5 drinks sparking holiday spirit—and sales

green river left hand wonder

The demand for innovative holiday drinks is keeping concepts busy crafting beverages with unique ingredients, seasonal twists and eye-catching presentations. According to Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report, one-third of consumers—and 40% of those ages 18 to 34—say their beverage preferences change depending on the time of year. Plus, 29% of consumers say they would pay at least slightly more for seasonal beverages.

Operations have debuted a bevy of beverages that jump on the trend, competing for customers’ attention—and dollars—in the weeks ahead.

1. Seasonal shakes

shake shack drink

While the social media buzz about Starbucks’ controversial green and red holiday cups grew louder, Shake Shack more quietly introduced its 2016 holiday shakes, available through Jan. 1. The trio of limited-time treats includes a pumpkin pie shake, Christmas cookie shake and chocolate peppermint shake, all blended with frozen custard and topped with whipped cream ($5.75 each). Also on the menu this winter is brownie batter hot chocolate ($3.89).

2. Custom cups

caribou holiday drink menu board

Caribou Coffee added a variety of new toppings and whips to customize its hot drinks for the holidays. Caribou claims customers will be able create 500-plus holiday beverages, and is challenging guests to invent their own combinations and post photos on social media using #TopBou. Add-in ingredients for lattes and mochas include brownie bites, chocolate chips, candy cane pieces and whips in mint, vanilla, raspberry and chocolate flavors.

Until the new year, Caribou is running its Topped By You Tuesdays promotion, where consumers can receive $1 off a large holiday beverage.

3. Revamped hot chocolate

boston hot drinks

In the Boston area, Met Restaurant Group is tempting cold and weary customers with fancy hot chocolate in classic, Mexican, salted caramel mocha and white chocolate peppermint variations. Those of legal drinking age can ask for theirs spiked with a spirit of their choice.

4. Milky Way

milky way

Also bridging the gap between comforting indulgence and a mixologist-inspired cocktail is the Milky Way at upscale The Florentine in the JW Marriott Chicago. The blend of rum; an Italian liqueur distilled from hazelnuts, pistachios and almonds; and warm Nutella milk is topped with housemade toasted marshmallows and served in a glass mug.

5. Left Hand Wonder

green river left hand wonder

While GreenRiver—a Chicago restaurant on the top floor of a Northwestern Hospital medical building—is a destination for craft cocktails, the bartenders pay as much attention to its mocktails. The nonalcoholic Left Hand Wonder ($10) has a healthy aura, made with agave nectar, beets, ginger, grapefruit and lime, and garnished with a fresh rosemary wreath in the spirit of the season.

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