What’s the History of Pumpkin Spice?

Pumpkin spice latte
Photo by Heidi Kaden on Unsplash

It’s almost Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) season! While the drink has been around since 2003, it returned to Starbucks early this year. It became available on August 24th! So grab your PSL and learn about the history of pumpkin spice. You’re in for a ride!

Prior to the PSL, pumpkin spice referred to a blend of spices that were used to flavor pumpkin pie. The spice combines cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves. For a long time, it’s been part of the American baking tradition. Just think about pumpkin pie.

There are even two recipes for spice-filled “pompkin” pie in Amelia Simmons’ 1798 reprint of her cookbook American Cookery. One was made with nutmeg and ginger and the other was made with allspice and ginger. And in the 1930s, Thompson & Taylor Spice Co and McCormick & Company came out with Pumpkin Pie Spice.

The spice blend isn’t just for pies, clearly, it’s been added to lattes. But it’s not clear who came up with it. For Starbucks, the employee who brought the idea to the company is Peter Dukes, who was the director of espresso and whose team created other seasonal drinks.

When Starbucks started making the PSL, they used cinnamon and nutmeg, it wasn’t until 2015 they used real pumpkin. It’s now Starbucks’ most popular seasonal beverage ever and it’s become somewhat of a cultural icon. It’s led the way for other pumpkin spice products to become popular. We’re now seeing everything from pumpkin spice Cheerios to pumpkin spice mac and cheese.