Word on the street (by which we mean this article from the Chicago Tribune) is that you can get Starbucks’ notorious fall concoction, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, ahead of schedule if you have a secret password.
And that’s a perfectly fine thing to want. Go ahead. Order without shame. But you’re missing out if you let the PSL exist as your caffeinated holy grail: There are plenty of local options out there that can satisfy a sugary coffee craving, no whispered code required.
Caramelatte at the Coffee Studio
5628 N. Clark St., Andersonville, 773-271-7881
No cloyingly fake syrup here. The caramel and the whipped cream for the Coffee Studio’s indulgent sipper is made in-house, making it a treat worth savoring rather than chugging during your morning commute.
Gingersnap Trainwreck at Star Lounge
2521 W. Chicago Ave., West Town, 773-384-7827
You know there’s not any real pumpkin in the PSL, right? (Update: Starbucks changed the recipe in August 2015 to include real pumpkin.) Star Lounge’s latte with a hefty ginger and cayenne kick has the same dose of fall flavoring without the John Boehner-esque faux orange tint.
Nutella latte at Ipsento
2035 N. Western Ave., Bucktown, 773-904-8177
Swap out one overexposed flavor (pumpkin) for another (chocolate-hazelnut) and be happier for it. Not only is the flavor far richer, Ipsento’s environs are far cozier than a Starbucks could ever be.
Black Cat Milk Shake at Intelligentsia Logan Square
2642 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-945-1690
If you’re the type to get a couple pumps of pumpkin flavor in your Frappuccino, allow us to introduce you to the glory of Intelligentsia’s shake, available only at their Logan Square coffee bar. It’s a mix of their Black Cat espresso and sweet cream ice cream from Jeni’s, harnessing the buzz-inducing powers of sugar and caffeine in equal measure.
Iced coffee at La Colombe
955 W. Randolph St., West Loop, 312-733-0707; 1552 N. Damen Ave., Wicker Park, 872-829-3681
Because regardless of what the resurfacing of some sugar-and-cinnamon-addled drink tries to tell you, it’s still summer right now. And summer is for iced coffee. La Colombe’s brew happens to be exceptionally strong, enough to power you all the way through to the actual start of sweater weather.