Serious Eats: Drinks

DIY vs. Buy: How to Make Pumpkin Liqueur

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[Photograph: Marcia Simmons]

There's just something cozy about pumpkin and spice, and once autumn's arrived, I want to cram pumpkin into everything I eat and drink. Getting pumpkin into a cocktail can be a little messy and goopy, so I like to whip up a batch of pumpkin liqueur to ensure that I can conveniently drink pumpkin pie cocktails for months to come. This recipe doesn't take long, so you can even finish it in time for that Halloween party you're having.

What's Available to Buy?

Pumpkin liqueur is a seasonal offering, with liqueur makers opting to skip it altogether some years. Some that I've tried in the past (like Bols Pumpkin Smash) don't seem to be around this year. Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice Liqueur is in stores now, with a lot of pumpkin pie flavor for just $10. Though it's a little harder to track down, Fulton's Harvest Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur basically tastes like milk and pumpkin pie with liquor added.

Why DIY?

Since it's a bit of a novelty, pumpkin liqueur is usually a bottom-shelf kind of product. This isn't to say that price tag and quality are always directly related. But you can bet that the ingredient list for the commercial stuff is going to include a lot of ingredients that wouldn't normally be found in homemade pumpkin pie.

And that's where you'll find beauty in doing it yourself. DIY pumpkin liqueur involves the same ingredients as pumpkin pie—only instead of crust, there's vodka. You can make a larger batch of the spiced pumpkin syrup used to make this and reserve it for non-alcoholic purposes, or skip the vodka altogether if you don't drink alcohol.

This time of year, it's hard to walk more than three feet without tripping over a pumpkin, so chances are soon you'll be looking for something to do with the Jack-o-Lantern and its guts. Since this recipe uses a quick-and-easy method, you don't have to wait long to start downing pumpkin drinks. You can decide how much or how little liqueur to make, depending on your need for pumpkin-flavored cocktails.

And, most importantly, you can control the spice mix and sweetness. If you hate nutmeg, leave it out. If you think that the ginger needs to be kicked up, do it. It's your pumpkin liqueur, and you're the boss.

Get the Recipe

DIY Pumpkin Liqueur »

Use It!

You can 'pumpkin up' almost any cocktail. This liqueur goes particularly well with applejack and cider, so it's a good addition to this Bourbon Maple Cider brunch cocktail, an Apple Brandy Old Fashioned, or this Sparkling Apple Tea. DIY pumpkin liqueur is also perfect for a spiced fall sangria made with white wine and apples.

If you're a pumpkin latte person, like I am, you can booze up your caffeine with some pumpkin liqueur. It's also a fun way to add a little oomph to your milkshake or vanilla ice cream.

About the Author: Marcia Simmons is the co-author of DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks. She also shares cocktail recipes and tips on the DIY Cocktails blog and on Twitter @DIYCocktails.

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