The Real Pumpkin Spice Latte

An All Local Gourmet Take on the PSL

 Celebrating one year of rooftop gardening. (Photo by Jennifer Chase)

Celebrating one year of rooftop gardening. (Photo by Jennifer Chase)

By AJ Dronkers, photos by Jennifer Chase

It was only appropriate that the one year anniversary celebration of local urban gardening start-up, Up Top Acres, was held on a rooftop. We gathered on one of their newest rooftop gardens in Southeast DC with clear views of both the Nationals stadium and the National Monument. As we mixed and mingled on a gorgeous fall afternoon, we sampled a variety of things including Sangria by Jaleo, Right Proper Brewing Company beer and delicious paella made with a little help from Chef José Andrés himself. 

 Scallions and other fresh produce on the roof. (Photo b Jennifer Chase)

Scallions and other fresh produce on the roof. (Photo b Jennifer Chase)

One of our favorite discoveries is a pop-up coffee bar concept called, Nova Coffee Labs. I met the founders Alexander & Martha Gable who convinced me to try their spin on a PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) called "September Song". It puts a Starbucks PSL to shame and I couldn't resist asking if they would share the recipe with our readers. The following is a recipe directly from the Nova Coffee Labs team: 

 Nova Coffee Labs pop-up cart at the Up Top Acres event. (Photo by Jennifer Chase)

Nova Coffee Labs pop-up cart at the Up Top Acres event. (Photo by Jennifer Chase)

"September Song" is one of Marta and my favorite tunes, written by American jazz composer, Kurt Weill. It's been performed by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and even Willie Nelson, but our favorite is by "The Divine One" herself, Sarah Vaughn. 

The lyrics reflect the need to cozy up with a lovebird during this time of year. It describes how Septembers day's grow short and dwindle down to a precious few, with October's trees changing to colors of a sparking flame and finally how November becomes a waiting game for the depths of winter.

 Guests enjoying the "September Song". (Photo by Jennifer Chase)

Guests enjoying the "September Song". (Photo by Jennifer Chase)

The drink made us feel cozy and fiery at the same time, much like the song itself, but we also felt like the flavors of this drink reflected the seasonal and emotional stages that are reflected in the lyrics.

At the Uptop Acres event, we used organic pumpkins from "Mountain View Farms" out of Purcellville VA. The following recipe, we have repeated with various squash--kabocha, sunshine or acorn squash--and they all taste unique, totally worth the experimentation. With the exception of the spices, the recipe is a ratio of 1:1:1 - Sweetener : H20 : Roasted Winter Squash meat (of any variety). The syrup itself comes out like a delicious pumpkin butter, goes super well spread on toast, and mixed into cereal milk!!

 The September Song. (Photo by  Michelle Tran)

The September Song. (Photo by Michelle Tran)

September Song

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized, organic pumpkins from Mountain View Farms (Purcellville, VA)
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups demerara sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons microplaned fresh ginger
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks, about 2 inches long each.
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Secret ingredient: 1 tsp "Fiori di Sicilia," (Vanilla and citrus extract)

Instructions

Pumpkin Prep

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Slice pumpkins in half and scoop the seeds out
  3. Lay pumpkins flat-side down on a baking sheet, and add enough water to the pan to cover pumpkins by 1/2 inch. 
  4. Roast for 1 hr, then remove from oven, and allow to cool 
  5. Scoop out pumpkin flesh.
 The local pumpkin mixture is the key. (Photo by  Michelle Tran)

The local pumpkin mixture is the key. (Photo by Michelle Tran)

September Song Syrup Prep

  1. Add maple syrup, sugar, water, ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, and three cups pumpkin flesh to a pot, bring to a boil, then lower temp to simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Remove cinnamon sticks, and 4 of the black peppercorns from syrup, and puree in a blender.
  3. Add back to pot and simmer for another 15 min.

September Song

  1. Add a heaping tbs of September Song syrup to 8 oz cup.
  2. Pour a double shot of Stumptown Hair Bender espresso into the syrup and stir.
  3. Grate a dash of cinnamon into the espresso and syrup, before adding milk, so that it rises to the top with the milk foam.
  4. Steam and aerate 8 oz of milk, and pour into syrup and espresso slurry.
  5. Enjoy!