How Pistachio Became the New Go-to Flavor

Once relegated to pastries and pastel-colored ice cream, the pistachio is now enjoying its time in the spotlight

If you visit a coffee shop right now, I almost guarantee there is a pistachio-flavored drink on the menu. 

That’s been the case at Starbucks for four years since launching the original pistachio latte in 2019. This winter, the global coffee chain’s seasonal menu features the return of the fan-favorite Pistachio Latte and the new Pistachio Cream Cold Brew.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The new handcrafted Starbucks Pistachio Cream Cold Brew features Starbucks Cold Brew sweetened with vanilla syrup and is topped with silky pistachio cream cold foam and salted brown-buttery sprinkles,” a news release said. “The Pistachio Cream Cold Brew builds on customers’ love of the Pistachio Latte and the popularity of cold coffee year-round.”

Rosalyn Batingan, a member of the Starbucks beverage team, wrote for the company that “pistachio is the perfect flavor to follow the holidays and carry us through the winter season”—and other brands seem to agree. From local coffee shops to flavor-makers to perfume companies, pistachio has morphed into the new go-to flavor.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’m delighted by the development. I tried the Starbucks drinks and enjoyed both; the nuttiness was there but it was subtle and there was no overt sweetness so anyone who is especially spooked of saccharine coffees need not be alarmed. The foam itself was nuanced but rich and I thought the more reserved flavors really elevated the drinks.

But my interest in the rise of pistachio is a little more personal, too. 

While to me, shelling pistachios always felt like a bit of a laborious process and so they were never my favorite snack—until we visited two pistachio groves near Almadagaro, New Mexico.

World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For whatever reason, in the United States, nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts seem to attract more attention than pistachios. To me, pistachios now hold the spotlight along with pecans. 

Lately, however, there seems to have been a shift. Never did I think to connect pistachio with winter— but as evidenced by the scads of companies now offering pistachio flavored and scented products, there seems to be a growing subsection of people doing just that. This caused me to ask: is pistachio the new, seasonal flavor of winter?

Pistachio grove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pistachio’s current ascendancy isn’t entirely unexpected, though; in 2015, Eater reported that Bartenders across the country are going nuts over pistachio cocktails

Sure, the almond sees tons of love in cocktails. With a distinctive sweetness, it’s immortalized in classics like the Mai Tai and Amaretto Sour. But, lately, the more subtle pistachio is inspiring bartenders from coast to coast. Drink makers are not only rimming glasses with crushed green nuts but creating syrups, foams, orgeat and even infusing whiskey, sherry, and brandy. 

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the time, multiple bars had begun incorporating pistachio flavor into their cocktails. At Gunshow in Atlanta, cocktail conductor Mercedes O’Brien turned her favorite pistachio strawberry pastry into a fun Boulevardier while Christiaan Rollich at AOC in Los Angeles uses pistachio syrup to provide the body and balance to the sour mix of absinthe, Green Chartreuse, and lime. NYC’s Booker and Dax created a frothy texture when shaken by bartender Dee Ann Quinones extracted the pistachio nut milk resulting in a creamy pistachio flavor and texture. Also in New York City, Mace’s Nico de Soto offers a cocktail with pistachio oil-washed vodka, espresso, and cardamom syrup to capture the flavors of Turkish coffee with baklava.

In the ensuing years, pistachio’s popularity has continued to grow. 

Eagle Ranch Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to Andrea Ramirez, the manager of consumer and customer market insight at Torani, since launching the brand’s pistachio syrup in April 2018 sales have grown by double digits every year. In general, pistachio benefits from its familiarity and affinity. It has wide consumer recognition (94 percent of consumers know it and 80 percent have tried it) and 68 percent like it or love it.

She described the flavor by saying that it has “an inherent familiarity.” 

“It’s the kind of flavor of pistachio you might find in a pistachio cream puff,” Ramirez said. “It’s got a hint of marzipan-like nuttiness and sweet fragrance that’s both novel and familiar. It’s a flavor that pairs very nicely with Chocolate and Caramel.”

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to Ramirez, pistachios have come a long way over the years. For a long time, they were only available in-shell and when they were served at restaurants, they were available in specific contexts like “baklava in a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean restaurant or maybe in the Spumoni ice cream or cannoli at an Italian restaurant.”

Now, though, we have mainstream access to pistachio as a flavor, primarily in drinks, Ramirez said. 

Pistachio products © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This point was echoed by Kristen Wemer, the chief technical officer at Flavorman—a food and beverage consultancy based in Louisville, Kentucky—who said that pistachio flavoring is “one of those flavors that’s new to specific categories but still familiar to the public’s palate…what’s exciting is using the flavor in new applications especially lattes and cocktails.” 

