YES! Weekly’s ten best holiday drinks
Green Bean; 341 S. Elm St.; 336.691.9990
I’ll admit to being pretty Scrooge-y when it comes to Christmas. I hate the maddening shopping crowds, credit-card debt and travel hassles the whole season entails. But I do love the holiday food and beverages. Especially the beverages. My first stop on this quest to find the best was the Green Bean, where a friendly barista made me a gingerbread latte, creamy and earthy with plenty of yuletide spices. As I sipped, I could actually feel the first twinges of holiday anticipation flutter in my shrunken, Grinchy heart.
Cookout; all over town
Eggnog is the kind of beverage that tends to provoke strong feelings. When I was in grad school, one of the doctoral students used to case area convenience stores, waiting for the first delivery of eggnog. When that day arrived, he would drink himself sick in an end-of-Prohibition style bender. I used to place my own feelings about the drink on the other end of the spectrum, but I have come around a bit, especially when the eggnog in question is incorporated in a milkshake or fancy coffee drink. The eggnog milkshakes at Cookout are a fine example, lovely enough to drink even in the dead of winter. Sadly (or not, depending on your preference) adding booze is not an option.
Starbucks; all over town
Starbucks usually rolls out its signature holiday drinks around the same time they unveil their red cups. I’ve never been a big fan of this chain purveyor of overpriced coffee, but I will admit they do a good mint mocha. A piece of advice: Greensboro is a town that loves its Starbucks, so be prepared for a wait unless you arrive at the crack of dawn.
Hot apple cider
Terra Blue; 518 S. Elm St.; 336.275.0653
This is the kind of yuletide beverage a body can feel good about drinking. Sure it’s loaded with sugar, but it’s also got vitamins, spices and is derived (presumably) from fruit. So, if you need a break from cream and/or alcohol-based drinks, nab yourself a steaming cup of cider and proceed to warm yourself.
Red Nose Ale
Natty Greene’s; 345 S. Elm St.; 336.274.1376
The tradition of brewing special beers for the holidays started with German monks hundreds of years ago. Natty Greene’s is continuing that tradition in Greensboro with their Red Nose Ale. It isn’t high-octane, as far as I can tell, just a craft beer brewed with a touch of holiday spices. Very tasty, and festive in more ways than one.
Churchill’s on Elm; 213 S. Elm St.; 336.275.6367
Churchill’s, my friends, is out of my league. After paying the five-dollar cover, I shelled out another $10.50 plus tip for the drink, a peppermint martini that was suggested by the bartender who was at a loss for seasonal drink options. It was delicious, but at more than $15, far too pricey for an already expensive season.
You’re more likely to find mulled wine dished out at holiday parties than at any of the local bars. It’s easy to make, simply heat the wine with lemons, oranges, cloves and cinnamon. Mulled wine is the perfect drink for beating back the winter cold, and it’s adjustable to taste. Some folks add sugar, water or citrus tea and top the whole thing off with a miniature candy cane.
This is the Swedish version of mulled wine, amped up with vodka or other spirits, which I like mostly because of its name – a word that rolls pleasingly off the epiglottis. Also, it sounds guaranteed to keep you warm. Don’t drink too much, though, or you might be glogging until well past noon the next day.
Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice
This one is stocked year-round at grocery stores and is a kid-friendly version of the bubbly their parents often imbibe on special occasions. Drinking sparkling grape juice still feels like celebration without the hassle of designating a driver.
Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps
This one is easy to make at home, with powdered hot cocoa mix or the real thing. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, a few chocolate shavings and one of those cute, tiny candy canes. It’s the perfect reward for braving all the holiday nonsense.