Falling leaves are as ubiquitous this time of year as the famous pumpkin spice latte (PSL).
The drink rose to fame in 2004 when Starbucks released its incarnation of the latte in cafes across the country. National news outlets report its annual release date and social media users mourn the day Starbucks stops offering it (usually sometime during the winter holidays).
But these days, you can get your pumpkin spice fix at more than just the renowned coffee chain.
The Daily Gazette stopped into eight independent, locally owned coffee joints and sampled each shop’s PSL.
It was impossible to rank them because each varied greatly in terms of taste and presentation. Instead, we put together a list of what made each sip-worthy:
Most Pumpkin Packed
Ambition Coffee & Eatery
154 N. Jay Street, Schenectady
Under the unassuming foam cap lies a pumpkin-forward, nutmeg-laced sip of autumn. The pumpkin flavor tastes real, no wannabe, sugary squirt of syrup here. The spice follows on for what feels like a more natural take on the fall latte.
Most Palatable for Hardcore Coffee Drinkers
3 Hampstead Place #104b, Saratoga Springs
Take your #psl-hater to Uptown Cafe for a cup of conversion. Subtle but real pumpkin flavor is uncluttered by excessive sweetness or over-the-top spice. The coffee lends light chocolate notes that pair well with the pumpkin, creating a harmonious cup of seasonal goodness.
Most Like Pumpkin Pie
46 Marion Ave, Saratoga Springs
Ditch the fork and sip pumpkin pie flavors from a cup. Neither cinnamon nor nutmeg dominate the spice blend here. Rather a spectrum of spice including a whisper of star anise makes you want to say, “Pass the whipped cream.”
Best Starbucks Copycat
100 Milton Ave., Ballston Spa
Find the flavor of the big chain at a local cafe. A little pumpkin, a little spice, and a whole lot of friendliness and charm come with this PSL. It’s a familiar sip served in a funky space. Grab one on your way to work and satisfy your craving while you shop local.
Vischer Ferry General Store
357 Riverview Rd, Rexford
Of all the local pumpkin spice latte iterations, this one had the warmest flavor. Its subtle hints of cinnamon, pumpkin flavor and what we thought might be a hint of ginger, make for a drink that warms you from start to finish.
Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls
Caffeinated creativity through at Spot, when the barista handed over perhaps the most Instagram-able pumpkin spice latte. The foam took the shape of a picturesque leaf. As far as flavor goes, it was on the sweeter side, with muted tones of pumpkin and cinnamon. If there was a coffee art museum, a work made by the baristas would no doubt be on display.
The Happy Cappuccino
185 Jay Street, Schenectady
It's easy to fall in love with the luxurious richness of this one. The creamy taste leaves you feeling like you got to indulge in a Thanksgiving-worthy dessert, even when you’re really only drinking your afternoon pick-me-up. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but well worth the splurge.
Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, and Albany
This local chain has Uncommonly accommodating service, especially when it comes to dietary restrictions. The barista kindly asked this reporter (turned PSL taste-tester) about milk preferences, which could have switched up with little no drama. The steaming-hot and cinnamon-packed drink was ready in less than five minutes.