If you’re feeling cold this holiday season, grab a hot speciality drink to warm up. We explore five area coffee shops and some of their signature holiday drinks.
The holiday season usually makes you think about peppermint candy canes, warm, roasted chestnuts or the aroma of baked gingerbread cookies.
These scents and flavors inspire coffee shops in our region to make creative, unique specialty drinks that taste delicious while keeping you warm.
From peppermint flavors that taste like candy cane goodness to comforting gingerbread varieties, there are plenty of flavors to put you in the holiday spirit.
So, grab a fluffy blanket and a good book and relax in front of the fireplace with these delicious drinks.
Higher Grounds, 1709 S. West Ave., Freeport
The specialty drinks at this popular coffee shop are full of holiday cheer.
“Some of the ideas are mine and we get some from the staff or even customers,” says Cynthia Faulkner, owner of Higher Grounds.
One of those unique drinks is the Run, Run, Rudolph White Mocha, which is made with Ghirardelli white chocolate, cherry and almond flavors, espresso and milk. A portion of the proceeds from this specialty drink are donated to a local food pantry.
The Minted Mocha is made how you want it. Choose from white or dark Ghirardelli chocolate, then choose either peppermint or Crème de Menthe to top your drink.
Gingerbread lovers should try Grandma’s Cookie Latte, which comes with Ghirardelli caramel sauce, gingerbread, French vanilla, espresso and milk. It’s also topped with whipped cream.
Other holiday drinks include the Maple Crunch Mocha, with English toffee and maple flavors, Toasty Christmas, with maple and hazelnut flavor, and a Candied Hazelnut Latte, with English toffee and hazelnut.
For non-coffee lovers, try the Jingle Bell Chai, a steamed chai tea latte with French vanilla and cinnamon.
A “Happy Holidays” fruit smoothie is also available, which has crushed wild cherry and cranberry.
“We will have Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree,” Faulkner adds. “We will also have our fireplace going to give off a nice, cozy atmosphere.”
Meg’s Daily Grind, 1141 N. Alpine Road, Rockford
This family-owned coffee chop is loaded with holiday drink favorites that can be purchased anytime of year.
“You can get them whenever, but we start talking about them around Thanksgiving,” says co-owner Leslie Erickson.
One of the unique holiday drinks on this menu is the Snowball, which is flavored with white chocolate, coconut and marshmallow.
If you’re into something minty, the Candy Cane has white chocolate and peppermint flavors, and if you need an eggnog fix, try the Mistletoe Latte, which is flavored with eggnog.
The coffee shop also has a “25 days of Christmas” happening this holiday season. Each day features some sort of special, such as discounts, coffee tastings and drink specials.
“Last year, we did the 12 days of Christmas,” Erickson says. “It was successful and people seemed to like it.”
Things are a little bit busier in the coffee shop during the holiday season, but it’s also a festive time of year.
“There’s a lot of coming and going, but this place will be decorated so you’ll be able to get in the festive mood,” Erickson says. “Things in here will be happy, merry and bright.”
Wired Café, 414 E. State St., Rockford
At some coffee shops, the pumpkin flavors disappear long before Santa comes to town. But, at Wired Café, you can enjoy those classic flavors all throughout the holiday season.
“We have our own version of a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and that’s available all winter,” says Shanna Hill, manager at Wired Café.
The holiday favorites you’ve known to love are also available, including peppermint mochas and hot chocolate.
Wired Café also serves a Gingerbread Latte, another popular beverage.
“We try to fit the different holiday flavors into our drinks, like peppermint and gingerbread,” Hill says. “People are asking for these drinks at this time of year.”
There are also baked goods to compliment the drinks. Among other things, Wired Café has pumpkin pie and pecan bars – a special twist on traditional pumpkin and pecan pies.
“The holidays are a busy and festive time of year and everyone is in a good mood,” Hill says. “People get excited and they’re using food to get into the holiday spirit. In addition to drinks, people also use food to trigger holiday memories.”
Katie’s Cup, 502 7th St., Rockford
Since two holiday drinks were so popular last year at Katie’s Cup, the coffee shop is bringing them back this year, along with a few new beverages.
The Gingerbread Latte and the Praline Pie Chai are making a comeback.
They’ll be joined on the drink menu with the Jingle Bell Latte, a White Peppermint Mocha that tastes like a candy cane; a Salted Caramel Mocha; a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Latte; and a Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate. There are no marshmallows in the hot chocolate, but the flavors are there.
“Those will be the wintertime drinks that we’ll have, which will last until the beginning of spring,” says Kevin Spaw, manager.
One thing that the staff at Katie’s Cup enjoys doing is trying new things.
“The fun part about the changing seasons is we get to make new drinks and figure out what works,” Spaw says. “We all work together on it and we throw around ideas. Every season, we try to make a couple new drinks and bring back the most popular ones from the season before. We’re also open for suggestions.”
Once you get your drink, you can cozy up near the fireplace and read a good book from the coffee shop’s library.
“We usually also have a Christmas tree with presents and Christmas decorations,” Spaw says.
Capital House, 308 W. State St., Rockford
In the near future, Ted Brothers, an experienced chef from Boston, will open Capital House, a new high-end coffee shop and bistro.
Brothers describes Capital House as a hybrid restaurant – meaning multiple menus work together. There’s coffee available all day, a sushi bar during lunch and dinner, entrées that consist primarily of fish options, and a martini and wine bar that opens in the afternoon.
Some of the coffee options include cappuccino, white mocha, regular mocha and a Milky Way drink.
Other hot drink options include a Chai Tea Latte, loose leaf tea, hot chocolate and hot apple cider.
Capital House will also have the perfect desserts to pair with your coffee selections, such as a blueberry tart with sweet cream ice cream and graham cracker streusel, an apple tart, and various muffins, pastries and cookies.