Shortly before Thanksgiving, my husband discovered a Tito’s Vodka advertisement containing three cocktail recipes. The one that caught his eye was called “The Great Pumpkin Cocktail”. Both of us grew up watching Charlie Brown specials on each holiday, and both of us love It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, so of course we had to try the recipe!
As my husband read to me mixologist Max Hinojosa’s recipe, I realized that we had three challenges. 1) It contained some exotic spices that we don’t normally use, so I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get them at our local grocery store. 2) Since we never use these spices, are they going to sit in the pantry and languish after making only one round of cocktails? 3) Several of the measurements were listed in grams, so there would be math involved.
We took care of my #2 concern; we agreed that if we didn’t like this drink, we’d find a recipe to utilize the remaining ingredients so that they wouldn’t go to waste. To take care of #3, I googled for conversions before I consumed any alcohol in order to make sure that the math would be correct. All that was left was concern #1: finding this stuff.
While our local grocery store is large, it serves a rural area and doesn’t have as wide of a selection as some of the “big city” grocery stores. A lot of oil field workers come in for groceries; hunters stop in on Thursdays or Fridays to stock up for the weekend; farmers and ranchers stop at the feed store next door and then pick up their food at the grocery store. If you glance below at the ingredients, these are not the type of spices that the aforementioned groups would grab to fix some quick meals.
As I entered the baking aisle, it was packed with shoppers since it was the Friday before Thanksgiving. All of our baskets were filled to the top. The aisle was even more cramped because there were a couple of stockers trying to reload the shelves. One of these stockers must’ve seen the exasperated look on my face as I was scanning the spice area in vain because he sauntered over to me and asked, “Everything OK there, m’am? Can I help you find something?”
I read off my list and he scratched his head. “I don’t know if we have any of that, m’am. What are you making?”
When I told him it was The Great Pumpkin Cocktail, he shrugged his shoulders and scratched his head. “That sounds pretty different.”
He knelt down and started scanning a section I hadn’t yet looked at. As he found each ingredient on my list, we got more and more excited. After he found the last one, we both held our arms up in victory! We agreed that we should each go buy a Lotto ticket because we couldn’t believe we found all of this!
The first batch of drinks that my husband and I made wasn’t horrible, but I never wanted to drink it again. That was disappointing. After I added up the cost of the spices on my receipt and realized that I’d spent almost $30 on them, I was determined to make this cocktail work. The following is my very drinkable variation.
The Modified Great Pumpkin Cocktail
- 2 oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka
- 2 Tbsp canned pumpkin
- 2 oz spiced syrup (see recipe below)
Shake vodka, pumpkin and spiced syrup over ice, then double strain into your favorite cocktail glass. (Use the strainer on the top of your cocktail shaker and pour through a small fine mesh strainer into a glass. Use a spoon to smoosh the liquid through.)
Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg.
Spiced Syrup Recipe:
In a medium pot, add:
3 cinnamon sticks (3-inch size)
2 cardamom pods
5 tsp chopped fresh ginger (skin on is OK; if you love ginger, it’s worth peeling it)
1/4 of a vanilla bean (split open)
15 whole allspice berries
13 whole cloves
3 whole star anise pods
1 cup of sugar
1 1/4 cups of water
Simmer all ingredients on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for another 2-3 hours as it comes to room temperature. Add a little water if the mixture thickens to more like honey than water. Then, strain into a glass container and refrigerate.
This spiced syrup recipe makes enough for approximately 4 servings.
We prefer to keep homemade syrups in the fridge for no more than a week.
The spiced syrup is also great in hot chocolate or coffee!
In all fairness to Max Hinojosa, I discovered – after my successful modification experiment – that his recipe called for canned pumpkin pie mix (not just canned pumpkin), so that might explain why our original batch was far from tasty.
In case you’re wondering why this is in a productivity blog, I don’t have a good reason – other than I just wanted to share this recipe and our adventure with you. But the coach in me wants to leave you with some advice, so here are some time management lessons from this experience:
1) Always pay attention to details. If a certain someone had told me the correct pumpkin to buy, the first batch might have turned out great.
2) When shopping for ingredients you’ve never used, enlist the help of a store employee instead of losing time looking for the unknown.
3) If you don’t have time to goof off and experiment on nonsense like this, be sure to work on your time management practices. Everyone needs to take some time out for fun.