Non-Alcoholic Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Rum Fizz
Plus movie and music pairings, meditations on autumn and capital-d-Death, and a lowkey bonus recipe.
Hello and welcome to the first ever issue of 5PM Eternal, which is a day later than I intended, so belated Happy Autumn Equinox!
I had planned to finish writing and then proofreading this when I got home from DJing last night, but when I accidentally fed the dog’s food to the cats, I realized I was perhaps not in the most detail oriented frame of mind and that it would be better to wait until the morning to complete this.
Since this is the first issue of 5PM Eternal, let me introduce myself: I’m Suzan. I’m a professional DJ, a writer focused on non-alcoholic beverages, a freelance audio editor, and sometimes I work on political campaigns. I have been sober for nine and a half years, and have always been interested in any and everything that combines flavors and scents, particularly cooking and perfume, which led me to diving head first into making non-alcoholic craft cocktails during quarantine. I have a podcast called Screen Test of Time, where I watch and review every movie ever nominated for Best Picture with one of my two best friends. My other best friend writes a very good newsletter which is also on Substack, and you should check it out. For those who care about these things, I’m a Sagittarius Sun, Taurus Rising, and Aquarius Moon.
There. Now you know me.
As for this newsletter, each week I’ll send out a recipe, a review, or something related to non-alcoholic drinks, a discussion of what inspired me to develop that particular drink or write that particular review, and throw in some thematically connected recommendations for movies, music, activities, etc. Not sure which day of the week, but you’ll definitely get it weekly. There will probably be typos. It will probably be weird.
I absolutely understand if all you want to do is read the recipe, so scroll down until you see the obvious list of ingredients!
In this issue:
• RECIPE: Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Fizz
• How do we define pumpkin season during global warming?
• The kind of weird multi-use ingredient every dry bar needs
• Autumn aesthetics as an attempt to make Death friendly
• My favorite fall movie and album
Alright, let’s do this!
The Inspiration for Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Rum Fizz: a sugary $3 coffee drink, global warming, and reclaiming seasonal identifiers
On August 16th, the Dunkin’ Donuts Instagram account posted a photo of a well populated beach, an airplane flying over the ocean, trailing a banner that reads, “IT’S PUMPKIN SEASON WHEN DUNKIN’ SAYS IT IS.”
Two days later, on August 18th, with New York City temperatures topping out at 81º, Dunkin’ released their selection of fall drinks and donuts. This was almost certainly nothing more than brazen capitalist swagger as they got the jump on Starbucks, their pumpkin spice competitors, but to me it read as commentary on the harrowing reality that catastrophic climate collapse has made designating seasons by calendar dates or seasonal temperature changes impossible and honestly rather absurd. (Yes, I do have a tendency to find completely unintended meaning in things, why do you ask?)
Living in the American South for the first 23 years of my life, to me fall was a season of a few days— a cold snap, the trees dumping their leaves, and then a grey and dry winter. When I first moved to New York for graduate school in 2005, I was amazed at the length of autumn, an actual! whole! season! when sweaters worn without coats and blazers and turtlenecks were seasonally appropriate for whole months. Sadly, every year that I have been here, the New York summers have expanded further and further into the days that should be fall, like so many Duane Reades taking over the weird clothing boutique you loved or that cheap udon place that gave the city character. True fall weather now starts in November, and for the last five years, New York City has met the winter temperature requirements for a subtropical climate (we’ve met the summer requirements since 1927). Yesterday was the official “First Day of Fall” and it was 80º outside.
Much as I love all things pumpkin, spiced, and autumnal, I swore I would resist Dunkin’s declaration of pumpkin season until the temperature dropped to 70º or below. I lasted an entire week.
On August 25th, on an afternoon when it was 90º and I was feeling nebulously grumpy, I tried the new Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, and it was so delicious it turned my entire day around. A few years ago, I found it ludicrous that iced pumpkin spice coffee existed at all. Now I know that at a time when we can no longer depend on red and yellow leaves swirled by occasional gusts of wind just crisp enough to justify a sweater to usher in Autumn, we can and must find new sensory inputs to do it for us. I realize that I sound as ridiculous as Werner Herzog calling the Baby Yoda puppet “heart-breakingly beautiful”, but in much the same way what ceases to be hyperbolic once you’ve actually watched it in action on The Mandalorian, the Dunkin’ Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, despite being loaded with high fructose corn-syrup and having a not-unpleasant but decidedly plasticine pumpkin flavor that leaves an oily film in your mouth, is a masterpiece.
I immediately wanted to make a zero-proof cocktail inspired by it, with an equally gravity defying head of foam, but a bit more sophisticated flavor for enjoying at happy hour.
