How to make a pumpkin spice latte: the original version vs the all-in-one hack

Pumpkin spiced latte
Franco: 'The real secret to the drink’s success is in the spicing' - Andrew Crowley

In the realm of high-street seasonal coffee offerings, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) holds pole position. First introduced as a test drink to 100-odd stores in autumn 2003, the Starbucks creation – a blend of espresso, pumpkin spice sauce and frothed milk – was rolled out across the US and Canada a year later. It’s estimated that over 600 million PSLs have been sold by Starbucks since.

But while the arrival of the iconic drink (and the chain’s other new-season variants such as Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew), may be hotly anticipated each autumn, with the PSL costing on average over £3 for a regular cup, fans often opt to pick up supermarket versions instead or make the autumn favourite at home. The hashtag pumpkinspicelatte currently has over 393 million views on TikTok as coffee lovers share their homemade creations.

Pumpkin purée was only introduced to the original drink in 2015, when artificial flavours and colours were ousted, but the pumpkin itself is only a small addition, usually less than a tablespoon of purée in most PSL recipes. The real secret to the drink’s success is in the spicing – a warming blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves which, when lightly sweetened, hits the perfect “swicy” balance.

The Starbucks original

To recreate the Starbucks original, you’ll need to begin by crafting its signature pumpkin spice syrup. To make enough syrup for eight drinks (though you can halve the recipe), you need six cinnamon sticks which felt a little wasteful to me when surely a little ground cinnamon could do the job? After simmering the syrup for 20 minutes and making the coffee, you then need to steam and froth the milk separately before bringing the components together in a mug.

Scroll down for the full method


Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes




For the pumpkin spice syrup (makes enough for 8 drinks)

  • 300g (1½ cups) sugar

  • 360ml (1½ cups) water

  • 6 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 tsp ground cloves

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 4 tbsp canned pumpkin purée

To assemble the drink

  • 240ml (1 cup) whole milk

  • 30g (1oz) espresso

  • 3 tbsp pumpkin spice syrup

  • Squirty (aerosol whipped) cream, to serve

  • A pinch of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice


  1. To make the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the cinnamon sticks and ground spices, along with the pumpkin purée.

  2. Simmer for 20 minutes.

  3. Remove the pan from heat and immediately strain the syrup through a clean J-cloth. This will keep for a week in the fridge.

  4. To make the drink, brew the espresso.

  5. Then heat and froth the milk.

  6. Place the 3 tbsp pumpkin spice syrup into a mug, followed by the hot espresso. Stir.

  7. Fill the mug with the frothed milk until three quarters full.

  8. Top with squirty cream and sprinkle with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

The simplified saucepan version

For those of us who only fancy the occasional latte, don’t have a milk steamer or simply can’t be bothered to spend 20 minutes making a syrup, is there an easier way? I set about making a simplified saucepan version that took just a few minutes.

Unfortunately, pumpkin purée tends to come in a 400g tin so unless you have some leftover pumpkin flesh you can whizz up instead, or are drinking more than two lattes a day, you’ll need to decide what to do with the leftover purée; my solution is to freeze it in an ice-cube tray, then pop out a couple of blocks as needed.

Scroll down for the full method


Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes




  • 200ml whole milk

  • 50ml brewed espresso

  • 1 tbsp canned pumpkin purée

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • A large pinch each of ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, plus extra cinnamon to serve

  • Squirty (aerosol whipped) cream, to serve


  1. Mix the milk, espresso and pumpkin purée together in a saucepan.

  2. Add the brown sugar and spices.

  3. Heat gently; once steaming, whisk the mixture until frothy (ideally with a stick blender or milk frother which is quicker).

  4. Pour into a heatproof glass or mug.

  5. Top with a generous swirl of cream and a sprinkled pinch of ground cinnamon.

The verdict: which pumpkin spice latte is best?

While the Starbucks original version is silkier in texture and a little more deeply flavoured, some might find it far too sweet. And if you add less syrup, you lose the spice.

The all-in-one approach offers speed, ease of use and the ability to notch the spice and sugar ratio up and down, so it scores higher for flexibility.

However, why not create your own pumpkin spice syrup to your taste (mine would involve less sugar, more cinnamon and no clove), to create a little swicy pick-me-up whenever you fancy.

Have you had a go at making a pumpkin spice latte at home? Share your experience in the comments