Once the holiday that signaled the end of summer laziness and the beginning of back-to-school madness, Labor Day weekend has become synonymous with the return of pumpkin spice season. It’s that wonderful time of year when you just want to get cozy, and everything tastes like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. It all started with the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, which was introduced in 2008 as a temporary seasonal drink, and soon cultivated an almost cult-like following: an army of apple orchard-Instagramming, latte-sipping, North-Face-wearing enthusiasts.
In recent years, companies like Nabisco, Kellogg’s, and Entenmann’s have caught on to the power of the pumpkin, and started pumping out their own pumpkin-spice-flavored products (many of which don’t actually have pumpkin in them at all). We’ve rounded up the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you don’t have to stand in your grocery aisle, staring in consternation at the endless autumn-themed options.
We found that pumpkin spice pairs best with sweet products and desserts. Chocolate and cinnamon-nutmeg, for example, go together like an autumnal peanut butter and jelly. Our runner-up for best pumpkin spice product is Hershey’s Kisses; the sweet white chocolate paired with a pumpkin-like filling makes for a great indulgence (and an amazing trick-or-treat handout).
But then there are the wacky and not-so-wonderful products that missed the mark, which should have skipped pumpkin spice season altogether, like most savory and salty treats. Our runner-up for the worst pumpkin spice product is Maine Root Pumpkin Pie Soda. The result of this unholy combination is way too sweet, and we think root beer is best left alone without any crazy flavorings.
Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale
Nothing complements good beer better than a hearty (but not over-the-top) dash of nutmeg and cloves-seasoning. We suggest starting with Jack’s from Anheuser-Busch, but then heading over to more a more complex (and less sweet) seasonal beer like Dogfish Head.
Rumors abound that Oreo’s newest crazy and wacky flavor will be pumpkin spice. We can’t confirm for sure that this cookie will be a thing, but you should definitely be on the lookout. The Oreo cookie cream could definitely stand up to the comforting flavor of pumpkin spice and we can’t wait for an official announcement.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi