The Search for the Perfect Holiday Drink Can Lead to Sugary Heaven—or Hell squib

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This weekend, millions of Americans will be traveling by air, rail, and road. At some point—for a treat, to counter exhaustion, to soothe frayed nerves, or just to have a minute to yourself—the desire for something hot and comforting in a cup may be strong, and as it’s the holidays maybe you will also have the desire to try one of the many-worded, holiday-specific concoctions at the nearest Starbucks, Dunkin’, McDonald’s, and Peet’s Coffee.

With this in mind, my colleague Alaina Demopoulos and I spent an afternoon visiting branches of all the above in New York City to taste-test their holiday drinks. The winners, losers, and the meh are below. Obviously, every drink experience is different. Maybe we struck it lucky with some drinks and unlucky with others in the moment we ordered and drank them, and maybe you will experience them differently. We gave them scores based on sugar hit, holiday vibe, and after effects.

Some pro-tips we can share: if you have the time, let the drink last. We found the drinks tasted very different as they transitioned from hot to tepid to cooler. Also, whipped cream is your friend. Sure, eat a little neat to enjoy at the beginning of your drink, then let the rest melt to make your drink thicker and more luxe. Do not assume most expensive is best: one of our favorite drinks was the cheapest of the day. Oh, and if you drink as many of these things as we did, have an Advil or two to hand. Tim Teeman

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