The Best (And Worst) Christmas Hot Drinks – Ranked

We visited Costa, Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Pret and Eat to test their festive offerings. Here’s our verdict.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – also known as the time of year when our daily sugar intake triples thanks to the onslaught of festive beverages hitting coffee shops up and down the country.

We paid a visit to Costa, Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Pret and Eat to see what Christmassy hot drinks are on offer. And while there were some absolute flavour favourites, there were also a few we’d advise you to steer clear of.

Here’s our rather extensive take on the best – and worst – festive hot drinks of 2019.

Hot Chocolate – The Winner

Caramelised Almond Hot Chocolate, Caffe Nero, £3.40

Caffe Nero's caramelised almond hot chocolate captured our hearts and taste buds.
Natasha Hinde
Caffe Nero's caramelised almond hot chocolate captured our hearts and taste buds.

What is it? Caffe Nero is thinking outside the box this year with a selection of BYO (build your own) Christmas drinks. We chose a Caramelised Almond Hot Chocolate, which comes with whipped cream and golden crunchy bits on top.

FYI: Prices for the BYO range vary depending on what you add to the drink. The flavour costs 50p on top of the price of a regular hot chocolate (£2.90); milk is free, but coconut or oat milk costs 40p extra; and marshmallows cost 35p. If you’re having a latte, whipped cream costs an additional 50p. For this drink, we spent £3.40 in total.

Verdict: Every single person who sipped this had a very satisfied, and pleasantly surprised, look on their face. One said they “loved it”, while another said it’s “really delicious”. The drink is sweet, let’s not beat around the bush here, but it’s not too sickly. The cream and golden crunch bites on top are a welcome addition and the almond undertones are just right. One colleague said it’s “like a hot chocolate with Amaretto, minus the alcohol”.

Did we drink it all? We gave it a good go, but the medium-sized hot chocolate was a little too much – we’d advise you to order a small, at the cheaper price of £3.35.

Hot Chocolate – The Runner-Up

Honeycomb Hot Chocolate, Eat, £2.95

Eat's honeycomb hot chocolate is rich and decadent.
Eat's honeycomb hot chocolate is rich and decadent.

What is it? Eat’s Honeycomb Hot Chocolate isn’t a new addition for 2019, but it’s been brought back for good reason. It’s a luxurious, thick, creamy beverage which basically doubles up as a dessert. The drink comes in one size, which we’d call a regular.

Verdict: One colleague called it “the obvious winner”, and another simply said: “delicious”. That said, we couldn’t massively taste the honeycomb. The thickness is better than many of the other hot chocolate beverages we’ve tried. It’s rich, decadent and tastes of luxury, quite frankly.

Did we drink it all? It was a bit too sickly for us to finish it all (perhaps that’s because we’d just had lunch) – but we gave it our best shot.

Hot Chocolate – The Loser

Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate, Starbucks, from £3.10

Starbucks' hot chocolate was just a bit flat and didn't look great either.
Natasha Hinde
Starbucks' hot chocolate was just a bit flat and didn't look great either.

What is it? Starbucks’ Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate is essentially a standard hot chocolate with a toasted marshmallow topping.

Verdict: There’s nothing massively wrong with the taste of this drink – but it was just a bit disappointing. Once you’ve devoured the topping, which happens after a couple of sips, you can’t really differentiate this from any other hot chocolate.

Did we drink it all? We drank about a third.

Coffee – The Winner

Irish Velvet Latte, Costa, from £3.30

Costa's Irish Velvet Latte also went down a storm in the office.
Natasha Hinde
Costa's Irish Velvet Latte also went down a storm in the office.

What is it? Costa’s Irish Velvet Latte is part of the coffee shop’s new Irish Velvet range. You can choose from a latte, cappuccino, hot chocolate or frostino – and all beverages are infused with caramel and vanilla.

Verdict: This was a hit in the taste test. If you like Bailey’s then we reckon you’ll love this – it’s smooth and even better with cream on the top. The drink is sweetened thanks to a non-alcoholic Irish cream flavoured syrup and it works really nicely with the coffee. It’s also totally suitable for the ’gram – it comes with a pretty swirl of cream and a golden-coloured white chocolate star on the top. A word of warning, though: eat the star before you start slurping otherwise it’ll melt and be lost in the beverage forever.

Did we drink it all? Every last drop.

Coffee – The Runner-Up

Festive Spiced Cappuccino, Costa, from £2.85

What is it? Costa’s Festive Spiced Cappuccino beat off fierce competition from Starbucks to be crowned the runner-up in the coffee category. This delightful little number is Costa’s signature cappuccino with cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise added in.

Verdict: Even if you order it in a takeout cup, it still looks the part, which couldn’t be said for all the others we tried. The foam is nice and sweet – it tastes like sugary cinnamon – while the coffee is a classic cappuccino with a subtle spice taste. One taste tester said: “I could have this whole drink and it wouldn’t be too sickly, which is rare for a festive coffee.”

Did we drink it all? Yes.

Coffee – The Loser

Gingerbread Latte, Pret, £2.95


What is it? Pret’s Gingerbread Latte was, well, pretty terrible. It’s a standard latte with ginger syrup, so we’re not entirely sure how it went so wrong.

Verdict: It smells like window cleaner and the taste, unbelievably, is even worse. Two of our reviewers likened the taste to nail polish remover (or what we’d imagine it tastes like). Another simply said: “I don’t even know how to describe it, it’s that disgusting.” We can confirm it didn’t look like the above photo, either.

Did we drink it all? Absolutely not.

Kamile Kaveckaite / 500px via Getty Images

Bonus Category – Worst Flavour Overall

Gingerbread Lattes, from £2.95

What is it? A special mention has to go to the disappointment over all the gingerbread-themed lattes we tried this year. Hardly any of them went down well in the taste test. We tried Costa Coffee’s Gingerbread Latte (from £3.30), Eat’s Gingerbread Latte (£2.95) and Starbucks’ best-selling Gingerbread Latte (from £3.10) – as well as Pret’s, rated above.

Verdict: Starbucks’ Gingerbread Latte tasted like a festive potpourri. Eat’s was slightly better, but still likened to potpourri. And Costa’s one tasted a bit like a Christmas candle. Thumbs down for all three, we’re afraid.

Did we drink them all? Nope.

Bonus Category – Biggest Waste Of Money

Christmas Tea, Costa Coffee, £2.30

What is it? Costa’s Christmas tea, which is a Twining’s Christmas tea bag in hot water. Costa describes it as “the taste of Christmas in a cup” – it’s a black tea from Sri Lanka blended with winter spices.

Verdict: We were excited to try this because it smells absolutely amazing, but after a good five minutes of brewing, we could barely taste anything. It had a really dull flavour. Sad times.

Did we drink it all? We had a few sips and very quickly gave up.

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Correction: Originally this article attributed the incorrect reviews to Costa and Starbucks’ gingerbread lattes – they have since been switched.