So I came across a fabulous video and recipe by coffee expert and master barista James Hoffman for a homemade pumpkin pie spice syrup and since I unashamedly stand with Team Pumpkin Pie Spice in the the brutal Seasonal Culture Wars, I had to try it. Of course for me, trying it means tweaking it a bit. Mostly I just adjusted the spice ratios and water amounts. This stuff blew my mind and I wanted to share the results with you.

Below you’ll find my altered recipe for this amazing syrup as well as some dosing directions for use in a latte. I also encourage you to check out Mr. Hoffman’s original recipe here. You may like his proportions better than mine

Be sure to read through to the end. I’m including my own recipe for a pumpkin pie spice eggnog cocktail as a bonus.

Onward to the recipes.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Syrup

Ingredients:

1 Whole Pumpkin (about the size of a cantaloupe)
3 tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
0.5 tsp Ground Cloves
1 tsp Ground Allspice
2 tbsp Ground Ginger
4 cups Demerara or Raw Sugar
3 cups Water

Step 1: Juice the pumpkin if you have a juicer. Add enough water to get to 4 cups if you do. Otherwise, skin it, cut it into smallish pieces, put it in a blender and add enough water to just cover the chunks. Blend until smooth.

Step 2: Strain the blended pumpkin through a cheese cloth, nutmilk bag, or fine wire strainer. This should yield about 4cups of juice. Measure to be sure how much you have.

Step 3: Add the juice to a wide sauce pan (more surface area means more evaporation) and switch on the heat.

Step 4: Add the sugar. This should be equal to the amount of juice you had. ie 4 cups of juice =4 cups of sugar. Stir until fully dissolved.

Step 5: Grind and add the spices. Pre-ground is fine but fresh will shine through in the syrup much more.

Step 6: Stir and continue to heat until boiling then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

Step 7: Let cool then strain through cheesecloth, nutmilk bag, or fine metal strainer into your favorite container. I used an old rye whiskey bottle.

That’s it!

This is just a syrup so feel free to use this in or on anything. Pancakes, ice cream, tea, whatever.  

For a large latte like you’d get at a Starbucks, I find that about 1oz of this syrup works best. It provides enough flavor to stand out without being too sweet. Your milage may vary. Use that amount as a baseline and experiment.

Now on to the NOG!

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Eggnog

I love eggnog and I prefer it with raw egg. If you aren’t up for it, I get it. Plenty of tutorials online for cooked eggnog variations. Or leave out the egg for a thinner but still tasty drink.

Ingredients:

2oz Brandy, Bourbon, or Dark Rum (Kraken or Gosling’s would be perfect)
5oz whole milk
1 whole egg
1.5-2oz Pumpkin Pie Spice Syrup
Freshly Grated Nutmeg (If you’re fancy)

Step 1: Pour all ingredients save for the nutmeg into a shaker with NO ICE. This is called a dry shake it’s vital for the consistency of eggnog. Shake 100-150ish times. That should get it nice and frothy and velvety.

Step 2: Add ice to the shaker and shake until chilled.

Step 3: Add fresh ice to a tumbler and strain the nog over the ice.

Step 4: Grate a little fresh nutmeg over the top and serve.

Be sure to try a few of these and adjust the amount of syrup you’re using until you find your (literal) sweet spot.

Enjoy!

October was one hell of a month. We successfully moved into a new apartment and checked out of our old one, which in Switzerland is a tense situation. Amongst all the sweat, and fatigue came joy and excitement. RADIO was chosen as a 2020 Self Published Fantasy Blog Off semi-finalist.

While I didn’t make the finals, I’m ecstatic to have my weird tale of opium, jazz, and mind control receive this level or recognition and praise. I’m truly honored and grateful. The judges over at the Fantasy Inn took on an epic task and I thank them for their hard work and time spent. It must have been stressful.

And speaking of stress,I’ve come to learn that the universe has decided that any big event in the life of RADIO must come with a heaping spoonful of stress. Gather ’round and hear the tale of how a calendar year viciously messed with a poor, innocent author.

RADIO was launched this spring and in true 2020 fashion, it’s been dealt some challenges. First, as I was preparing the book to launch, beginning to organize launch events and readings, and researching possible cons to attend, the pandemic set in, throwing all of that out the window. As many other authors who were forced to debut during a global pandemic will tell you, this was definitely stressful. However, one set back does not a trend make.

Fast forward to April and the day RADIO launched. I’d been both prepping for launch and working with Google to sort out some Google Drive issues I was having and all this culminated in discovering, on launch day, that I’d managed to accidentally delete 10+ years of Goggle Docs and Sheets. All of it, gone including most of my writing research. Let’s just say that there was a lot less celebrating that evening than I would have hoped. Luckily, I was able to to get them all back over the next few weeks.

