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Pumpkin Spice's Fascinating History And Its Modern Appeal, Explained

pumpkin spice featured

Fall is here and so is the food trend that resonates loudly with it - pumpkin spice. While many believe that pumpkin spice came into being due to a ubiquitous coffee shop offering Pumpkin Spiced Latte, its origin is hundreds of years old! Let's travel down the history lane and discover the intriguing history of pumpkin spice.

What is Pumpkin Spice?

Pumpkin spice is a combination of warm spices that Western countries look forward to having during the fall, a season when the temperature gets colder, nights get darker and the colour of leaves changes. The spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and ginger and they originated from various places across the world. They are used to flavour the winter squash pumpkin. Today, the spice combination varies regionally and different packaged ones have different proportions of the spices

The History Of Pumpkin Spice

The origin of this unique spice mixture goes back to the times of the Dutch East India Company. The original pumpkin spice composition had cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. These were first found in Southeast Asia, namely in a few island groups as well as ancient pottery shards in Indonesia. Archaeologists have even found ancient nutmeg residue on ceramic pottery shards found in Spice Islands (Pulau Ay, one of the Banda Islands in Indonesia) and are estimated to be 3,500 years old.

The Dutch took control of the islands, and gradually the local spices started influencing their flavour palates. The Dutch crafted a blend named Speculaaskruiden, which is similar to the pumpkin spice but has cardamom and white pepper. But this blend became popular across Europe with the Netherlands creating new desserts using it.

pumpkin pie

The original pumpkin spice recipe was recorded in 1675 in Britain. It was then called 'pumpion pye'. It consisted of pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. With the popularity of this spice in Britain and pumpkin, the winter squash gaining traction in America gave birth to the pumpkin pie spice.

Since then pumpkin spice has long been associated with America for baking. There are two recipes for spice-filled "pompkin" pie in Amelia Simmons' 1798 reprint of her cookbook American Cookery. The first recipe uses the blend made with nutmeg and ginger and the second, allspice and ginger. Centuries followed, and in the 1930s, there came spice manufacturing companies like Thompson & Taylor Spice Co and McCormick & Company. They brought forth a pre-blended pumpkin pie spice mix. Thompson & Taylor's version which was released in 1933  included nine spices. In the present, McCormick's blend, which was originally launched in 1934, includes four spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. In the 20th century, the spice was used to make desserts like pumpkin bars, cakes, muffins, and cookies.

Modern Popularity

pumpkin spiced latte

A Starbucks employee named Peter Dukes is credited with coming up with the idea of adding pumpkin spice to lattes. The company started offering the Pumpkin Spiced Latte in 2015. Since then the drink has become a seasonal sensation. (On a side note, Starbucks was going to name the drink Fall Harvest Latte) In no time, the pumpkin spice found its way in modern cocktails as well. Not just drinks, pumpkin-spiced versions of everything from hummus to hard seltzer, marshmallows to mac and cheese have become a rage.

With the fall dawning on us and Halloween coming close, it's a great idea to try some pumpkin-infused drinks. However, it is important to drink alcohol in moderation. Make sure to serve and drink responsibly. If you know anyone who finds it difficult to limit alcohol consumption, refer the person to a professional immediately.

pumpkin cocktails in martini glasses

Now that you have a whole lot of information on pumpkin spice, go ahead and try some of our pumpkin cocktail recipes. Have a sugary and spicy Halloween!