The PSL is doing A-OK at Starbucks. In 2018, Starbucks moved the release of its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte from September to August in anticipation of record sales for the 15-year-old product. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, consumers in 2017 “visited PSL establishments twice as many times as typical patrons,” most likely because they know the drinks are around for only a short time.
The trick when hacking this Starbucks superstar is making a perfect clone of the syrup used in the drink. I found a friendly barista who was willing to squirt a little of the secret syrup into a cup for me to take back to headquarters for examination. Back in the kitchen I discovered the mysterious light orange-colored syrup had no spice particles in it whatsoever, meaning the flavors are added as extracts or oils. Most home cooks like you and me cannot get such ingredients, so I had to come up with a formula using easily accessible ground spices and pumpkin puree.
Pumpkin pie spice makes this recipe easy and much cheaper than buying all the spices separately. It’s a convenient blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, plus either allspice or clove, and it’s found in practically all food stores. For our hack, the blend is combined with a sugar solution and cooked until syrupy, then sweetened condensed milk is stirred in. Condensed milk is also used in the original syrup at Starbucks—according to the ingredients list—which is why the syrup is opaque and creamy. When the syrup is done, a couple tablespoons are added to your latte, then it’s topped off with whipped cream and a sprinkling of more spice.
Lattes are made with espresso, and in this case you’ll need a double shot, which is about ¼ cup. If you can’t make espresso, then make some strong coffee and use ½ cup of it. If you don’t have a way to steam milk, you can heat it up in the microwave for 2 minutes or until hot, then make it foamy with a milk foamer, inversion blender, or whisk.
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Pumpkin Spice Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
- 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces milk, steamed or heated (with foam)
- 1/4 cup fresh espresso (or ½ cup strong coffee)
- Whipped cream
- Pumpkin pie spice
- Do This
Instructions1. Make the pumpkin spice syrup by combining the water, sugar, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the condensed milk and vanilla.
2. Steam the milk using a milk steamer. If you don’t have a steamer you may also heat the milk in your microwave until hot. Then use a milk foamer, inversion blender or whisk to make foam in the milk.
3. Make your latte by first adding 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin spice syrup to a 16-ounce cup. Add the espresso (or coffee), followed by the hot, foamy milk.
4. Top off the drink with whipped cream, and sprinkle it with a couple dashes of pumpkin pie spice.
Makes 1 drink, with syrup for more.
Tidbits: Keep the leftover syrup in a sealed container in your fridge and it will last for several weeks.