In the realm of cocktails, the drink that had the right shape is the Ramos Gin Fizz, thanks to the protein in egg whites mixed with the stabilizing effects of sugar in simple syrup and acid in lemon juice, all fluffed up with air bubbles from a good shake. The original drink was supposed to be shaken for a completely unnecessary 12 minutes, and the Imperial Cabinet Saloon where it was created had multiple “shaker boys” on staff every night to make the drink. I’m pretty sure that this is a bunch of apocryphal bullshit, and the 12 minute shake was just a cover for why it took awhile to get a drink at a popular and backed up bar. You only need 30 seconds of firm shaking with ice to fully chill and aerate a cocktail; after that you’re just doing a Shake Weight workout.
I knew from making a bunch of booze-free whiskey sours when I was tasting brands of non-alcoholic whiskey for Food52 that alcohol wasn’t necessary for the necessary reactions that result in that egg white head, but in my first attempts making the drink it turned out that sugar alone wasn’t enough of a stabilizer; I needed an acid to really get that cumulus cloud effect. While pumpkin and coffee are technically acidic, they’re just not acidic enough. Citrus juices weren’t an option, because lemon and lime would just clash with everything else in the drink, and orange would work with the spices but would dominate the flavor profile.
Enter one of my favorite ingredients, and one that you are going to have to order online, but is indispensable once you have it in your dry bar: acid phosphate.
It tastes like almost nothing. It adds tartness without adding flavor. It’s cheap, you’ll never use very much of it at once time, and it lasts forever. In addition to its use in cocktails, a few dashes will add back the tannic dryness to a glass of de-alcoholized wine. This stuff is magic, and I am forever trying to find new uses for it, because I want everyone to buy it so that The Extinct Chemical Company doesn’t stop making it for retail purchase. So, yes, you have to buy a weird chemical online and wait to arrive before you can make this drink, but it’s well worth the wait because the drink just doesn’t work without it— I’m sorry.
With this recipe, if I mention a particular brand for an ingredient, please use it— especially the specific brand of non-alcoholic rum. This drink took me 3 weeks to develop in part because I tried multiple brands and types of non-alcoholic spirits, and this one absolutely requires Ritual Zero Proof Rum Alternative for the correct balance of spice, cream, rum, and coffee flavors. There are other demerara syrups out there, but the addition of gum acacia that gives Liber & Co. Demerara Syrup such a rich, silky texture helps to pull all of the ingredients together. For the pumpkin puree, make sure to use organic, as it tends to have a higher water content than conventional canned pumpkin. Use good quality, fresh spices— not just the ones that have been sitting in your cabinet since the last pumpkin pie you baked three Thanksgivings ago. I used Burlap and Barrel spices I ordered for just this purpose, and I can wildly recommend them. Feel free to use store-bought cold-brew concentrate to save time, or if you don’t have a kitchen scale, but the remade stuff tends to be super expensive compared to making it at home, especially for something for which the only ingredients are ground coffee, water, and time.
Before I launch into the recipe for the Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Rum Fizz, I want to confess a measure of guilt that this is the very first one I am giving to you, my premier readers. Many of you have been DMing me for months asking for drink recipes, and when I finally share one, it’s the most complicated one I’ve ever made. So I’m offering you a bonus recipe this newsletter, if you want something a little less labor and ingredient intensive. It’s 3 ingredients, uses the same rum alternative, and you should be able to find the other two ingredients at the grocery store.
RECIPE: Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Rum Fizz
Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
25 grams of coarsely ground coffee (I use Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, but the type is not critical)
225 ml water
Spiced Pumpkin Cream
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup canned organic pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
8 cloves, crushed
Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Rum Fizz
2 ounces Ritual Zero Proof Rum Alternative
1 ounce cold brew concentrate
1 fresh egg white
3/4 ounces Liber & Company Demerara Syrup
2 tablespoons spiced pumpkin cream
Make the cold brew concentrate:
Pour the ground coffee into a new tea bag or a cotton strainer bag. (I love these and they are machine washable!)
Place the bag in a lidded jar and cover with the water.
Screw the lid on and leave the mixture to brew for 24 hours at room temperature.
Remove the bag from the jar and put the cold brew concentrate in the fridge to chill.
Make the spiced pumpkin cream:
Whisk together all ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until cream just begins to bubble at the edges.
Remove from heat and steep, covered, for 1 hour.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a separate container. Cover and chill until very, very cold. (I let it chill overnight.)
Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or whisk, if you’re looking for a good workout, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Mix up the Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Rum Fizz:
Combine Rum alternative, cold brew concentrate, egg white, acid phosphate, and demerara syrup in a cocktail shaker.
Dry shake (without ice) for 5-10 seconds.
Add ice to cocktail shaker and shake until well chilled, ~30 seconds.
Strain into a collins or fizz glass— really swirl and angle the shaker several times to get as much of the egg white foam out as possible.
Using a bar spoon or other long handled spoon, gently stir the spiced pumpkin cream into the drink.
Slowly top with seltzer until the head rises just above the glass.
Serve or drink immediately, and toast decorative gourd season!
