The wintertime culture in Los Angeles has many facets, unique traditions, and a general sense of flair. What it does not have, however, is snow—for us, 65 degrees is heavy coat weather. This means things get a little silly around here this time of year—think outdoor ice rinks in 70-degree temperatures, or palm trees decked out like twinkle lights—but one undeniably delicious tradition comes in the form of LA’s many holiday-ready signature coffee drinks. From lavender hot cocoa to butterbeer lattes (not to mention the one-day-only spectacular at Go Get Em Tiger) here are a few of my favorite drinks to sip through the winter sunshine in the City of Angels.
Lavender Liquid Hot Chocolate from Cafe Demitasse
In the heart of Little Tokyo, a team of coffee nerds aims to keep coffee a kind of science, a chemistry, if you will. But every now and then, Cafe Demitasse takes a break from their siphons and beakers to bring you sweet seasonal drinks, many of which are created by the baristas themselves. The Lavender Liquid Hot Chocolate, invented by owner Bobby Roshan, is one that remains a crowd favorite. The drinking chocolate is constantly stirring in a vat on the counter, a mixture of dark chocolate powder, milk, and vanilla bean sugars. Once ordered, pure lavender extract gets added to the chocolate, heated, and then topped with a giant marshmallow block that’s toasted with a blow torch before carefully propped onto your cup with a toothpick. The thick, rich drink is a sugar explosion that can only be handled in its given serving of eight ounces.
Crème Brûlée Cappuccino from LAMILL Coffee
LAMILL Coffee has been on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake since 2008, with a front-row seat to the neighborhood’s transformation into one of America’s hippest zip codes. Stop in for their signature drink, a creation that’s been around since the beginning—the Crème Brûlée Cappuccino. The traditional, foamy cappuccino is flavored with house-made caramel syrup and topped with sugar in the raw. The best part is when the blowtorch crystallizes the sugar atop the foam, becoming a sweet, crisp layer to break into before sipping. The beverage is a gooey, luscious experience reminiscent of freshly toasted s’mores.
Morning Wood from Blackwood Coffee Bar
After making your way through the palm trees and stars of the Sunset Strip, get fueled on an extra strong holiday-esque beverage from Hollywood’s Blackwood Coffee Bar, a newer space that specializes in cocktail-inspired coffee drinks. A bolder thrill, the Morning Wood is a goblet of supercharged cold brew that is shaken (not stirred) with half-and-half and simple syrup and served stout-style from your team of coffee mixologists. The glass then gets a rim of brown sugar and cinnamon, a sweet break from the smoky, heavy black coffee flavors of the cold brew. The syrupy beverage is just one step lighter from the body of an actual stout.
Butterbeer Latte from Kindness & Mischief Coffee
Kindness & Mischief’s massive “Coffee” sign and bright turquoise storefront suggest all manner of mischief in Highland Park. Their Butterbeer Latte comes from a deep reverence for the Harry Potter series. It’s a holiday fanfic in the form of a hot, comforting beverage. This non-alcoholic drink uses butterscotch chips and piping-hot heavy cream for a house-made butterscotch syrup. Melted together with Rose Park Roasters’s El Espresso, it then gets married with steamed almond milk to make a creamy, delectable dessert in a cup. Order iced to get a different version—a frosty craft beer goblet of white butterscotch tea served out of a keg, nitrogenated and mixed with simple syrup.
Spanish Latte from Menotti’s Coffee Stop
Located just off the iconic Venice Beach Boardwalk, Menotti’s Coffee Stop crowd is an eclectic mix of coffee nerds, beach goers, and tourists—all of whom can enjoy the dense, milky comfort of the shop’s renowned Spanish Latte. A few hearty pumps of condensed milk sit with cinnamon powder for several seconds, absorbing one another’s flavors before Four Barrel Coffee espresso collides into the glass. After some vigorous stirring, they then double the dairy and add steamed whole milk into the explosion. To finish it off, the drink gets topped with even more cinnamon. A frothy treat, the Spanish Latte is a heavy, velvety drink that might as well serve as a Christmas meal itself.
Katrina Yentch is a Sprudge contributor based in Los Angeles. Read more Katrina Yentch on Sprudge.