Colectivo Coffee Roasters—which has numerous locations in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago—is one of the companies applying pistachio flavor in this new format, specifically in their pistachio matcha latte. 

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

D.S. & Durga—a Brooklyn-based, husband-and-wife helmed company makes immersive fragrances. An Instagram post announcing the return says that the cult classic pistachio product is “back by popular demand” and “joining the line full time.”

As noted by the Pistachio perfume product page, the top notes are pistachio and cardamom, the heart notes are “more pistachio and roasted almond” while the base notes are “even more pistachio, patchouli, and vanilla creme.” Elsewhere on the page, the company notes “I think pistachio is an elegant nut. Also a fun nut! It’s around good climes and everyone seems to dig it. We made this on a whim; a fragrance with no story that just evokes the fun of pistachio (especially as a dessert flavor). It was a studio juice (limited edition of 100 bottles). People went nuts for the concept (pun somewhat intended) and we knew we had to add it to the line.” 

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The perfume is also getting some top-tier ratings and reviews on the Reddit page r/fragrance.

Clearly, what may have once been deemed a relatively quiet nut has clearly found its voice.  Perhaps, as Perfectly Daily Grind notes, pistachio milk (in the vein of almond or oat milk) might even be next on the horizon?

No matter what it is about pistachio that is causing people to now flock to it, it’s great to see a sudden resurgence of appreciation for the flavor which was once relegated to a nutty ice cream.

But now things have changed and I’m happy about that. 


Worth Pondering…

The pistachio: it’s just like our politics. When the two sides are divided, that’s when the nuts come out.

―Stephen Colbert

January 16: National Day Calendar + RVing with Rex 4th Birthday

There are over 1,500 national days. Don’t miss a single one. Celebrate every day!

Good morning. In addition to today being Monday, January 16, it’s also Martin Luther King, Jr Day which is a national holiday.

On the third Monday in January, Martin Luther King Jr Day honors the American clergyman, activist, Civil Rights Movement leader. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (January 15, 1929–April 4, 1968) is best known for his role in advancing civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience.

End of the day at Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many other things to celebrate today: International Hot and Spicy Food Day, National Fig Newton Day, National Religious Freedom Day, National without a Scalpal Day, and RVing with Rex’s fourth birthday.

No need to get me a present but I certainly wouldn’t mind if you told all your friends about the site.

>> Read Next: RVing with Rex: The New Generation of Vogel Talks RVing

None of these days or the similar ones you may see shared on social media throughout the year are actually national holidays. But they do provide a bit of good fun and levity which was part of Marlo Anderson’s goal when he started the National Day Calendar. Anderson’s initial blog quickly took off as he realized how much people loved the concept of national days and he has since expanded to a system where the public can suggest new days and a team then votes on what makes it onto the calendar.

There are over 1,500 national days. Don’t miss a single one. Celebrate Every Day with National Day Calendar.

Hatch chile pappers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

International Hot and Spicy Food Day

Each year on January 16th, International Hot and Spicy Food Day celebrate all the delicious hot and spicy foods around the world.

Most people know that chili peppers are one of the hottest foods on the planet. But did you know that the hottest chili pepper in the world is always changing? This is because chili peppers are constantly evolving. But how is the hottest chili pepper determined? Chili peppers contain capsaicinoids. This is the active compound in chili pepper that’s responsible for their spicy sensation. Capsaicinoids are measured by the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU).

>> Read Next: Light Your Fires on National Chili Day

Louisiana hot sauces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recently, the Carolina Reaper was named the hottest chili pepper. This super spicy chili pepper has a SHU of 2,200,000. This is 200 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper! Can you imagine popping a Carolina Reaper into your mouth? If that’s way too hot, here are some other chili peppers that are a little less spicy:

  • Trinidad Moruga Scorpion (2,009,231 SHU)
  • 7 Pot Douglah (1,853,936 SHU)
  • Naga Viper (1,349,000 SHU)
  • Ghost Pepper (1,041,427 SHU)
  • Red Savina Habanero (500,000 SHU)

By comparison, the SHU of a jalapeno pepper is only between 2,500 and 8,000.

Cajun cuisine at its finest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Fig Newton Day

National Fig Newton Day on January 16th annually recognizes a tasty pastry enjoyed across the country. 

A Nabisco’s trademarked version of the fig roll, Newtons are a pastry filled with fig paste. Fig Newtons have an unusual and characteristic shape that has been adopted by many competitors including generic fig bars.

Up until the 19th century, many physicians believed most illnesses were related to digestion problems. As a remedy, they recommended a daily intake of biscuits and fruit. Fig rolls served as an ideal solution to their advice which remained a locally produced handmade product. 

