November 29, 2011

Gingerbread Latte Syrup

I'm not a fan of Starbucks.  I didn't really like it when, living in the suburbs of Sacramento around the turn of the century (that's kind of a dramatic way to refer to 1999-2004), the only place to get a cup of coffee was Starbucks.  Sure, there were a couple of locally-owned places here and there, but if I remember correctly, on my 12-mile commute to work I passed five Starbucks. It was difficult to get past the idea that they might be squeezing out the little guy on purpose.

That said, I have some respect for their business model, that they've grown their business by making their customers feel welcome and at-home in their stores.  I'm sure there are plenty of small businesses (and churches) who have benefited from Starbucks allowing their owners (or pastors) to create a mini-office at a Starbucks table.  I also appreciated the news earlier this year that Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, refused to make any more political donations until lawmakers started working together to get things done (things besides bad-mouthing the the other party, I mean).

And I really like Starbucks' Gingerbread Latte. There's something about it that just makes me want to melt into the cup.  Other coffee houses' gingerbread lattes seem darker, maybe molasses-y, kind of cloying, but Starbucks' just seems like wintery-spice perfection.  At close to $5 each though, they aren't something I choose to afford more than once or twice a year.

But every year in October the craving hits, so this year (again) I googled "copycat Starbucks gingerbread latte recipes." I found one I like, but the site it came from seems a little sketchy, with weird pop-ups and stuff.  I think this syrup deserves it's own write up, so here it is.

This syrup is not perfect, but it's close.  It doesn't have the cloying molasses flavor of some store-bought gingerbread syrups.  Its flavor components are just ginger and cinnamon, nothing to get in the way or overpower the ginger.  Jason and I like it a lot.  We use about 3 tablespoons of syrup with 2 shots of espresso (or 6 ounces of strong coffee) and enough steamed milk to fill a 12-16 ounce cup.  To make it as close to a Starbucks Gingerbread Latte as possible, and if we're feeling indulgent, we top it with whipped cream and a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg.

(If you're craftier than me, you could put this syrup in a nice bottle, tie it with a pretty ribbon, somehow attach the Gingerbread Latte recipe on a piece of stationary, and give this as a holiday gift to a coffee-lover.)

Try it, let me know what you think, and if you've got a recipe that is closer to the genuine article, PLEASE share it in the comments.

Gingerbread Latte Syrup
Adapted from
Makes about 20 fluid ounces of syrup, enough for 10-20 lattes.

2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, ginger and cinnamon.  Bring to a boil. Stir.  Reduce heat and let simmer about 10 minutes. Then let the syrup cool a bit.  Stir in the vanilla.  The ground spices are too fine to strain out with my finest sieve, so I let them settle to the bottom of the pot before pouring the syrup into a clean bottle or jar.  Stop pouring as soon as the ground spices start flowing into your jar.  Sure, you'll waste some syrup, but I'd rather loose a few ounces than have gritty coffee.  Label and refrigerate.  (If I am in a hurry, I pour all of the syrup into a jar. By the time I am making my coffee the next morning, the dregs have settled to the bottom of the jar.  Without disrupting it too much I pour most of the syrup into a clean bottle leaving the dregs behind.)

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