Fall is upon us and you know what that means – freaking pumpkin spice everything. Though it dates back to at least the 1890’s, the modern pumpkin spice craze can probably be traced to around 2003 and the invention of the pumpkin spice latte. And I don’t mean to knock pumpkin spice too hard – if you love it, you love it. Good for you. Eat as much of it as you can handle. But don’t forget to find room in your heart and your stomach for some of these other great fall spices.
This is the classic. The OG. The real McCoy. The ingredient that tells pumpkin spice to get lost while not even looking up from under the hood of its 1950s muscle car, sending pumpkin spice running off to go bother hazelnut instead. You want to feel fall? You get yourself some cinnamon.
So here’s a simple way to use cinnamon to fall-ify an old favorite: French toast. Whisk together 4 eggs, ¾ cups of milk, 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon. Use the mixture to soak a few slices of bread (white bread will do but nothing beats challah) then cook them in a lightly buttered frying pan until brown on both sides and heated through. Sprinkle some extra cinnamon on top of the slices if you want to be awesome. Pour out your favorite real maple syrup and enjoy a pumpkin spice-free breakfast.
Fun fact: pumpkin spice is actually more than 50% cinnamon.
It’s a Sunday morning in November. You’re feeling cozier than you ever thought possible. The cat seems to genuinely like you. All you need is a warm drink to make this scene perfect. So what do you do? Leave your den of comfort to get an overpriced pumpkin spiced cup of nonsense? No. You make your own luxury coffee by whipping up a nutmeg-infused Maple Leaf.
Start by making a pot of strong coffee. Then mix 2 cups of milk, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of grated nutmeg. (You can even get whole nutmeg and grate it yourself for extra nutmegginess.) Heat the mixture in a saucepan or on low power in the microwave until hot but not boiling, then whisk it vigorously until it foams up. Fill your mug halfway with coffee, add a hearty tablespoon of maple syrup, then top it off with the foamed milk plus a sprinkle of nutmeg and you’ve got yourself a gourmet beverage without stepping out the door.
Fun fact: pumpkin spice is about 12% nutmeg.
If we’re talking cloves, we’ve gotta talk hot cider. It’s a fall spice all-star beverage since it includes whole cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and even some allspice. Any time, day or night, a mug of hot cider makes fall feel more fally than a truckload of pumpkin spice piled next to a dumpster full of discarded latte cups.
First, get an unpeeled orange and stud it with as many whole cloves as you can before you get bored (about 10-20). Fill a pot with 2 quarts of apple cider and mix in ¼ cup of brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice, 1 whole cinnamon stick, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. Put your studdly clove orange in the pot and heat until hot to the touch but not boiling, stirring occasionally. Serve in your favorite mug with a cinnamon stick and the knowledge that the pumpkin spice propaganda machine cannot tell you how to do fall.
Fun fact: pumpkin spice is about 10% ground cloves. Pumpkin spice turns out to be like that guy from high school who didn’t know which clique we wanted to join so he wore khakis with a trucker hat while listening to screamo and sporting a faux hawk.