Work station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1891, Philadelphia baker and fig-lover Charles Roser invented and patented the machine which inserted fig paste into a thick pastry dough. The Cambridgeport, Massachusetts-based Kennedy Biscuit Company then purchased Roser’s recipe. They began mass production after purchasing the recipe. In 1891, they produced the first Fig Newtons baked at the F.A. Kennedy Steam Bakery. The company named the pastries after the town of Newton, Massachusetts.

After recently becoming associated, the Kennedy Biscuit Company and the New York Biscuit company merged to form Nabisco. The new company trademarked the fig rolls as Fig Newtons.

Observe National Fig Newton Day by enjoying a Fig Newton, fig roll, or making your own. People of all ages enjoy this tasty bar. It comes in various flavors but fig seems to be the most popular. Enjoy it with coffee, tea, or juice. 

National D-Day Memorial at Bedford, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Religious Freedom Day

Each year, National Religious Freedom Day commemorates the day the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was signed on January 16, 1786. Each year, by Presidential Proclamation, January 16th is declared Religious Freedom Day. 

The First Freedom Center in Richmond, Virginia, commemorates this day by holding an annual First Freedom Award banquet.

The statute guarantees the fundamental freedom to openly practice one’s faith without fear of being harassed, jailed, or killed. Additionally, under the statute, each person may freely change their religion without retribution. In the United States, people of different faiths have equal rights to practice their religion.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around the world, religious restrictions continue to rise. According to Pew research, legislation, attitudes, and policies are rising globally in the last decade. Even those countries usually considered restrictive are increasing their limitations. When looking at countries with the most equality, they too show a change in policies and attitudes toward religious freedom. Religious freedom is a global concern, not only a national one. 

While recognizing the U.S. commemoration, take a broader look. Learn more about religious freedom in the United States and around the world. 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National without a Scalpel Day

Each year on National without a Scalpel Day January 16th recognizes the opportunities to treat disease without a scalpel. On this day in 1964, pioneering physician Charles Dotter performed the first angioplasty. The ground-breaking procedure to open a blocked blood vessel took place in Portland, Oregon. Not only did the angioplasty allow the patient to avoid leg amputation surgery but she left the hospital days later with only a Band-Aid.

>> Read Next: Celebrating all things Pistachio on National Pistachio Day

Today, minimally invasive, image-guided procedures (MIIP) can treat a broad range of diseases throughout the body, in adults and children:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysms
  • Life-threatening bleeding
  • Infertility
  • Fibroids
  • Kidney stones
  • Back pain
  • Infections
  • Blocked blood vessels
World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even though trained specialists perform MIIP throughout the world, many people do not know about MIIP or if they could benefit from these life-changing treatments. The Interventional Initiative was established to raise awareness and educate the public about MIIP.

Worth Pondering…

I think people are looking for an excuse just to have some fun.

―Amy Monette

Celebrating all things Pistachio on National Pistachio Day

Celebrating Pistachios annually on February 26, known as National Pistachio Day and World Pistachio Day and loving them all year long

Hard to believe, but it wasn’t until 1976 that Americans harvested the first commercial crop of pistachios. They had been enjoying the nut since about the 1800s but it was not until the 1930s that the love for pistachios really took off. What may have made the little tree nut so admired, though, is the invention of pistachio ice cream in the 1940s by James W. Parkinson of Philadelphia.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

February 26th recognizes all things pistachio and National Pistachio Day is the day to celebrate! Pistachio lovers rejoice as they eat their favorite nut all day long. For those who do not eat pistachios, buy some and give them to someone who does. Crack them open and eat them up or enjoy them in ice cream or your favorite pistachio dessert!

The pistachio probably originated in Central Asia where large stands of wild trees are found in areas known today as Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan. Evidence indicates that the fruits of the tree have been eaten for over 8,000 years. The first commercial plantings in these countries were most likely started from seeds collected from the best wild trees. Legend has it that for the promise of good fortune lovers met beneath the trees to hear the pistachios crack open on moonlit nights. 

Eagle Ranch Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanks to their high nutritional value and long storage life, pistachios were an indispensable form of sustenance among early explorers and traders including travelers across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West. In the first century A.D., Emperor Vitellius introduced Rome to the pistachio. Apicius, Rome’s Julia Child of the time, included pistachios in his classical cookbook.

Related Article: World’s Largest Pistachio Nut

The scientific name for pistachio is Pistacia vera L. It is a member of the Anacardiaceae family which contains such widely known plants as cashew, mango, sumach, and poison ivy.

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pistachio trees grow in dry climates and can reach up to 39 feet in height. In the spring, the trees develop grape-like clusters of green-colored fruits, known as drupes, which gradually harden and turn red.

Within the fruit is a green and purple seed which is the edible part of the fruit. As the fruits ripen, the shell hardens and splits open with a pop exposing the seed within. The fruits are picked, hulled, dried, and often roasted before being sold.

