Here’s a thing. I’m not a massive fan of xmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love an excuse to buy and make things for my friends and family and also to generally eat, drink and be merry. But the day itself has no particular religious or emotional significance to me – if the choice is working Xmas or New Year there’s no doubt what my choice would always be.
However, the thing I do love about the whole idealised winter stuff that comes along with the Xmas obsession is the sudden onslaught of amazing hot drinks. When Winter arrives I like to be cosy, fluffy jumpers and fluffier socks, thick tights and winter boots, earmuffs, mittens and giant scarfs. Coming in from the cold to a big steaming mug of hot chocolate? Bliss!
Christmas for coffee shops means seasonal drinks, special blends, extra cream, unusual syrups and silly names. I have a couple of friends who are obsessed with Christmas and I enforce the rule with them that the season hasn’t begun until the red cups appear– if I have to deal with all this seasonal silliness I want a Gingerbread Latte or a Black-forest hot chocolate in hand to get me through. But beyond the usual suspects there are a myriad of hot drinks from smaller places that are no less charming or warming. The indie coffee shops in Stirling to a good line in spiced winter warmers (spiced winter apple at the bottom of the hill, mulled spice chai tea at the top) served in odd shaped mugs that only come out at this time of year.
And of course you can always make your own hot drinks at home, to your own exact specifications, whether that means extra syrup, less cream or whether or not your mulled wine is actually alcoholic. Personally, I have a marked preference for homemade blackcurrant wine – though the kind that I like, that will forever be the true taste of Christmas, is not remotely alcoholic and arguably has never seen an actual blackcurrant. Instead it is made from a strange syrup called yuleade, that, as far as I know, can be purchased only from the co-op and even then probably only in Scotland, combined with hot water and a frankly obscene amount of sugar and should rightfully be served in really tiny glasses. I made some myself a couple of winters ago and the sugar high I got from drinking an entire mug in one go – so decadent!! – explained just why the glasses I was given as a child were so very, very small.