating so by spending time licking at one with their raspy raspy tongues and occasionally trying to (futility) bite off a chunk.  Yes, these are harder and more solid than the Nonni’s, a bit like one of those things that’s so crispy that you kind of worry for your teeth, but that crisp isn’t so bad that it feels like any kind of real risk or drawback. And of course you’re soaking it in your coffee anyway, right?  You’ll be fine, stop worrying, sheesh. Mine softened up within just a couple of seconds and tasted pretty good. Also? No palm oil icing on these babies, no icing of any sort at all, so that’s already less needless calories and bad stuff. If you’re a biscotti fan, I’d steer you this way, although if you don’t care about the palm oil, the first one’s were still decent too.  But if I were to buy either again, it would be these, they’re made with real pumpkin and all four of the usual pumpkin spices. The webpage really didn’t need to say they “incorporate just the right combination of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg), ensuring that the pumpkin spice flavor is subtle – just enough that every bite you take gives you a little reminder that you’re living your Pumpkin Season fantasy” though, that makes the pumpkin spice flavor sound like an afterthought, whereas I found those spices to be well represented (but not overly so).  I think however that that snippet should be on the webpages for a lot of other pumpkin spice products, because it’s a fantasy that they taste like pumpkin spice! Ha! See, they write like I do, the poor schmucks. Then again, they got paid for that, so what does that make me, a ‘pumpkin spice schmuck’? Sounds like a midwestern dessert, which I would try. OK, you’re right, they write better than I do, or at leats aspire to a better life.

Pumpkin Caramel Authentic Danish Kringle

I’d never heard of this before, but apparently a ‘kringle’ is a type of pastry that originated in Europe, where it usually takes the curly, if flat, form Americans would associate with a pretzel, if a large one.  American kringles however are shaped like an oval racetrack and are almost large enough to wear around my neck like some sort of demented Elizabethan ruff of a baked collar, were I were strange enough to want to do that.  Let me think about it and get back to you. This one was made by a company called O&H Danish Bakery in Wisconsin, both of which apparently have a tradition of making such things – kringles I mean, not edible collars (it’s also the first Google result that came up for “kringle”).  So of course here comes ol’ O&H jumping on the bandwagon for that new non-European seasonal baking sensation, pumpkin spice!

Perhaps because I’m not from Wisconsin – or just an unrepentant sugar-disliker, but I thought the white icing was way too sweet, overpowering it’s otherwise fine if unremarkable pastry-ness; even my fiancee, a noted sugar-enjoyer agreed.  The filling inside contained some real pumpkin, but also a “butter margarine blend,” palm oil and shortening, margarine, and palm oil (again), so you can already guess where I’m going with this. My fiancee liked it well enough and observed that the package said the icing was fondant, but tasted like powdered sugar and milk instead.  I’ll note we didn’t toast it, maybe after a minute in a toaster oven it would have been much better. Still, if you like blandish diner food, this would probably be perfectly fine with your morning coffee, if unremarkable.

Megara Justice Machine really should learn to stop using Google’s auto-complete feature, as the returns he got for “what could cause a man to” were decidedly unappetizing.  You know what is appetizing though? Pumpkin spice! And not just on Halloween, but everyday! Have you heard the good word about pumpkin spice? If not, then just scroll back up to the top of this page and enjoy much more pleasant search results from The Avocado when you do a search for “pumpkin spice” and find a whole bunch more articles written by Megara upon this fascinating topic!