I won't lie—I like Pumpkin Spice Lattes just fine. Especially early in the season, when you can still get them iced, they're a nice reminder that fall is on the way, but you're not going to be stuck in your house quite yet. What I can't get on board with, though, are those syrupy, gloopy pumpkin spice "martinis" that you sometimes see on certain image-centric social media sites. There are so many drizzles of caramel and dollops of whipped cream that I can only imagine your glass ends up very, very sticky. And even more than that, I refuse to believe that they taste like anything other than sugar.
This drink is not that. Using the pumpkin shrub I made a few weeks ago, I combined it with vodka, ginger beer, and Cynar for a drink that's warm and spicy, but still light and 100% free of any drizzles or dollops.
So what exactly is Cynar? It's an amaro, or potable bitter, from Italy. Unlike the bitters you add to drinks, like Angostura, amari are meant to be consumed on their own or with other ingredients. (You definitely wouldn't want to drink straight Angostura.) They're typically a blend of anywhere up to a few dozen herbs and spices, and most of the recipes are carefully guarded secrets. The main ingredient in Cynar is artichoke, giving it a bitter vegetal quality that's rounded out by a pronounced carmel note, which worked perfectly with the fall flavors in my cocktail. Originally I had used Fernet Branca, another amaro, but found that it overwhelmed the shrub.
I think this would also be good using bourbon and a little lemon. Maybe it's time to do some experimenting...
Fill a tall glass with ice. Add in the pumpkin shrub and vodka, and top with ginger beer. Float the Cynar on top. Spear a few pumpkin seeds and set on the rim for garnish. (I found that the thin, flat ones were easiest to use.)