Delicious Alternatives to the Pumpkin Spice Latte
Whether you’re a fan of the infamous drink or not, here are a few other options that are perfect for autumn.
By Josephine Werni, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
It’s that time of year again.
As a barista who’s never been a huge fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, I’ve compiled a list of both caffeinated and non-caffeinated fall drinks that are tasty and made with ingredients that should generally be carried by all coffee shops around this time of year. Maybe you also don’t like the taste of PSL’s, or maybe you’re a female millennial who simply isn’t in the mood to support your stereotype by ordering one.
Either way, here are seven cozy as fuck alternatives.
First up is Chaider, which is probably my favorite drink on this whole list.
The composition of the drink is relatively simple—it’s just half chai tea and half hot apple cider. The outcome of the combination is something that’s sort of like mulled cider, but so much more.
How to Order: When ordering Chaider, there are two things that you’ll want to clarify with your barista. First, if you say that you want something with chai, there’s a good chance that they’ll assume that you mean a chai latte.
You’ll want to specify that you’re looking for straight up chai, sans steamed milk (it’s not that the milk tastes bad, it just tends to go a bit funky when it comes in contact with the hot cider. I figured that one out the hard way).
Additionally, you may want to inquire about what types of chai they have. Chai comes in two main varieties: “spicy” (not actually spicy) and sweeter than two old people holding hands. The “spicy” kind works better for Chaider’s purposes.
2. Cider with Tea
Another way to shake up hot apple cider is to steep various kinds of teas in it.
It’s a more subtle alteration compared to Chaider. You can use any kind of tea, though I’d recommend that you stick with those of the spiced and fruity variety. If you want a mulled cider effect, cinnamon tea is the way to go. Another popular type of tea that would be a divine addition to hot cider is spiced orange. This drink may or may not be caffeinated; it depends on which tea you choose.
How to Order: Simply order hot (not cold, the tea won’t steep nearly as well) apple cider and ask if you can have the tea of your choice steeped into it.
3. London Fog
A traditional London Fog is essentially extra foamy steamed milk with Earl Grey tea and vanilla.
It’s the kind of drink that makes you want to get all cozy and shit. If Earl Grey isn’t your jam, pick a different kind of tea and whatever flavor(s) you think would work best with your choice.
How to Order: It’s likely that baristas will know what a London Fog is, but if they don’t, just ask for a vanilla steamer with a bag of Earl Grey plunked into it. For best results, make sure that the tea steeps on its own in the water for a wee bit first before adding it to the steamed milk. Also, because Earl Grey already has vanilla, you’ll probably want to ask your barista to go easy on the vanilla flavor shots.
A Florentine is a twist on a Café Au Lait (half coffee, half plain, steamed milk) and a tasty, caffeinated alternative to hot chocolate.
A Florentine is simply ½ hot chocolate, 1/2 coffee. I’d recommend going with a medium roast for the coffee half of this concoction, unless your coffee shop carries any flavored roasts. Vanilla, hazelnut, or even coconut-flavored roasts would pair delightfully with hot chocolate.
How to Order: At the coffee shop where I work and at and several others that I’ve been to, Florentines are a regular menu item. If you don’t see it on the menu, merely request a cup that’s filled half with coffee and half with hot chocolate.
5. Maple Soy Cold Press
This drink is one of the most popular specialty drinks on the menu where I work because it’s fucking delectable.
Maple syrup offers a natural sweetness that works exquisitely with the rich flavor of cold pressed coffee. Because it’s so potent, only a little bit is needed. Maple is also hella festive for autumn.
Why soymilk? It’s a non-dairy alternative base that also pairs super well with cold press, better than dairy or almond milk in my opinion. Also worth noting, if you weren’t already aware—cold press is hardcore as fuck. One cup of it contains the caffeine equivalent of multiple cups of regular, hot brewed coffee. So, if you’re scouring this list for the drink that is the most likely to help you pull an all-nighter, here she is.
How to Order: The name of this drink is pretty self-explanatory. You could say Maple Soy Cold Press to a barista and they’ll have a pretty good idea of what to give you. The only ingredient that isn’t in the name is about ¼ of an inch of half and half. I don’t think that it’s a big deal because 1) It probably doesn’t make a colossal difference in the end and 2) You could just add it in yourself if the barista doesn’t.
6. Caramel Apple Italian/French Soda
I have to start this one with a disclaimer: This is the one drink on the list that you may not be able to order everywhere.
I’d say that I see Italian/French sodas, or some variation of them (usually things like “sparkling tea” or “spritzers”), on coffee shop menus about 60 percent of the time.
An Italian soda is carbonated water with your choice of flavored syrup. A French soda is the same thing, but with a little half and half mixed in and whipped cream on top. The Caramel Apple variation includes cold apple cider, cinnamon, and a little caramel syrup. This little ditty is caffeine free and surprisingly refreshing.
How to Order: If they have Italian/French sodas on the menu, just order that with caramel syrup and cinnamon, but make sure to specify that you’d like the liquid ratio of cider and fizzy water to be 1:1. If sodas aren’t an official menu item, just ask if they have carbonated water and proceed as usual with the other components.
7. Mexican Mocha
Although the name might not allude to autumn, this drink makes the list because of its festive spices and hearty, warming quality.
A Mexican mocha is constructed like a traditional mocha, except that it’s prepared with cream instead of the usual 2 percent milk. Added into the mixture are nutmeg, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. The result is a rich ambrosia that’s practically desert.
How to Order: Similarly to several other drinks on this list, a lot of baristas will know what a Mexican Mocha is. If they don’t, ask for a mocha breve with the spices added in and that should do it.