Amid the holiday rush to shower everyone you know with special gifts, why not take a moment — or a dozen — to treat yourself? We declare the next 12 mornings leading up Christmas as “you time,” and we’ve determined how you’ll spend those precious moments: fueling up on caffeinated beverages for your merrymaking. Plenty of local cafes and restaurants are serving up unique specialty drinks, so we’ve crafted an agenda of where to go and what to get, in order of least to most indulgent — and ending with a brew for Christmas morning.
Open City, 2331 Calvert St. NW; $5.25.
At Open City, all the sauces and syrups used for hot beverages are crafted in-house. Made with a combo of their peppermint and chocolate syrups, this candied cup o’ joe is simple and on-theme for the holidays — just the way to ease into your caffeine calendar.
Five spice honey latte
Maketto, 1351 H St. NE; $6.
For its seasonal latte, Maketto uses a honey-based syrup fused with cardamom, clove, star anise, sichuan peppercorn and cinnamon. It has the warm and aromatic essence of a chai tea latte but not as much sweetness; the medley of spices here gives this drink a tangy kick.
Pumpkin spice cappuccino
Pitango Gelato, multiple locations; $5 for pumpkin spice cappuccino, $1 to add the creamer to any drink.
In today’s age of pumpkin overload, it’s not uncommon for the average coffee shop’s pumpkin spice flavor to overtake your entire brew like an assault on your taste buds. That’s why Pitango’s understated pumpkin creamer is so refreshing. Its puree-like texture makes the flavor feel more delicate and complementary to a rich cappuccino, for a cozy morning brew with just a hint of seasonal spice.
Red hot latte
Bayou Bakery, 1515 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington; $4.25-$4.50.
The spicy cinnamon syrup Bayou drizzles into this latte is less tongue-on-fire peppery and more that’s-a-nice-kick zesty — like gingerbread fused with those red cinnamon hearts that your grandma keeps in a candy bowl. The bite is very subtle with hardly any aftertaste, so even those wary of anything spicy have nothing to worry about.
Bakers & Baristas, 501 Seventh St. NW; $4.75-$5.
On its menu this season, Bakers & Baristas has horchata — a cinnamon-vanilla rice milk mixture — which customers can enjoy by itself (cold or hot) or steamed over espresso as a latte. With subtle hints of almond, nutmeg and other nutty goodness, the smooth mix makes for a comforting winter treat.
The Coupe, 3415 11th St. NW; $4.50
The folks over at The Coupe have done it: They’ve mastered the perfect iced coffee, made with the restaurant’s homemade hazelnut syrup, chilled espresso and milk. The baristas shake it all together and pour it over ice for a frothy and frosty refresher — no extra sweetener necessary. Plus, it’s a cool (literally) change-up from all the hot drinks.
Baked & Wired, 1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW; $3.40.
Available through the winter, Baked & Wired’s chaider — the bakery’s apple cider topped with a chai tea bag — is a sweet yet slightly tart dose of warmth that’s made to be savored in small sips. The chai-apple flavor combo is so simple, yet feels so quintessentially holiday-esque, it’s genius.
Honey bourbon latte
The Royal, 501 Florida Ave. NW; $5.
This latte is non-alcoholic, but its fusion of cinnamon and cardamom creates a sugary taste at the sip and then a spicy flavor in the aftertaste that evokes the essence of bourbon. The cozy drink is incredibly rich — but not in an unpleasant, artificial-syrupy way.
Compass Coffee, multiple locations; $4.10-$4.90.
The thick and creamy texture of the hazelnut-cocoa spread makes Compass’ Nutella mocha into a heavier and richer java drink compared to other coffees on our list. It’s indulgent — think of this sugary delight as an elevated hot chocolate/coffee hybrid.
Dulce de leche latte
Slipstream, 1333 14th St. NW & 82 I St. SE; $5.50.
Imagine the rich and buttery taste of a caramel cookie, except dissolved in espresso and steamed milk, and you’ve got yourself Slipstream’s seasonal dulce de leche latte (available through the winter months). It’s the closest you can get to having dessert in the morning.
Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats,1370 Park Road NW; $6.75-$7.50.
We saved the best goody for last. (Well, almost last.) Sticky Fingers, the vegan bakery in Columbia Heights, offers an espresso milkshake that blends espresso, coconut or soy milk and your choice of their soy or coconut ice cream. It’s officially the day before Christmas, and calories, by holiday law, no longer count.
Zeke’s holiday roast
Zeke’s Coffee, 2300 Rhode Island Ave. NE; $15.
Merry Christmas — you made it! But let’s be real: You’re not trying to leave the house this morning, so it’s time to bring the brew to you. Zeke’s Coffee has a luscious holiday blend that customers can buy by the pound to make at home. With hints of chocolate, cinnamon and roasted pear, this roast is smooth, rich and tastes the way being merry feels.