Fast forward again to the launch of the paperback version of RADIO. Time to celebrate? Nah, time to learn that Amazon won’t ship author copies to Switzerland due to customs issues and that Ingram Spark has screwed up a ton of my distribution. A few months go by and it all eventually gets sorted.

Fast forward finally to the end of October where I’m simultaneously moving apartments, trying desperately to navigate shipping, the pandemic, and language barriers to get some stuff for the new place, worrying about how the check out process for our old apartment will go (the Swiss have been known to actually take out white gloves to check for cleanliness) and, on top of it all, stressing about where RADIO will end up in SPFBO. At this point, I can plainly see a clear trend. I’m assuming you can too. The part of that trend I keep reminding myself about is that it always works out in the end.

Did it?

Today, everything is peachy. I’m thrilled with my outcome in the competition, our new place is fantastic, and I have some exciting plans for promotion and interaction coming up. I’m feeling really good about the future of RADIO and my writing.

I just hope the stress+big event combination ends along with this god-forsaken year.

When the virus lets up and it’s safe to do so, I’ll be scheduling those book launch events that I’d planned. I hope to meet a lot of new faces and new readers when that time comes.

Music and Mind Control Fill the Air

While the mind control that permeates the airwaves of RADIO’s Paris may be a fantasy, the music is just fantastic and very much real. This playlist is almost entirely filled with music that rang through the streets of 1928’s Paris. There are a few songs that while a bit anachronistic, still inspired the world I created. I recommend listening with shuffle turned on. Enjoy!

Jazz in Paris

The story of jazz in Paris is the story of racism and prohibition in the United States. Jazz first took hold in Paris during and after WWI as members of segregated US military forces including the legendary Haarlem Hellfighters, were heartily welcomed by the war-weary french, a reception they could never find back in the states. These servicemen brought more than freedom for the french, they brought jazz. The most important figure in the earliest days of Parisian jazz was American military jazz band leader, James Reese Europe, whose band played in the streets of Paris, introducing the music to everyone within earshot.

Paris brought a level of freedom to these servicemen as well. While any claim that Paris was free of racisim in the 1920’s or today is absurd, the particular brand of racism was very different from what African Americans faced back home. Many musicians decided to stay rather than return to the harsher realities of the United States and the roots they put down in Paris were also the roots of jazz in the city. This created a growing ecosystem for more American jazz musicians to join.

Prohibition also played a major role in driving musicians to Europe and Paris. Live music and drinking establishments go hand in hand. With the prohibition of alcohol, many musicians found themselves working either illegal bootlegging jobs to make ends meet or working in illegal speakeasies in order to continue working as musicians. In Paris, where drinks poured freely and affordably, and jazz was picking up steam as a major musical force, it only made sense to make the trip across the Atlantic.

Del, the Guitar, and the 1920s

Del Chambers, who finds himself sharing his opium-addicted body with a god in RADIO, had one passion in life, the guitar. His role as a guitar player in a 1920s jazz band was a fairly new occurrence. In early jazz, the banjo was the stringed king of the rhythm section. The 1920s saw an innovation in guitar design and popularity. Luthiers, most notably Lloyd Loar at Gibson, were creating arched topped guitars which were louder and more projecting than their smaller, flat-topped counterparts. Because of this, guitar spent the decade climbing to prominence in the jazz world. However, it was still strictly a rhythm instrument. In his quest to expand what the guitar can do, Del took inspiration from blues musicians such as Lonnie Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Then, in the mid 1920’s, one jazz guitarist’s style changed how the guitar could be used in a band setting. These innovations sent he and his instrument on a meteoric rise to popularity. This was Del’s idol, the first true jazz guitar solo artist, Eddy Lang.

Eddie Lang

Eddie Lang was born Salvatore Massaro in Philadelphia in 1902. He first brought the guitar to prominence in the jazz world as a rhythm instrument in the early 1920’s but solidified his claim as the father of jazz guitar through his virtuosic solo playing from the mid 20s to the early 30s.
When people think of the original jazz guitar greats, they think of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. While these two exceptional talents are easily the most popular early jazz guitarists, Christian was only a child and Reinhardt, an up and coming musician while Eddie Lang was in his prime.
To see his revolutionary skills on display, check out songs like Wild CatApril KissesEddie’s Twister, and more in the playlist above.
Sadly, Eddie Lang died during a routine tonsillectomy in 1933 at the age of thirty.