With Christmas right around the corner, holiday-themed drinks are springing up everywhere. Typically, Starbucks and other large corporations gain the most clout for their Christmas drinks, when in reality many smaller businesses serve not only higher quality but more creative drinks. As someone who generally likes sticking to a few dependable drinks to wake me up in the morning, I figured I’d branch out and try some holiday drinks-- and with it, highlight smaller businesses that may be struggling during this time.
First, I decided to try Starbucks’ Peppermint Mocha Latte, as I’ve admittedly never been a follower of the Starbucks holiday drink trend. Usually, I stick to my iced latte, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to spice it up with yet another basic Starbucks drink. And to be honest, I found it to be a bit unspectacular for all the hype it gets. Sure, the chocolate flavor was good and the coffee was okay, but the mint was overpowering and the flavors clashed. You might be a fan if you’re big on Starbucks, but overall I found this drink to be lackluster- and so our quest for the perfect holiday drink continues. 5.5/10 on the Christmas cheer scale.
Next, I decided to make a stop at one of my regulars: Cafe De Leche in Highland Park, to get their Chai Horchata. And maybe I’m biased because I’ve been getting this drink at least once a week for years- but seriously, who doesn’t like a good chai latte with a twist? I had to get this one iced because Los Angeles hasn’t gotten the memo that it’s winter yet, but that didn’t take away from it: this drink still tastes like Christmas in a cup. Technically, it’s sold all year round, but the subtle spice of the cinnamon and nutmeg mixed with the creaminess of the horchata makes it impossible not to include this as a holiday drink. I had to take a point off for it being just a tad too sweet for my liking, but if you’re into sweet drinks this is the way to go. 8.5/10 on the Christmas cheer scale.
Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else: I’ve found it. Kumquat Coffee’s Minty Mochaccino is the perfect replacement for the Starbucks peppermint mocha-- and it comes with fun green whipped cream on top! Even as someone who isn’t the biggest fan of peppermint, I found this drink to be incredibly enjoyable. It’s mildly sweet, creamy, and rich. The soft mint flavor blends harmoniously with the coffee and chocolate-- this certainly proved to be a unique and high-quality version of a common holiday drink. 9/10 on the Christmas cheer scale.
Usually, Civil Coffee is a bright, elegant space full of people working and talking. Now, it’s quiet and significantly emptier, but it’s still as inviting as ever. Their cookie crumble latte emulates the warmth of the cafe perfectly-- and with it, makes the perfect holiday drink. It’s mildly sweet, creamy, and has a touch of spiciness. Essentially, it’s reminiscent of gingerbread, though it’s slightly more savory and the coffee stands out quite a bit. My only qualm is that the ginger cookie flavoring kept sinking to the bottom, so definitely stir this drink continuously if you want the flavor to be even throughout. 8.5/10 on the Christmas cheer scale.
Colombe Coffee is a sleek, modern cafe on the corner of Sunset and Hyperion Avenue in Silverlake. Their coffee is undoubtedly high quality and the mocha is definitely a good staple drink, but overall I found it to be a bit underwhelming. There was a little hint of cinnamon in the drink, which I found nice, but the chocolate flavor didn’t stand out as much as I would have liked it to. Overall, though, the drink was good quality and generally enjoyable-- if you’re looking for a basic drink with a touch of holiday flavor this is for you. 7.5/10 on the Christmas cheer scale.
As a kid, I drank Intelligentsia’s hot chocolate religiously. And though it could certainly be interpreted as a holiday drink itself, I’ve decided to move on to something a little more grown-up (and that satiates my near-constant need for caffeine): the Avena Latte. The flavors of cinnamon, ginger, orange, and vanilla seep delicately through the perfect blend of espresso and oat milk, transforming what would otherwise be a normal coffee into the taste of Christmas joy. The spiced syrup is just strong enough to complement the espresso without overpowering it. It’s not particularly sweet, but the added sweetness isn’t needed. Honestly, I’m not sure this drink could be any better-- and it emulates holiday spirit. If I had Michelin stars to give, this drink would win them all. 10/10 on the Christmas cheer scale.
I highly recommend buying from any of these cafes. Supporting smaller businesses is one of the best ways to keep communities afloat in these challenging times-- and it helps spread the feeling of giving and sharing this Christmas season.
Cafe de Leche: 5000 York Blvd, Highland Park, Los Angeles.
Kumquat Coffee Co.: 4936 York Blvd, Highland Park, Los Angeles
Civil Coffee: 5629 N Figueroa Street, Highland Park, Los Angeles
La Colombe Coffee Roasters: 3900 Sunset Blvd, Silverlake, Los Angeles
Intelligentsia Coffee: 3922 Sunset Blvd, Silverlake, Los Angeles