I take my coffee very seriously. I prefer a real mug over paper “to-go” cups. Smaller mugs, with a petite handle that snugly fits my pointer and middle finger please when I’m drinking my normal cup of Joe (black, two sugars). Those mugs where you can barely slip one finger in—what are those all about? Does anyone find them comfortable?

If I’m having a cafe au lait, then I’ll reach for a big, deep mug—my favorite one is missing the handle, which means I can wrap my hands around it. I always close my eyes, and take a deep inhale above my coffee before the first sip of the day. I let the hot steam rush over my face, and the smoky, toffee scent envelope my senses. I wait until I drop the kids at school to have my first cup, so nothing can disturb that moment. See, coffee is a habit not because of the caffeine (I usually drink decaf, in fact). I simply love the taste of it, and the ritual of making it, whether I’m in a French press mood or go with my stovetop percolator. I don’t own a coffeemaker, and man did that drive M nuts when I got rid of it.

A few years ago, I fell for the temptation of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte while on my way to visit my best friend up in Westchester. I should mention that I don’t generally see the point in sweet coffee drinks. As my friend Sarah often says, I’d rather eat my calories. I was craving coffee and a dessert, though, and after one sip, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I hit the test kitchen to make it myself.

I used pumpkin purée on my first try back then. It was great, but I soon went back to my black with two sugars coffee-drinking ways. A few weeks ago, I was in a pumpkin testing kind of mood—not surprisingly since it’s ’tis the season. I thought about that pumpkin spice latter again, and decided to reconnect with an old craving. Instead of using straight-up pumpkin purée like last time, I made a homemade pumpkin syrup. My hope was to keep the pumpkin’s earthy flavor, but temper it a bit. The resulting syrup is a jack of all trades. It can be used as a coffee flavoring, a topping for pancakes or ice cream sundaes, and livens up hot cocoa (recipe coming soon!).

Music Pairing: When You’re Gone by The Cranberries

This recipe is now part of my new site, Simmering. It can be found by searching the archives here.