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Local Libations: Pumpkin Spiced Russian

2011 October 14

By Brianna Bain
Pete’s Autumn Fixer Upper mirroring qualities of honey, vanilla, smoke, and cinnamon cranked my memory reels back to seasonal holiday parties past. Fall brings with it not only cool, damp nights but excuses to drink eggnog, warm sweet spiced rum drinks and peppermint hot chocolate, libations I would not find myself making for myself or others at any other time of year.

Truthfully I am not a huge fan of creamy sweet drinks. While tasty, they tend to lead to some pretty painful next mornings. But after reading Pete’s post about combating oncoming seasonal illnesses, I couldn’t resist trying my hand at a spice infused, creamy, dreamy, filler upper, cold season cocktail. I’ll recommend to just have one! If you can…

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

I’m relaying the spice from Pete’s drink last week and selecting vodka as my poison. I’m aiming for a sort-of White Russian with autumnal flair that will put this drink into the seasonal category. Pete’s ginger beer sorcery nudged me to make my own spiced simple syrup rather than go looking for a sweet spiced liqueur to candy my  mix of vodka and cream, typical of a standard White Russian. For my ingredient list I took  guidance from some pumpkin pie spice that I had in the pantry. While my spice may seem a bit elaborate for pumpkin pie don’t let any lack of ingredients allow you to skip making your own, you can always use the most basic – cinnamon, ginger and clove and you will achieve similar results.

For my vodka choice I got my hands on an organic white corn vodka called Rain.  It is handmade from scratch in small batches at Buffalo Trace Distillery located in Franklin County, Kentucky USA. This organic vodka boasts some very interesting flavor and if you care to enjoy a vodka on the rocks with a squeeze of lime this would be a great vodka to do so with! The vodka undergoes an extensive 20-day production technique that includes cold-water sweet mash fermentation, seven distinct distillations and a polishing stage that adds pure limestone water. The Buffalo Trace website gives a very interesting taste profile, which I do find mostly true. I do have my thoughts on the power of suggestion with these descriptions though. “Smells of pear drop, moss and hay in the first sniffing; aeration allows the aroma to deepen, especially the appealing earthy moss/wet soil perfume. Palate entry is feather-light; at mid-palate there’s a firm but satiny taste of sweet grain. Aftertaste is grainy. Delicious and delicate.” Fancy huh… and like I said, mostly true. I almost felt bad covering up this unique tasting vodka with spices and cream. Oh well here it goes…

Spiced Simple Syrup

Prep Time: 20 minutes + cooling time

Yield: 1 3/4 cups


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups brown or turbinado sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 whole star anise pods
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. Strain syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof airtight container and discard spices.
  3. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pumpkin Spiced Russian

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Tools: short Collins glass, spoon

Yield: 1


  • 2 oz Rain Organic Vodka
  • 1 oz  Heavy cream
  • 1 oz Spiced Simple Syrup
  • Drizzle of Pumpkin Seed Oil


  1. Pour vodka and simple syrup into short cocktail glass. Stir.
  2. Add hand-full of crushed ice.
  3. Slowly pour in cream.
  4. Top with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil  and garnish with a cinnamon stirring stick.

Warning: This drink is dangerously good! You will want more than one…


Spiced Pumpkin RussianBrianna lives in sunny San Diego, California. When not making Local Libations or creating recipes for RecipeRealy she farms urban landscapes to support more localized food systems and restaurant supported agriculture.