Because pistachios are the seed of a drupe, they are not a true botanical nut. In fact, they’re the edible seed of the pistachio tree fruit. However, in the culinary world pistachios are treated as nuts and they’re also classified as a tree nut allergen.

Eagle Ranch Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is a deciduous tree requiring approximately 1,000 hours of temperature at or below 45 degrees in order to grow normally after its winter dormancy. Pistachio trees are generally suited for areas where summers are long, hot, and dry and the winters are moderately cold. A native desert tree, it does not tolerate high humidity in the growing season.

The pistachio nut is one of the most popular tree nuts in the world and is valued globally for its nutritional value, health, and sensory attributes, and economic importance.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pistachio nuts are relatively low in sugar (approximately 10 percent) and high in protein (20 percent) and oil (50 percent) contents. The oil is 90 percent unsaturated fatty acids, 70 percent of which is oleic acid and 20 percent the more desirable linoleic acid.

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A large percentage of pistachios are marketed in the shell for eating-out-of-the-hand snack food. Pistachios are a rich source of essential nutrients, fiber, and protein. Low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free, increasing numbers of people are discovering how enjoyable this delicious nut can be.

Related: 12 Must-See Roadside Attractions for the Perfect Road Trip

Although the pistachio was first introduced into California by the US Department of Agriculture about 1904, little interest was generated until the 1950s. Since that time pistachios have become a significant farm commodity in California.

World’s Largest Pistachio at McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plantings have also been made in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in those areas that meet the climate criteria. The tree flourishes and bears well in well-drained soils but its root system will not tolerate prolonged wet conditions. It seems more tolerant to alkaline and saline conditions than most other commercial trees. The vigor and productive life of the tree are extremely long-lasting. In the mid-East, there are trees on record of having productivity of several hundred years.

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usual commercial plantings are approximately 120 trees per acre. The trees begin to produce nuts in the fourth or fifth year after planting with good production taking 8 to 10 years and full bearing maturity occurring after 15 to 20 years. The average yield per tree is one-half pound the fifth year increasing to 20 pounds at maturity.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pistachios have always been on the pricier end of the nut scale costing three or four times as much as other nuts. Generally eaten roasted and salted as a dessert nut, the pistachio is often used in cooking as a garnish or decoration in sweet and savory dishes.

China is the top pistachio consumer worldwide with annual consumption of 80,000 tons while the United States consumes 45,000 tons. Russia follows with consumption of 15,000 tons followed by India at 10,000 tons.

Related: Wake Up In New Mexico

Pistachios ripen in late summer or early fall growing so energetically that the kernel splits the shell. These trees are wind-pollinated which means one male tree can produce enough pollen for 25 nut-bearing female trees. Female trees produce their first nuts at age five and can bear fruit for up to 200 years.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Pistachio Day activities

1. Be a “pistachi”-oholic for the day

Try and go nuts today by incorporating pistachios into every meal. These versatile nuts have a powerful flavor that can elevate a sweet or savory dish throughout your day. Start off with a stack of pistachio pancakes, ease into lunch with pistachio, pomegranate, and arugula salad, then enjoy pistachio encrusted salmon for dinner, and top it all off with some pistachio gelato.

Eagle Ranch Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Give the gift of good health

Think of ways to food swap some of your not-so-good snacks with pistachios and introduce your friends to these green goodies too. They’re healthy, delicious, and by wrestling them from their shells, they help down your food intake (Ever heard of the Pistachio Effect?). Pistachios might be the golden (green) ticket to helping you and your friends keep those new year diet resolutions.

World’s Largest Pistachio at McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Eat your heart out

These green nuts will make your heart smile too. Heart-healthy monounsaturated fat makes up the majority of the fat in pistachios, so they decrease bad cholesterol and even lower your risk of heart disease. There’s no better way to celebrate than getting your snack on, guilt-free. Grab a handful (or two) and go nuts!

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fun Facts

What’s in a name?

That which we call pistachio is known as the “smiling nut” in Iran and the “happy nut” in China. They’re also known as the “green almond.” Where’s the green come from? Pistachios are the “colorful” nut, owing to their green and purple hue to antioxidants.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chock full of nutrition

Pistachios are a good source of protein, fiber, magnesium, thiamin, and phosphorus. They’re an excellent source of vitamin B6, copper, and manganese.

McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Surprise relationships

Among its “kissing cousins”: pistachios are related to the mango and the spice sumac.

A queen-sized craving

Perhaps the original royal nut, the Queen of Sheba loved pistachios. In fact, she demanded that the entire region’s pistachio harvest be set aside for her.

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here’s to your heart

Scientific evidence suggests that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Read Next: Light Your Fires on National Chili Day

Worth Pondering…

The pistachio: it’s just like our politics. When the two sides are divided, that’s when the nuts come out.

―Stephen Colbert