A Definitive Ranking of the Best Festive Drinks 2021 Has To Offer

We’ve done the hard work for you and trialled the crème de la crème of festive drinks from coffee connoisseurs Starbucks, Costa, Caffè Nero and Pret a Manger to crown the ultimate winner in the battle of Christmas beverages.

Ho, ho, ho, December is right around the corner and you know what that means? It’s socially acceptable to be drinking festive drinks ONLY for the next month (aka the best 31 days of the year)- what’s not to love? Veins flowing exclusively with gingerbread, mint choc chip and eggnog, we don’t mind if we do! Coffee shops around the country step up their festive offerings year on year, and understandably getting to the front of the Starbucks queue and having to decide between the plethora of delicious red cup options can be as stressful as watching your mum open *that* risky present that could seriously go either way. 

Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you (thank us later) and trialled the crème de la crème of festive drinks from coffee connoisseurs Starbucks, Costa, Caffè Nero and Pret a Manger to crown the ultimate winner in the battle of Christmas beverages. From delicious to disastrous, it’s fair to say there were some controversial and painfully honest opinions heard inside the walls of Zoella HQ, and all we can really say is Starbucks, we apologise in advance….

Costa Toffee Penny Latte – Expectation:

Saddle up people, Costa’s exclusive Quality Street flavours are back, and if that doesn’t scream Christmas in a cup we don’t know what does. This year there’s a new, golden addition to the family, in the form of the well loved Toffee Penny. Think classic Latte, blended with rich golden caramel sauce, topped with a light dairy swirl, and sprinkled with crunchy caramel toppers to perfectly capture the buttery notes of the Toffee Penny sweet. Sounds divine, but what does the team think…

Costa Toffee Penny Latte- Reality:

Holly: 2/5

Couldn’t taste the toffee or the penny, just pure milk and lack of caffeine. Not a fan. 

Charlotte: 4/5

Delicious, imo! Very milky so the toffee flavour could have been stronger. It was really good but if I hadn’t known it was toffee penny I wouldn’t have known this was the flavour specifically! 

Lareese: 2/5

I feel robbed. I was promised toffee penny and I got bad penny. Bad bad penny. I’m a cow’s milk girl though and we’ve gone all oat milk with this ranking for the sake of consistency, so maybe my tastebuds are just kicking off. The Costa Terry’s Chocolate Orange is god-tier though. 

Darcey: 4/5

Loved this one. The toffee wasn’t too sweet but was the perfect amount, usually not a fan of flavoured coffee drinks so this impressed me! 

Danielle: 2/5

For me, this was just far too creamy, a real creamy fella. If you like sweet cream more than actual coffee then, by all means, snap this up. I did get a hint of toffee penny but not enough for me to recognise it, however, I can confirm the Terry’s Chocolate Orange tastes EXACTLY like it.

Costa After Eight Hot Chocolate- Expectation:

For those who aren’t a slave to caffeine, look no further than Costa’s iconic After Eight Hot Chocolate for a slice (or sip) of true festivity whenever you need a hit of Christmassy excitement. The signature Costa Hot Chocolate has been flavoured with mint syrup, finished with a light creamy topping and chocolate dusting. Psst: it also comes with a free After Eight chocolate thin atop the lid – what’s not to love?!

Costa After Eight Hot Chocolate- Reality:

Holly: 5/5

Absolutely astounding- best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth and I’ll be ordering this every day until January. Thank you Costa for bringing this gloriousness into my life. 

Charlotte: 5/5

Tastes just like a blended After Eight- an absolute must to try this festive season! Not too sweet despite how chocolatey this dreamboat of a drink was, and so very silky smooth too. Goes down like a treat!

Lareese: 5/5

That is a taste sensation. Honour your tastebuds and order one immediately.

Darcey: 5/5

5/5 – OMG THIS IS UNREAL, I’d give it a 10 if I could.

Danielle: 3/5 

I don’t love After Eights so I’m probably not the best person to score this. I wouldn’t order it myself but I can confirm it tastes just like the sweet treats and I think a mint choc lover would be all over this!

Caffè Nero Gingerbread Latte- Expectation:

The classic Caffè Nero latte we know and love has been Christmasified this season, with a generous dose of gingerbread syrup and topped with a dusting of cinnamon- mmhm! If classic festive flavours are your jam then look no further for a dose of quintessential Christmas that will have you more excited for the 25th Dec than Buddy the Elf.

Caffè Nero Gingerbread Latte- Reality:

Holly: 3/5

Genuinely confused, I couldn’t tell you if I liked it or not. Not very gingerbready but as coffees go, I wouldn’t kick him off the table. 

Charlotte: 2/5

Not an overwhelming gingerbread flavour but still nice and festive overall. A bit of a perfume-y smell which is slightly off-putting and a bit too sweet. 

Lareese: 3/5

It smells a lot better than it tastes. And it smells a lot like artificial arse. Woah, who shat in my Cornflakes (or my coffee) this morning? I’m being so savage aren’t I?! 

Darcey: 2/5

Mainly marked down as I must admit it does smell slightly like a Homesense candle and the taste is how I’d imagine that smell to taste…

Danielle: 4/5

For me, this was probably the drink I’m most likely to order out of the bunch. It was still quite sweet and creamy but the spicy ginger gives it a bit more of an edge, and it definitely felt quite festive! 

