We’re calling it: 2019 is when we finally succumb to the power of the pumpkin spice.
Years of acid-tongued think pieces and smear campaigns directed at pumpkin spice everything have left haters fatigued or, even more dramatically, finally jumping on the bandwagon after all these years. I’m personally included in this latter category, having discovered that almost anything tastes better when sprinkled with a dusting of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. But even with my newfound respect for the spice blend, you won’t find me searching the black market for limited-edition Spam or waiting on a never-ending Starbucks line anytime soon. (Although you might find me lurking in its happy-go-lucky Facebook group dedicated to autumnal caffeine consumers.) Instead, I’ll be venturing to those New York cafés, bakeries, and dining gems that are making dishes and drinks specifically catered to our not-so-guilty-pleasure fall fix.
Butter & Smoke Cocktail at Sen Sakana
Who says pumpkin spice can’t grow up? Midtown’s Nikkei sensation is toying with the concept with a richly spiced concoction loaded with all of your favorite autumnal ingredients. Indulgence comes in the form of its homemade pumpkin butter (mixed with pumpkin puree, molasses-y brown sugar, lemon, pumpkin pie spices, and sweeteners like maple syrup and apple juice), and the name’s promised smokiness is found in a fat-washed, thyme-smoked bourbon. Lip-puckering hints of cranberry bitters and Gran Classico balance things out to make the dreamy fall sipper. 28 West 44th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), Midtown
Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll at Posh Pop Bakeshop
We don’t need buns of steel when we’ve got Posh Pop’s buns instead. The golden age of gluten-free baking is upon us, and this New Jersey–born bakery is leading the revolution. You’d never know its pastries are celiac-friendly considering how eye-catching they all look, but its seasonal cinnamon roll is as decadent as anything you’d find at a food court Cinnabon. It’s perfectly plump, swirled with all of the pumpkin spice you can handle and topped with a cream cheese and pumpkin spice glaze. 192 Bleecker Street (between MacDougal Street and Sixth Avenue), Greenwich Village
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Pumpkin Waffle at Ducks Eatery
This rustic East Village escape was most recently in the news for its smoked watermelon hams, but Ducks is beloved by locals for its out-of-the-box rendition on Southern cooking. To wit, one of its most popular brunch dishes is a gigantic pumpkin waffle lathered with pecan butter and praline syrup. Plop a buttermilk-fried duck leg on top for the most unconventional take on chicken and waffles you’ll have this season. 351 East 12th Street (between First and Second Avenues), East Village
Sweet Pumpkin Rice Drink at Tiny Pumpkin
What else would you expect from a place that has pumpkin in its name? The newish Flushing café has one of the widest variety of gourd-ly good offerings for the fall season, including smoothies (for the health nuts), shaved ice (for the exotically inclined noshers), and bite-size pastries (for anyone craving a pocket pumpkin). We’re most thirsty for its iced version of the subtly sweet shikhae, a traditional Korean punch blending barley, mashed pumpkin, and cooked rice bits. 216-21 Northern Boulevard, Flushing
Pumpkin Cannoli at Artuso Pastry
Yes, the pumpkin spice invasion has even hit the Italian heart of New York City. But since this is an Arthur Avenue pastry shop we’re talking about, it’s spinning the pumpkin craze in an ingenious way: by infusing its cannoli cream with it. The offering is only available at its cannoli bar, which means you can customize the rest of your handheld dolce any way you want, from shell and toppings to the drizzle that finishes it all off. 670 East 187th Street, Bronx
Post Road Pumpkin Ale at Brooklyn Brewery
If dad rock and sherpa jackets came in beer form, they’d taste a lot like this colonial-style pumpkin ale. The seasonal beer is brewed with a balance of barley malts, nutmeg, and heirloom pumpkins, creating a warm taste that goes down as smoothly as foliage falling from the trees. Drink enough and you might feel the urge to take off your sweater. 79 North 11th Street, Williamsburg
Pumpkin Tamal at Xixa
The Mexican spin-off of the supermeaty Traif has less carnivorous tendencies, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t decadent to the core. Consider the healthy-sounding corn and pumpkin tamal; instead of being formed into a husky cylinder, the dish is shaped as a flan, sprinkled with apple bits and bacon jam dollops, and placed in a pool of hearty poblano cream. 241 South 4th Street, Williamsburg
Pumpkin Draft Latte at La Colombe
This wouldn’t be a proper pumpkin spice list without an actual PSL, and this Philadelphia-bred chainlet makes one of the best. It’s just the right amount of everything you need to get you through the day (nutty espresso and frothed milk) combined with just enough pumpkin spices and sugar to call it a liquid dessert. Even better, it comes in a travel-size can, so you can drink it during your favorite autumnal activity: tailgating, commuting upstate, Oktoberfest pregaming, sweater shopping, anything! Various locations throughout Manhattan