I’ve been hearing lots of public service announcements about the dangers of drowsy driving lately, in addition to those about drunk driving and “buzzed” driving.When you’re drowsy, your reaction times are slow and you’ll find your mind wandering to things besides the road you’re driving on. This is especially dangerous on a monotonous-looking highway on a night when there are an unusually high number of drivers out, like New Year’s Eve. In an effort to help people be safer on the roads, there will be free coffee available at all 27 of the Travel Plazas on the NYS Thruway on New Year’s Eve. It’s a good excuse to stop your car for a moment, stretch your legs and perk up with a bit of caffeine. The drinks will be available from 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, so if you’ll be driving that road – make a pit stop. I’m never one to argue with free coffee and if the program helps keep people safer on the road, so much the better!
When it’s cold outside, a hot cup of coffee or tea can go a long way in warming you up. And while they might be fine on just your average winder morning, but around the holidays, it’s nice to make things a little more interesting with some dressed up drinks.
A Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha is my top pick of this holiday season. It has a caffeine kick, rich chocolate flavor and just enough peppermint to make it refreshing, to boot. Garnish yours with a sprinkle of chopped up peppermint candies, or simply use a candy cane as a stick stick. I stock up after Christmas when they’re on sale so I have them all season
If you’re a white chocolate fan, a White Chocolate Mocha Bianca is the way to go. This drink is creamy and smooth, made with white chocolate and coffee. The white chocolate is sweet enough that you don’t need to add sugar, so the drink seems even easier to make than hot chocolate.
Speaking of hot chocolate, Drinking Chocolate is a must-try for chocolate drink fans. This variation on hot chocolate includes dark chocolate, milk chocolate and cocoa powder all in one drink. It is thick and rich tasting, a chocolate drink that can stand on its own as dessert. You can add a shot of espresso, too, if you want something with a little coffee in it, as well.
A tea latte, like the Vanilla Rooibus Tea Latte or Earl Grey Tea Latte is a great non-coffee option. These drinks are made with strong tea and steamed milk, and are lightly sweetened. I like adding a little vanilla into them to give them a rounder flavor. You can use just about any type of tea you like, too.
My last pick isn’t a coffee drink at all, it’s a Caramel Apple Cider. This drink starts with steamed, spiced cider and it is laced with caramel sauce and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. It might sound like a strange combination – especially with the whipped cream on top of the apple cider – but it really works. The drink is sweet, festive and very warming, both because of the spices and the temperature of the drink. And if you want to make it even more warming, or more adult, I think you might be able to get away with a splash of brandy in one, too.
Vanilla is a great flavor in just about anything, but put it together with cinnamon and you have a combination that is perfect for warming you up on a cool night – especially when they’re put together in something like Trader Joe’s Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea. This is one of the seasonal winter teas from Trader Joe’s. Although I often go for spicy teas in the winter, this one appealed to me specifically because it was less spicy. I was hoping for a milder, sweeter tea that still had a lot of flavor, and that is just what I got.
The tea tastes surprisingly sweet, with the vanilla in the background and the cinnamon coming to the forefront of the flavors. The cinnamon, unlike the stronger spices found in chai teas, was very mellow and not aggressive or peppery tasting. This is definitely a dessert tea for me. I found that it didn’t need any sweeteners to be sweet, but it does go very well with home. Speaking of desserts, this tea is just right for making a tea latte, where the milk will blend smoothly with the vanilla and cinnamon to give this a very dessert-like feel.
I can’t count the number of former baristas who have told me that they hated the customers who ordered a huge cup with a single shot of espresso, then filled up the remaining 18-oz of their drink with water from the condiment bar. Mostly, this was because the customers tended to have an attitude even bigger than their cups when they pulled this “trick” and never tipped on top of it. They were trying to save money – and who isn’t these days? – but there are better ways to do it even when visiting Starbucks without antagonizing the staff.
One Starbucks barista pulled together a whole list of helpful tips for frugal Starbucks shoppers, and tips to help you discern a good Starbucks from a bad one. Check out the whole list and see what you’re already doing, and what you might want to try on your next visit. Even taking your own cup in, while it only saves you $.10 per trip, will add up after a while!