Caffè Nero Mint Choc Hot Choc- Expectation:

A hot, milky chocolate drink with mint syrup, topped with chocolate chips- yes please! This marvellously minty addition to the Caffè Nero menu is a slice of Christmas joy for those who want a balance of cooling, zesty flavours with a classic hint of satisfying sweetness. Add marshmallows for an extra boost of sugary deliciousness and you’ve got yourself a sweet treat you won’t want to reach the end of.      

Caffè Nero Mint Choc Hot Choc- Reality:

Holly: 4/5

Not particularly minty but still made me happy inside. Mint choc chip for the win. 

Charlotte: 2/5

Nice if you like mint but it has a slight toothpaste flavour so probably wouldn’t order again. Average and not overly memorable, aside from its Colgate-ness.

Lareese: 4/5

It’s no Costa After Eight but it’s certainly up there. I’m a simp for the mint choc combo. 

Darcey: 1.5/5

I really didn’t love this one- sorry Nero! I didn’t think it was very minty and the aftertaste was a tad strange.

Danielle: 2/5 

A good hit of mint but not as good as the ol’ After Eight. 

Starbucks Eggnog Latte- Expectation:

A classic holiday flavour, this is one to order if you fancy channeling traditional Christmas to the max- whack Home Alone on the telly and boom, you’ve completed Christmas. Featuring the signature Starbucks espresso, rich steamed eggnog and topped with a seasonal sprinkling of nutmeg, feel yourself being warmed from the inside out with this creamy mug of joy- it would be wrong to make it through December without one!

Starbucks Eggnog Latte- Reality:

Holly: 1/5

I can think of nothing I would like to do less than drink this again. It reminded me of something I would usually spit out, do with that what you will. 

Charlotte: 1/5

Tastes like cow- something I always find when I have a bit of dairy. I think maybe it was the combination of oat milk and eggnog mix that made it quite overpowering and a tad unpleasant if I’m honest. 

Lareese: 1/5

Hard pass. Not for me mam. It’s giving paintstripper with a hint of something creamy on the turn. 

Darcey: 1/5 

Unfortunately as a non-dairy drinker the eggnog aspect can’t be escaped and so it tasted way too milky for me- only buy if you drink milk / like an eggnog tipple. 

Danielle: 1/5

Wow what a beverage, if you like eggnog then you might like this but I just can’t fathom how anyone would. It tasted quite chemical with a boozy lingering flavour, but without any actual alcohol in it so it’s a no from me.

Starbucks Caramel Waffle Latte- Expectation:

Caramel, waffle, latte- what’s not to love? Winter waffle sauce forms the foundations of this joyous addition to the Starbucks’ menu, offering a sweet, sweet hit of deliciousness in a less traditional Christmas flavour. The signature Starbucks espresso + waffle sauce + whipped cream and spiced caramel waffle crunch topping = a sweet tooth dream. We’ll have a Venti please…

Starbucks Caramel Waffle Latte- Reality:

Holly: 1/5

Really unpleasant. Tasted like nail polish remover, not a hint of caramel or waffle. 

Charlotte: 1/5

Tastes like a bath bomb, and that’s simply not what you want in a drink. Strong aftertaste that stays with you- not my vibe!

Lareese: 1/5

Sorry to be dramatic but that felt a lot like torture. Have we asked for too much by pushing Christmas on coffee? Darcey hits the nail on the head – it’s like sipping suds.  

Darcey: 1/5

Honestly save your money on this one, it’s so incredibly sweet and artificial tasting it’s really unpleasant. It has a soapy taste that lingers for longer than I’d like.

Danielle: 0/5

I didn’t think drinks could get much worse than the eggnog latte until I drank this. Hard pass, weird chemical flavour, just horrendous in every way. 

Pret Popcorn Hot Chocolate- Expectation:

Love the classic Pret Popcorn Bar? Look no further for your new December obsession. Combining the roasted popcorn notes of Pret’s popcorn syrup, silky steamed milk and topped with a swirl of whipped cream and a sprinkling of chocolate powder, this unconventional Christmas beverage is everything that’s right in the world in one red, festive cup.  

Pret Popcorn Hot Chocolate- Reality:

Holly: 4/5

Very nice actually, different to your classic flavours but minus one point because it didn’t make me feel festive. 

Charlotte: 3/5

Yum! I’m definitely getting popcorn vibes which is preferable to some of the other drinks that bear no resemblance to their supposed flavour, but still a tiny bit too sweet for me!

Lareese: 4/5

I’m not getting a great deal of popcorn – maybe like the slight dust that greets you when crushed into a cinema floor.. Subtle but not overly festive. The taste is pretty up there though and the cup is 10/10l – I’d go as far to say it’s my favourite design of the year. 

Darcey: 4/5

Big fan of this! You can really taste the popcorn and the sweet and salty aspect is very nice.

Danielle: 4/5

I found this beverage delicious! A bit different, not much popcorn flavour but enough to understand where they were going with it! Not particularly festive but I’d drink this again in a heartbeat! 

Final thoughts:

Expectations vs reality doesn’t get more savage than this, and it’s clear Team Zoella have some strong opinions when it comes to finding the perfect Christmas beverage… 

Coming out on top was the undisputed winner and divine deliciousness that was Costa’s After Eight Hot Chocolate, scoring an average of 4.6 out of 5- worthy of a Paul Hollywood handshake and quite honestly better than sex. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Starbucks’ sad and sorry Eggnog Latte, totalling an average of 1 out of 5 and inciting outrage that this bev ever made it past the testing stage. Try again next year @ Starbs. 

Which hot beverage has made it to the top of your Christmas list this festive season?