Invite some vaccinated friends to watch The Seventh Seal
I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately (NO, WAIT, STAY WITH ME), which probably isn’t surprising, given the last 18 months and that my sun sign is in the 8th House, which rules death as well as sex, the occult, and… taxes??? One of these things is certainly not like the other…
Similarly, autumn is a strange combination of conflicting symbols and occurrences. It is the season of bounty, of the harvest, of plump, jolly pumpkins, of squashes wide hipped and pregnant with seeds, of apples, pears, and grapes bursting with fresh juice, of skies so bright and high and blue that tossing around words like “azure” and “cerulean” is neither pretentious nor even forgivably poetic: it’s simply more accurate. But dying is inherent in the harvest: the leaves on fruit trees and grape vines turn the colors of fire and blood before dropping to the ground; corn stalks and pumpkin vines whither and die once harvested; the blue of the sky deepens to indigo earlier and earlier each evening, and darkness holds out longer each morning.
It’s no surprise, then, that the symbols of autumn are so often about making Death, in its personified form, someone we feel comfortable inviting to the table, since they are going to be there whether we invite them or not. (Note: I’m not sure of Death’s pronouns. In the Western European, English and Germanic language speaking countries who have produced most of the literature I’ve consumed in my life, Death is usually portrayed as male, but in many, many cultures Death is portrayed as female, and I have a special place in my heart for Neil Gaiman’s version, who appears as an adorable goth girl somewhere between the ages of 18 and 23. Unless I’m referring to a specific version of Death, I’m going to use “they/them” to be safe. After all, I really, really don’t want to accidentally misgender and insult Death.) From dancing skeletons printed on flirty mini dresses to sugar skull succulent planters sold at Trader Joe’s to the entire Halloween aisle of your local Target, bringing Death into our home as a playful friend has become entirely mainstream.
Recently, my best friend said that the vibe of The Seventh Seal is “Death is just a little guy who is your friend,” which she called a joke, but which is, to me, the best kind of art criticism, because it made me look at a piece of work I’ve loved for decades from an entirely new angle (and so succinctly!).
For those who haven’t seen it, The Seventh Seal is the story of a medieval knight and his squire returning from the Crusades, tired and disillusioned, to a kingdom riddle with plague. In the very first scene, Death stands on the shore to greet the knight, Antonius Block, played by a young Max Sydow, who looks not unlike a beautiful death’s head himself, with his conspicuous cheekbones and deep set eyes. When Block asks if the black cloaked specter has come for him, Death confirms that he has with the reply, “I have been at your side for a long time.” The crusader asks Death to wait a moment, and Death, tells him they all say that and that there is no reprieve, but he still seems amused. He smiles, and it isn’t altogether frightening. When Block asks Death to join him in a game of chess, and to let him live as long as their match continues, Death agrees.
In an interview in 2003, writer and director (and absolute fucking legend) Ingmar Bergman said of The Seventh Seal, “I wrote this film to conjure up my fear of dying. Death was therefore to have a lead role and play a part right from the beginning,” which is a strange thing to say for two reasons: one, if you’ve ever seen any of Bergman’s other work, the idea that the director’s fear of dying needed any conjuring is frankly hilarious; and two, that he considers Death, the character is a lead role in the film. While we know that Death follows Block throughout the film, he does so largely unseen. Death is visible in a few brief scenes. He has very few lines.
But what Bergman got right, and what Helena so astutely pointed out, is that the director made Death a character. He’s world-weary (who wouldn’t be?) but he’s darkly funny. He’s resourceful. He plays pranks. He takes pleasure in his work, but he’ll set aside what he has to do in order to play a game. Death is playful. Death is not a silent, oppressive, incomprehensible and ultimately meaningless force, but, well, a little guy who is your friend.
I rewatched The Seventh Seal after Helena’s joke, and it absolutely confirms the futility of befriending Death— SPOILER ALERT: he takes Block and most of his companions in the end— but also makes a case for the necessity of befriending Death. If Bergman was conjuring up his own fear of dying, what he made was a film that allows its audience to wonder at how we will face Death when they come for us, and to believe, at least for a moment, that we will do so with grace. Every silly, singing and dancing skeleton is a way for us make the acquaintance of the unknown; to play with Death and make them our friend.
Drink while listening to Spokes by Plaid
This is the perfect autumn album— it is beautiful but unsettling, synth sounds borrowed from horror movies but sliding and jangling in unexpected major keys, music boxes opened in an abandoned house in a fairytale wood, chimes and bells dropped from great heights that just miss bloody impact with your skull to clang at your feet. Every year when the weather hits 68º and clear, I put it on and listen to it non-stop until the sky turns grey and I can’t leave the house without gloves. Throw back a Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew Rum Fizz or two, put this in your headphones, and go crunch some some dry leaves under your boots.
The BONUS Recipe!
A Dark and Stormy Ritual
2 ounces Ritual Zero Proof Rum Alternative
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 small (200 ml) bottle of Fever-Tree Ginger Beer
Put ice in glass.
Put everything else over the ice.
And that’s it! Please feel free to leave comments or tell me what you liked or didn’t like or what you’d like to see in the future. Thanks for reading and subscribing!