Tier Three: 37 percent HSBV, or the liquor of holiday spirits
Take a sip and feel the holiday spirit hit your bloodstream.
4. Eggnog Latte
That eggnog is a holiday drink, full of the holiday spirit, is an undeniable fact. Even hating eggnog is part of the holiday ritual of debating highly divisive food takes, like what is the best Christmas cookie and, you know what, let’s circle back, is eggnog a miracle or a crime, and does rum make a difference?
Yonder at Starbucks, they make eggnog lattes with “rich steamed eggnog” and a shot of espresso, dusted with nutmeg as is tradition. Points earned for not just developing an eggnog syrup and pumping a latte full of that. Points deducted for not featuring rum.
Eggnog may very well be the pumpkin spice latte of the holiday season, but whether you like it or not, a taste of the eggnog latte will fill you with the holiday spirit — even if that means the actually-awful feelings the season also brings.
3. Gingerbread Latte
This should not surprise you. Gingerbread is quite the holiday Thing, especially in that you only really ever think about gingerbread around the holidays. Unlike pralines, however, most people are very aware of gingerbread as a specifically December thing and prepare and/or anticipate the arrival of gingerbread-related food and drink products as you would eggnog and candy canes.
(Gingerbread also holds the unique distinction of arguably being more appealing as a flavor than something you consume in its primary form. Gingerbread houses usually go stale before you can eat them and gingerbread men are really not as common a cookie as you would think. Gingersnaps, however, are a conversation for another time.)
The gingerbread latte is lightly flavored with gingerbread spices and dusted with nutmeg. Truthfully, there’s not much more to say. The beverage’s strength of holiday spirit is in the name.
2a. Christmas Cookie Latte
Heck yeah, Christmas cookies. What makes the Starbucks Christmas Cookie Latte (tragically only available in Australia) so special, so full of the holiday spirit, is that Starbucks embraced the correct and most right Christmas cookie to build their drink around. I am speaking, of course, of the classic sugar cookie that forms the base of all the cookies that you decorate and is, when executed properly and not felled by gross icing or those questionable but somehow edible silver balls, simply the best.
The CCL, as it will no doubt be acronym-ed, is:
"Reminiscent of the tradition of home-baked Christmas goodies. It’s a buttery, creamy latte handcrafted with a smooth shortbread cookie flavoured sauce, our bold espresso and freshly steamed milk. We then finish it off with a crown of whipped cream, shortbread cookie drizzle and butter cookie crumbles."
Yes. This sounds amazing. Extra points for the shortbread and butter cookie influence, which do the important work of bolstering the “cookie” flavor without overpowering the drink with too much “sugar” flavor.
Additionally, it scores high in the creativity category, on account of not being gingerbread or eggnog — two flavors that will yes, mess you up with the holiday spirit but are also totally expected.
Extra points, too, for having Christmas in the name, no hedging here. Just all out. All festive, all the time, a straight shot of the holiday spirit to your soul.
2b. Christmas Tree Frappuccino
[Shortly after this article was published, Starbucks announced the limited time Christmas Tree Frappuccino. Based on its description (“Delicious mocha and peppermint are blended with milk and ice, topped with a festive tree made of matcha infused whipped cream, a caramel drizzle and candied cranberries finished off with a strawberry tree ‘topper’“), name and the fact the Christmas Cookie Latte is not available stateside, I’m arbitrarily and impulsively slotting it in here at No. 2.]
1a. Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
1b. Peppermint Mocha
Ah yes, the strongest, most holiday-spirit-heavy winter seasonal coffee-adjacent drink, the Peppermint Mocha and its perfected form, the Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha. The holiday classic, as Starbucks calls it, is made with espresso, steamed milk, sweet mocha sauce and peppermint-flavored syrup (“a lively peppermint zing”), topped with whipped cream and dark chocolate curls.
Peppermint brings the super undeniable holiday flavor that you need to really hit liquor-levels of HSBV. Peppermint is a top-tier holiday flavor, decidedly wintery, forever tied to the season, mostly on account of candy canes and the red-and-white color scheme. But it is also an uncontroversial flavor — it can make essentially anyone feel festive. Even if you don’t love candy canes, people rarely feel passionate, holiday-wrecking negativity toward peppermint.
Mostly, the taste of peppermint — especially when paired with chocolate as in the Peppermint Mocha — is a strong but measured signal that the holidays and all their adjacent treats are here.
And then, ooh, what if you made the mocha with white chocolate?
As previously argued, white chocolate is an elite holiday flavor, giving the Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha points, too, for leveraging an underutilized but nonetheless festive ingredient.
The Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha is truly the most holiday spirit you can get in a cup and the most festive you can feel from a Starbucks drink.