Best & Worst Festive Drinks


Written by Jack Sharp
19 Monday 19th December 2011

The first festive drink I try is J20’s Glitter Berry, which does pretty much what it says on the bottle. My initial reaction to the drink: “This can’t be good for you…” Worryingly, the drink has the texture of bubble bath, and contains little suspended bits of sparkly glitter. It takes me back to a traumatic childhood Christmas when I accidentally split open Stretch Armstrong’s arm and out oozed a substance very similar to J2O Glitter Berry—so I can see the Christmas connection.

Despite being quite young at the time, and against my best instincts, I refrained from tasting the goo that lived inside Stretch’s arm. I can’t say the same forJ2O Glitter Berry, however, which I consume with gusto only to worry about having done so later. But despite my concerns, I’m still alive and I have to admit that J20 Glitter Berry tastes surprisingly good, tasting much like a less sickly cherry brandy ice lolly. The downside: my eyes have now started to seep sparkly, cherry-flavoured tears.

To counter the feeling of drinking glitter, I decide to hit some major high street coffee retailers to sample some of their festive drinks. Any other time of the year, of course, these creamy non-drinks would have been marketed as an overindulgent competition, challenging brave consumers to gulp down drinks like “The Creamanator II: Judgement Drink” and “Quintuple Mocha Bypass” to win big cash prizes. Yet over Christmas these drinks are retitled and given much more pleasant names.

Starbucks arguably offer the most extravagant festive drinks, and even ask you if you would like some cream on top of your multiple layers of cream when you order. Having mistakenly answered “yes” to this question the previous year, I know better than to ruin a painfully decadent drink by pilling a small mountain of cream on top of it. While I’m generally impartial to their coffee, when disguised as a heart attack in a mug, Starbucks can, admittedly, make a pretty good drink.

Eggnog Latte

This year the coffee giants offer a Praline Mocha, a Gingerbread Latte and an Eggnog Latte, which for the first ten or so mouthfuls is like digesting liquid sunshine—although the remaining mouthfuls are like the crippling pain that you’d expect to come with digesting liquid sunshine. The Gingerbread Latte has a similar effect on the body, but by overloading your central nervous system with ungodly amounts of nutmeg. The Praline Mocha is perfectly rich, chocolatey and delicious, as long as it’s consumed in reasonably sized mug and not a “venti” bucket.

Café Nero offers similarly chocolaty winter-themed concoctions, advertising them as “a great start to the morning!” This, I have come to learn, is incorrect and should consumed during out of work hours to avoid worrying palpitations and late afternoon sugar crashes. While their chocolate dessert drinks, in large doses, could be administered as a pleasant form of euthanasia, their Amaretto Lattes are your best bet, and are easily one of the best wintery drinks on offer this year.

Costa, much like Café Nero, provide a good range of chocolaty festive drinks, including a particularly nice black forest hot chocolate. But my favourite wintery hot drink has to be AMT‘s Spiced Apple, a subtle, cinnamon flavoured hot apple drink. It's available all year round, but is particularly great for the winter months.

AMT’s spiced apple gets me in the mood for some cider, so I decide to try Magners’ variety of spiced cinders, which I wrongly presume are a range of light mulled ciders. In reality, this is range of winter-themed fizzy fruit ciders that will probably disappoint readers looking for pleasant, warming winter drinks. All of the flavours are quite sickly and intensely sweet, although certain flavours have their merits, in particularly their Spiced Apple & Honey Cider, which might go down well during a Christmas party. The Rhubarb flavour is perhaps the only one that should be avoided entirely, with its overpowering, almost earthy aftertaste.

After being recommended it by a friend, I’m interested to try Pimm’s No. 3 Winter Cup. Pimms isn’t a drink I’d generally associate with winter, but then again, nor is glitter berry. This Pimm's is brandy based, unlike the classic Pimm’s No.1, which is gin based. The bottle recommends mixing with hot apple juice, and adding pieces of orange and apple for the usual Pimm’s look.

The taste is sort of a strange cross between mulled cider and regular Pimms. It might be worth having if you need to whip up a bowl full of some sort of sophisticated looking wintery cocktail drink, but don't expect the Christmassy sweetness of hot spiced apple drinks; this one has a bit more of a citrus, brandy type edge.

Next up: Stone's Ginger Wine. There’s nothing new about this one, but this is a favourite of mine—a deliciously spicy, ultra Christmassy drink that warms you right up on a winter’s day. Do your throat a favour, though, and pour yourself a very small glass; it's definitely more for sipping than gulping.

Whittard’s Mulled Wine instant tea drink is excellent alcohol free mulled wine alternative that I’ve had before. It comes as a crystallised, sugary powder that you add to hot water for a delicious, wintery drink. The powder goes a long way and can be stored for a ridiculously long time.

Finally, I have a fairly recent favourite of mine: Serge Island's Egg Nog, which can be purchased from most super markets during the lead up to Christmas, and weirdly, all year round in the West Indian food section at Tescos. And to think, I’ve lived over 20 nogless years waiting for this product to come along. I definitely suggest warming this one up in a pan (or Microwave if you don’t own a pan) and adding some rum to really set this one off.

Any other Christmas drinks you think we should know about? Let us know in the comments.

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