Sick of bitching that it's cold when it drops below 70? Stuck without a family to celebrate Christmas with this year? Feeling as if you are, indeed, the only one not getting a New Year's kiss? For all these L.A. winter complaints and more, there sits bliss by way of the coffee bean.
Alleviate the stress (and West Coast chill) that sneakily builds across the upcoming winter months with these 12 locally invented, seasonal coffee drinks that are sure to drive you away from your basic grande PSL in favor of class, impeccable taste and a little more energy to push through till spring.
Have a very caffeinated Christmas and a happy brew year.
Demitasse Cafe: Pistachio Rose Latte
Bobby Roshan’s creations revolve around one idea, an idea he often scrawls on the chalkboard that sits outside his downtown cafe: “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.” The coffee master eschews the obvious holiday palate profiles in favor of something like this, the pistachio rose latte. Created with a house-made pistachio paste, rose water, milk and the cafe’s roasted-in-house espresso, it’s a light offering that stands out from the eggnoggy staples. 135 S. San Pedro St., dwntwn.; (213) 613-9300.
Rose Park Roasters: Rosemary Ginger Molasses Latte
The famed Long Beach roaster just opened its first coffee shop — and its holiday offering eschews the all-too-common triad of cinnamon/pumpkin/mint flavors in favor of its own trio of flavors combined into one: the rosemary ginger molasses latte, a creation by barista Nick Rodriguez. House-made syrup — boiled and reduced the night before — is steamed with milk and the crew’s impeccable espresso blend. The result? A warm, seasonal welcoming at Long Beach’s newest go-to coffeehouse. 3044 E. Fourth St., Long Beach.
Gelateria Uli: White Chocolate Peppermint Affagato
Uli Nasibova wants one thing and that is to take gelato and bring it into the culture-smashing culinary awareness that craft beer and specialty coffee have gained over the last few years. Having just opened eight months ago downtown, she also wants to cater to the caffeine crowd by way of her La Marzocco espresso machine — and what a breakfast she can serve. Not overpowering, her white chocolate peppermint affogato is the holiday season on a spoon: Watching Nasibova pour over a chocolatey espresso shot, we’re in decadent happiness. 541 S. Spring St., Suite 104, dwntwn.; (213) 900-4717.
Berlin Bistro: Eggnog Shooter
Berlin Bistro in Long Beach is the epitome of cool: sleek design, great grub and an open neighbor to one of the best record stores in the county. (If you missed Weezer at Fingerprints, well, boo on you.) Here we have the cafe’s eggnog shooter, made with cold brew, a bit of very brandy-y nog, whipped cream and nutmeg. Ice cold — as a drink should be in SoCal. 420 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 435-0600.
Compañía de Café: Horchata Latte
OK, so this is technically not a holiday drink, but Compañia's year-round signature latte, with its subtle hints of cinnamon and rice milk, gives you the feelies like a Mexican Shirley Temple telling you how an angel gets its wings. With its newly opened second location in South Gate, there is little better than cheers-ing with Feliz Navidad. 4705 Firestone Blvd., South Gate; (323) 476-7201. Also at 110 N. Maclay Ave., San Fernando; (747) 500-7102.
G&B Coffee: The Pumpkin Spice Latte
Any true friend will steer you away from the basic-ness of corporate concoctions that seem to be held only by those whose feet are snugly planted in Uggs. G&B has done nothing short of flat-out highjacking Starbucks’ infamous holiday offering with its own pumpkin spice latte — for one day only, Christmas Eve, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (unless you scored it at G&B’s offspring store, Go Get 'Em Tiger, which served the specialty on Thanksgiving Day). This drink is an experiential revelation — the hyperbole is appropriate because the drink itself is so excessive. Launched for one day last year, G&B has brought back the drink in all its glory: a base made of ginger, allspice, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg is blended into milk, poured over espresso, and then topped with a waffle cookie and kombucha cream to break like a caffeinated crème brûlée. 317 S. Broadway, dwntwn.
