Just say no: the best alternatives to pumpkin-flavoured drinks

Why there are options for pumpkin spice spirits when finding Calvados at the LCBO is the equivalent of a major treasure hunt?


While our American pals are dressing up as creepy clowns and chasing each other with machetes to distract themselves from the far more terrifying possibility that Donald Trump could become their next president, I’m out here grappling with my own autumnal demons.

At the top of my seasonal shit list is the annual pumpkin spice epidemic. 

As if the pre-Thanksgiving onslaught of pumpkin everything – from ravioli and cupcakes to lip gloss and lattes – weren’t soul-shattering enough, a 50-second skim of the liquor store further stokes my rage. 

Why there are options for pumpkin spice spirits when finding Calvados at the LCBO is the equivalent of a major treasure hunt? Who out there is loading 10 different pumpkin beers into their cart and planning to get turnt up on gourd juice all weekend? 

I have a heightened distaste for pumpkins, I admit – their slimy, rank innards and the inane hype really turn me off. How has a dull, pulpy squash dolled up with a dollar-store spice mix become the flavour experience of the season when autumn has so much more to offer?

So this fall, if someone hands you a shot of pumpkin whisky in the two painful weeks that remain until Halloween, just moonwalk away in the direction of these classier and more cerebral options. 

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CIDRERIE ST-NICOLAS GLACE DU VERGER ICED ORCHARD CIDER

(Vintages 465856, 375 ml/$19.95)

Pressed from naturally frozen apples, this delectable, unctuous cider from Quebec will satisfy your sweet tooth and make your tongue shiver with acidity. An appley and affordable alternative to Sauterne, it goes well with snacks like blue cheese. For optimal enjoyment, avoid pumpkin spiced everything for at least one month before and after consumption. 

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WILLIAMS & HUMBERT WALNUT BROWN MEDIUM SWEET SHERRY

(Vintages 437467, 750 ml/$13.95)

You know what’s far more delicious and way less basic than simulated cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger/allspice flavouring? Sherry. Brimming with figs, dates, raisins, nuts and tangy spices, this is like a flavour vacation to a Moroccan bazaar.

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CHARTREUSE V.E.P. GREEN LIQUEUR

(Vintages 393934, 500 mL/$93.95)

For diehards Chartreuse is not a drink that hinges on the seasons, but its obscure herbal kiss-bite happens to pair perfectly with mid-October’s crispness. A leap above the standard green expression, V.E.P.’s extra oak aging makes it rounder and even more complex. 

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AMAGER LAWRENCE OF ARABICA COFFEE ORANGE PORTER

(LCBO 460956, 500 ml/$6.30)

This coffee-driven Danish stout is robust enough to justify vetoing pumpkin spice scones in favour of a heartier liquid breakfast. 

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BEAU’S OKTOBERFEST MIXED PACK

(LCBO 460485, 4 x 600 ml/$26)

Filled with ginger, medieval-inspired spice and everything nice, Beau’s seasonal four-pack includes a ginger-tinged version of their delicious Wag The Wolf hopfenweisse and Return Of The Mumme, a medieval-era throwback brew flavoured with clover blossom, dandelion root and black tea. 


WHAT I’M DRINKING TONIGHT


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Craigellachie 13 Year Old 

Everything about this Speyside whisky – the charming Victorian-style label, the distillery’s stubborn use of retro distillation methods – bellows old school. Part of John Dewar & Sons Ltd. Last Great Malts of Scotland collection, this freshman Craigellachie expression is 

unapologetically wise beyond its years – herbal and fiery, fruity with a smack of smoke and trademark sulphurous wisps. If you happen to spot a 17- or 19-year-old out in the wild, consider treating yourself to a dram. 

Price $79.95/750 ml

Availability LCBO 400069

drinks@nowtoronto.com | @S_Parns

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