Buffalo loves its booze. But what if, for whatever reason, you’re going alcohol-free? Maybe you’re the designated driver. Maybe you’re under 21. Maybe you want to savor a fine coffee confection, a rich chocolate or a spicy tea without the distraction of that extra spike. You have some delicious options. Here are a few.
• Romeo and Juliets (1292 Hertel Ave.; 873-5730), boasts an Eggnog Cappuccino that is alcohol free but worth every calorie. It’s espresso with Italian eggnog syrup – and, an employee named Nick added tantalizingly, “Usually we put a squirt of vanilla in it to bring out the eggnog flavor.” This drink is currently only at the Hertel location, although a Williamsville employee let slip that if enough people demand it, it will arrive at the suburbs, too.
• Comfort Zone Cafe (17 Main St., Hamburg; 648-5779), takes its name seriously, offering all kinds of seasonal comfort and joy. “We have seasonal drinks for every kind of holiday – Christmas, Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day,” said a staffer named Cindy. What’s hot, so to speak, right now? Try a Hot Nog Latte, a confection of eggnog, espresso, steamed milk, whipped cream and cinnamon. A Deep Frost Latte has peppermint and chocolate. Another ever-popular is the Evergreen Steamer, creme de menthe with steamed milk. Tea drinkers may try the Gingerbread Chai. “We want to have something for everyone,” Cindy said.
• The Orange Cat Coffee Co. (703 Main St., Lewiston; 754-2888), got a shot of fame a couple of years ago when Sheryl Crow announced from the stage at Artpark that she had enjoyed a latte there. It is famous at the moment for the Merry Mistletoe Latte, which an employee said “is comprised of equal parts vanilla, peppermint and cherry.”
• Taste (634 Main St., East Aurora; 655-1874) toasts the holidays with an Eggnog Latte with nutmeg and a candy cane latte, which is a Peppermint Latte topped with crushed candy cane. But leading the pack is Rudolph’s Big Red Nose, a cinnamon latte topped with a fireball. That should make you shake like a bowl full of jelly. Tea drinkers may laugh at you while savoring Taste’s famed Chai Tea Lattes. And speaking of tea ...
• TeaLeafs (5416 Main St., Williamsville; 688-8022) is a vision of sugarplums this time of year. Owner Sydney Hoffman is proud of the Christmas Blend – black tea with cinnamon, clove, jasmine buds and candies shaped like Christmas trees and snowflakes. And as a caffeine-free option, the shop offers Roasted Almond. “It’s wonderful. It has apple pieces, almond and cinnamon pieces, beet roots, natural flavoring, and you can even eat it.” Greet the first days of 2016 with teas such as champagne raspberry, Ontario ice wine, and cabernet.
• Over at Public Espresso + Coffee in Hotel @ The Lafayette (391 Washington St.) where the focus is on the coffee roast, specialty drinks start with the flavor of the coffee. In the case of winter drinks that can be made either as a mocha or hot chocolate, barista Clinton Hodnett said it was important the flavors could work with both coffee and chocolate. That’s the case with two new seasonal offerings that use ganache for a base: the Rosemary Orange Peel Hot Chocolate (made with white chocolate, rosemary, orange peel and some dark chocolate) and the Mexican White Hot Chocolate (white chocolate, cayenne paper, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove). Both also can be made as a “moka.”
“We needed to balance the flavors just right. That meant we had to drink a lot of chocolate. It was a grueling process,” Hodnett laughed.