Copa Vida: Crème Brûlée Latte
Speaking of caffeinated crème brûlées… Much like G&B, Pasadena’s Copa Vida aims to break the Internet with the way it develops its specialty drinks. Take, for example, the awesomeness that surrounds its crème brûlée latte. House-made vanilla syrup and milk steamed to perfection are wafted into some of Copa Vida's growing-in-popularity brewed espresso, and then a layer of brown sugar is added on top and torched to burned perfection. The experience that is the sensation of cracking that caramelized sugar has never been so uniquely caffeinated. 70 S. Raymond Ave, Pasadena; (626) 213-3952.
Yup, we had to go here — and before snobby noses lift and a look of Brendan Jordan–like dismay paints your face at the idea of eggnog meeting coffee, understand one thing about Menotti’s: These Venice baristas and brewmasters know coffee. And their Noggaccino is a drink filled with enough spirit and subtlety to make even the most staunch of capp purists take at least one more sip. 56 Windward Ave., Venice; (310) 392-7232.
Makai: Christmas Cookie Cappuccino
This little marvel is to be found at Makai, the savior of the Bluff Heights District in Long Beach, after the space it occupied housed coffeehouse failure after failure. The tiny space offers local Rose Park Roasters' espresso along with alternating between 49th Parallel and George Howell beans. This special holiday concoction was created by barista Allison Bellows and consists of house-made syrup of Biscoff spread, ginger and brown sugar, which is then blended into milk. The choice of a cappuccino is essential, since it levels out the sweetness and provides an airiness that will put any partridge on a pear tree. 2771 E. Broadway, Long Beach; (562) 376-1980.
BrewWell: White Minty Latte
When it comes to Brew/Well, the K-Town shop is not afraid to create astoundingly fantastic coffee drinks, especially when the holiday season arrives — and thank the coffee gods, because its concoctions are an escape when Christmas’ consumer-driven head slams into you after Black Friday. This white ninty latte is a creamy, smooth and subtle concoction that doesn’t overwhelm on either the white chocolate or the mint, creating a beautifully ice skating rink of deliciousness in your mouth. 3525 W. Eighth St., Suite 101, Koreatown; (213) 384-0884.
Cognoscenti Coffee: Spicy Chile Mocha
Culver City’s best coffee shop, Cognoscenti, has built a name for itself (particularly its L.A. location at Proof Bakery, where one can score a pastry that was constructed to pair with a particular type of coffee it’s serving) — and rightfully so. The shops respect the culinary aspect of coffee, as displayed by its spicy chile mocha. First, the baristas make their own ganache, incorporating Santa Barbara–based artisanal chocolatier Twenty-Four Blackbirds’ drinking chocolate, ancho chile, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and vanilla extract with some boiling half-and-half. Take that, steam some milk and sift it though some espresso and you have yourself a spicy cup of chocolate perfection. 6114 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 363-7325.
Espresso Cielo: 49th Parallel Holiday Celebration Blend
Surely, there are times when a list filled with milk, syrups, sugars and creative accoutrements needs to be pared down to the basic cup o’ joe. And while many — too many — coffee shops throughout L.A. offer phenomenal pours, there is something special about Espresso Cielo’s relationship with Vancouver-based roaster 49th Parallel, the brand the Santa Monica shop has solely served since it opened. In this case, the 2014 Holiday Celebration Blend, comprised of two Salvadoran beans by way of farming cousins Emilio Lopez Diaz and Haydee de Alvarez. It's special in more ways than one, given the fact that El Salvador is becoming vastly affected by the fungus known as coffee leaf dust, making this blend's mere existence a cause for celebration. A balanced, nutty brew with hints of orange peel mark it as the perfect holiday cup for those who don’t need the bells and whistles but want their spirits lifted. 3101 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 314-9999.
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