Vanilla and cinnamon area wonderful combination in just about any dish, from cakes to cookies. They both also go extremely well with coffee, though most coffee places only offer cinnamon as a topping that you can add to scent your latte instead of as a flavor that you can incorporate into it. A Homemade Vanilla Cinnamon Latte is a great change of pace from the usual vanilla latte because it has just the right amount of spice to keep things interesting.
My latte is made with equal parts strong coffee and milk, though you can use espresso if you have an espresso machine for a more authentic latte (but I can assure you that the coffee version is excellent). I use homemade vanilla syrup and a small pinch of ground cinnamon to infuse the drink with sugar, vanilla and spice. Combine the cinnamon and vanilla syrup with very hot coffee and allow it to steep for a minute or so to really release the aroma of the cinnamon.
The vanilla syrup is easy to make, but you can also make this with sugar, cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla extract. I recommend alcohol free vanilla, since you can add more of it to your drink than you can with regular vanilla to get a much more pronounved vanilla flavor without getting any unpleasant alcohol notes in your coffee.
Eggnog lattes are one of those drinks that really fit in with the Christmas season. Unlike Peppermint Mochas and even gingerbread spiced drinks, they’re not really something that you would want to drink year-round. So, I say splurge while you can and, if you’re an eggnog latte fan, don’t hesitate to enjoy a few around Christmas time. And you don’t have to go to the nearest Starbucks to enjoy one, because you can make them at home!
An eggnog latte starts with eggnog. I recommend starting with a store bought eggnog for this type of drink. You’ll have your choice of full fat, low fat and a variety of nondairy ‘nogs, and the consistency tends to be very consistent, unlike like homemade eggnogs. Don’t pick a ‘nog that comes with alcohol added to it because it will be difficult to steam up to a nice consistency, but you can spike your coffee with a splash of brandy or bourbon after you mix up the drink and I won’t tell. Above all, choose a brand you like because the latte is going to get all of its flavor from that eggnog.
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Peppermint is one of the flavors most closely associated with the holidays, probably because candy canes are so prevalent this time of year! Candy canes are not the most delicious thing to eat on their own – not on a regular basis, anyway, but that doesn’t stop me from buying them around the holidays. I always have more than I can hang on a tree. I prefer to crush mine up and use them as garnish for drinks like homemade Peppermint Mochas. These drinks are yet another coffee shop favorite, and are a drink that I love to indulge in on a cold evening as a treat.
Fortunately, peppermint mochas are a drink that is easily made at home. I make up a simple mocha, using either a combination of cocoa powder and sugar or whatever hot chocolate mix I have on hand, and add a small splash of both vanilla and peppermint extract to it. The vanilla takes the edge off the peppermint extract, which is very strong on its own. And since this is always a treat, I finish mine with whipped cream.
If you want to use crushed candy canes for garnish, try to start with some that are very dark red and vibrantly colored for the best effect. Otherwise, you can garnish your drink with a whole candy cane, using it as a stir stick to refresh the flavor as you sip.
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I always seem to end up with a few of those chocolate oranges in my stocking at Christmas. You probably know the chocolates I’m talking about – they’re shaped like oranges and break into individual slices with a light rap on the counter. Orange and chocolate is a classic combination that never goes out of style. These chocolates are great for sharing, but I find that the orange can be a little overwhelming if you sit down to try and eat the whole orange alone. So, I am always looking for something that could use a little orange and a little chocolate so that none of those slices go to waste.
My Dark Chocolate Orange came from Trader Joe’s this time around. They only have a dark chocolate version, but I’ve seen both dark and milk from other brands before. The orange is about the size of a real orange and comes with 20 orange slices. One firm rap and those slices break apart easily. The Trader Joe’s orange is made with natural orange flavor and has a crisp dark chocolate flavor. It isn’t too sweet and you can really taste the orange.