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Pumpkin Spice Shrubs Are Here To Elevate Your Fall Beverages

Cocktails with pumpkin in background and cinnamon sticks
Cocktails with pumpkin in background and cinnamon sticks - Gorchittza2012/Getty Images

The pumpkin spice flavor profile seems to have infiltrated every corner of the food and drink market, from coffee drinks to chocolate bars to donuts and ice cream and tiramisu and even peanut butter. But almost all of these very inventive, unique creations have something in common — they often fall somewhere on the sweet to very sweet scale. Which is why the pumpkin spice shrub, which boasts a punchy and acidic kick from an apple cider vinegar base, is a welcome twist that brightens up and elevates your autumnal libations beautifully.

The flavor of a shrub can run the gambit from herbaceous and tangy to a moody, tart and fruity blueberry mint version. In autumn, a perfectly seasonal and adaptable pumpkin spice shrub is as simple to whip up as it is inspiring, and can easily be made by combining just four common ingredients — pumpkin puree, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and that ubiquitous pumpkin spice blend — along with water and salt. Once simmered and strained, you have a vinegary twist on the now-classic (if occasionally controversial) flavor profile that will open up tons of possibilities for pumpkin-ifying your favorite potables.

Read more: The Ultimate Vodka Brands, Ranked

Why Pumpkin Spice Works Here, And How To Use It

Cocktails with cinnamon sticks on wood crate
Cocktails with cinnamon sticks on wood crate - Aamulya/Getty Images

Pumpkin spice works surprisingly well in this preparation, since it's not so far from the more classic spice profile of many shrubs that incorporate elements of the spice mixture like clove, cinnamon, allspice, and others. In addition, the apple cider vinegar at its core is inherently autumnal.

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The beauty of this, or any shrub, is in its versatility. Being naturally non-alcoholic, it's a perfect way to make an impressive mocktail for the non-boozing imbibers in your crowd. Simply add to club soda on ice, garnish with a cinnamon stick, and enjoy a toast without worrying about a designated driver this holiday season.

If you happen to enjoy the harder stuff, a Pumpkin Spice Spritz, which melds a hefty pour of prosecco with pumpkin spice shrub and club soda, is an ideal application that adds some fall flair to what is often considered a summery drink. The sparkling wine is perfect for celebrations, but you can make this one non-alcoholic too by simply subbing for ginger beer.

For a slightly stiffer drink, combine the pumpkin spice shrub with bourbon along with that same ginger beer, or elevate a Standard Old Fashioned with maple syrup and a splash of the shrub — both superb fireside sippers for autumn evenings. Beyond drinks, you can even substitute your pumpkin spice shrub into a salad dressing or marinade where you'd otherwise incorporate vinegar for a seasonal kick.

Why Use A Shrub In Your Drinks?

Swing top bottles of vinegar with fruit
Swing top bottles of vinegar with fruit - APIWAN BORRIKONRATCHATA/Shutterstock

While the pumpkin spice latte is a relatively young concoction (the Starbucks PSL celebrated its 20th birthday in 2023), a shrub is a more mature drink category with a long, fascinating global history. In fact, 19th-century bartender Jerry Thomas was known to mix a raspberry shrub with brandy. It should be no surprise, as vinegar (the basis for a shrub) was used as a preservative before refrigeration.

In cooking, vinegar is often used as a finishing element, much the way lemon is squeezed over a dish at the last minute. It's an apt tool to punch up flavors and cut through oils and fats (like with fried fish). Similarly, vinegar provides balance to the composition of a good drink, brightening the flavor profile and bringing out nuances in certain combinations of ingredients. It's no wonder vinegar-based shrubs are ideal for cocktails and nonalcoholic mixed drinks alike, where they can take the place of a syrup (making the pumpkin spice shrub a natural swap for a drink like the Sensei Spice).

Typically made with sugar, salt, and flavorings like fruit, herbs, and spices, a shrub can substitute for citrus and can help elevate or highlight certain elements, and also cuts through richer ones, like bourbon, amaro, or vermouth. A shrub can be an acidic bridge — or even a star all its own. It also happens to be a great way to reduce food waste, or make use of an abundance of produce on hand.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.