Top soul-warming drinks that aren’t pumpkin spice

Sick of the pumpkin spice fad? Have no fear, we took the time to pick some drinks for the chilly season that are just as delicious and a little less over-marketed.


Image via Pxhere

By The Pitt News Staff

After what felt like a never-ending heat wave, fall has finally taken over here in Pittsburgh. The trees are turning to lovely shades of auburn and the wind is chilling. But most importantly, Starbucks has whipped out its extensive holiday menu and festive cups. Among the many wintery flavors like peppermint mocha, salted caramel and gingerbread, pumpkin spice remains one of the top flavors requested not just at Starbucks, but at most coffee shops from Dunkin’ to Crazy Mocha.

Starbucks regulars may forget that there are other drinks to keep you warm through the cold Oakland nights ahead — and many of the following drinks are easier on the wallet too.

Apple cider

It’s a classic. It’s like apple juice, but sweeter, crisper, smoother and just generally better. It tastes good hot or cold, and you can buy it in a jug. For the average broke college student at Pitt, a walk down to Groceria Merante on South Oakland’s Bates Street can end with an entire gallon of liquid apple-gold for the price of a single pumpkin spice latte.

Some like the fluffiness of the whipped cream that comes with a good old PSL and luckily, whipped cream is just as good on top of a hot cup of cider. Drip some caramel on there, too, if you’ve really got a sweet tooth — this will create a DIY version of the Starbucks caramel apple spice. For the over-21 crowd, an evening of holiday-cookie baking, Christmas movie-bingeing or crying over upcoming finals with friends can be spiced up with hot cider mixed with rum and a little bit of brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and a few other ingredients — creating a cozy cocktail for a nippy night.

Spiced chai tea latte

Just take a sip — that’s right. It tastes like fall if pumpkin spice lattes never existed. The cinnamon, the creamy milk, the ginger, cloves and vanilla make for an excellent combination of all the sweet flavors your grandma used when cooking Thanksgiving desserts — only better, because it’s in hot liquid form.

If you’re a caffeine addict, take it to the next level and add an espresso shot to make it a “dirty” chai.

Herbal tea

Herbal teas are among the most underrated beverages out there. They can be found in practically every flavor, from peppermint to ginger to lavender to cinnamon spice. Most herbal teas don’t contain caffeine, so they are a perfect way to wind down after a long study session. They also achieve the difficult task of creating many different flavors without sweeteners — real or artificial.

Hot cocoa

We all have that one friend who doesn’t drink coffee and on a midday coffee stop orders a simple hot chocolate while the rest of the group is ordering complex drinks like a half-caf, nonfat, no-foam, extra-hot flat white. This friend is a favorite for baristas. Even if this friend wants whipped cream or a drizzle of caramel, the “I’ll just take a small hot chocolate” customer is always the least stressful one of the day.

Cocoa also might be the most nostalgic hot drink of them all. For all the millenials out there, one sip of hot chocolate will make you feel like a little kid again, watching “The Polar Express” while you were on winter break. Remember when you got up and danced in front of the TV when the singing waiters came out for the ever-iconic “Hot Chocolate” number? It’s OK, we all did, too.

Melted caramel

Honestly, that might be the next step for Starbucks. A venti hot peppermint mocha will have five pumps of chocolate syrup plus five pumps of peppermint syrup — make that six of each if it’s iced. At this point, you’re drinking syrup. Go to Giant Eagle, head to the ice-cream section, buy a bottle of caramel topping, squeeze it into a mug, heat it and drink up. It will supply the same sugary effect.


Want to get cozy? Microwave it.

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