We scoured bars, cafes and restaurants from Cupertino to Burlingame to find mugs worth throwing muck boots on for.

The nutty black sesame latte from Bitter + Sweet. (Photo by Zack Fernandes)

The official start of the winter season may still be a couple of weeks away, but holiday music and decorations, early sunsets, and decreasing temperatures are starting to make the Peninsula feel a whole lot more festive  —  and chilly!

It’s time to ditch the cold brews and ice-cold pints in favor of warming mugs of tea, hot cocktails, and exceptional coffee. Don your scarf and check out one of these 10 unique options for hot drinks on the Peninsula.

The Red Velvet latte is the signature espresso drink at Bitter + Sweet in Cupertino. (Photo courtesy Jill Akemi C./Yelp)

Pour-over coffee and Red Velvet latte at Bitter + Sweet, Cupertino

In Cupertino’s Villagio Center, Bitter + Sweet is serving pour-over preparations of both single-origin coffee as well as blends from all over the world. 

The shop currently features beans sourced from both Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco and Cosmic Dust Coffee Roasters in San Jose. Brewed coffee is prepared to order on Hario v60 brewers, and varies by season. Currently, the shop is pouring Sightglass Coffee’s Blueboon blend  —  from beans sourced in Central America and East Africa — and single-origin coffees from Ethiopia, Colombia, and Panama.

For the drinker in search of something sweeter, Bitter + Sweet’s signature espresso drink, a Red Velvet latte, makes for a chocolatey pairing with a selection from the shop’s pastry case. Also on the menu are seasonal creations like a nutty black sesame latte. 

Bitter + Sweet, 20560 Town Center Lane, Cupertino; 408-255-2600.

Tōno Coffee Project owner Bryan Chiem prefers oat milk in place of traditional dairy in his espresso drinks for taste and sustainability reasons. (Photo by Zack Fernandes)

Espresso drinks at Tōno Coffee Project, Palo Alto

There are few places on the Peninsula to get an espresso drink as carefully crafted as the ones at the buzzy Tōno Coffee Project pop-up. Currently in residence at Palo Alto’s Salvaje wine bar, Tōno serves drinks that are made exclusively with oat milk, or no milk at all. Owner Bryan Chiem felt that the better taste of oat milk in coffee drinks, its wide acceptance among people with dietary restrictions, and its increased sustainability over traditional dairy made it a no-brainer as Tōno’s “milk” choice.

Coffee nerds will be pleased to know that Tōno serves only single-origin coffees to highlight the distinct characteristics of types of coffee fruit, sourced from roasters that Chiem has built relationships with throughout his years in the coffee industry.

Those in search of something decaffeinated can opt for a hot or iced chocolate, made with premium cacao powder from Marou, an artisanal chocolate purveyor based in Vietnam. Unlike the cocoa powder you might buy at a supermarket, this powder is made from unroasted, non-alkaline treated cacao to capture a nuance of flavor that Tōno allows to shine through by making the drink a little less sweet than usual.

Tōno Coffee Project, 369 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto; 408-634-2414.

The peppermint Milo is topped with whipped cream, but ask for it “dinosaur” for an added topping of powdered Milo that dissolves the second it hits your tongue. (Photo courtesy Killiney Kopitiam)

Peppermint Milo at Killiney Kopitiam, Palo Alto

Killiney Kopitiam, the Palo Alto outpost of a Singaporean cafe that’s been in operation since 1919, is serving peppermint Milo for the season. The chocolate malt beverage is especially popular in Singapore and is served alongside the country’s other coffee shop staples like kaya toast made with a pandan and coconut jam.

The coffee (or kopi as it’s called in Malay) served at Killiney is also unique among Bay Area coffee shops. It’s prepared in the Nanyang style, where robusta beans (a different species of coffee bean) join the more common arabica before being roasted with sugar and butter to boost caramelization. Water is then passed through the ground coffee three times before it’s served for an extra bold and rich brew.

Killiney Kopitiam, 552 Waverley St., Palo Alto; 650-752-6039.

Mix two of Leland’s loose leaf teas together to create a custom blend you can call your own. (Photo by Zack Fernandes)

Custom loose leaf tea blend at Leland Tea Company, Burlingame

Tucked in a corner behind Burlingame Avenue’s bustling shopping district, Leland Tea Company is a haven for tea drinkers, and the perfect place for a respite from holiday shopping.

At Leland’s, you can sit down for a lunch of sandwiches, salads, or scones (all served with a pot of tea of course), or browse the shop’s impressive collection of loose leaf teas — from staples like Earl Grey to more creative blends like Blue Eyes, a floral and herbal blend said to be inspired by Frank Sinatra. Leland’s doesn’t just sell the teas as is: They also welcome you to create your own custom tea blend by mixing together their offerings  —  an ideal stocking stuffer!

Leland Tea Company, 1223 Donnelly Ave., Burlingame; 650-558-8515.

Mismatched china adorns the shelves at Lovey’s Tea Shoppe in Pacifica. (Photo by Zack Fernandes)

Afternoon tea at Lovey’s Tea Shoppe, Pacifica

In Pacifica, a stone’s throw from Rockaway Beach, an unassuming roadside shack is home to a delightful collection of mismatched china and premium teas at Lovey’s Tea Shoppe.

If you’re interested in a traditional afternoon tea of scones, double cream, and preserves, you’ll have to dine outside on Lovey’s patio while the interior space is closed and dedicated to retail. Or grab a cup of tea to go, and head down to the beach.

Lovey’s, which also operates Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco and a recently closed location in Redwood City, is also selling their teas, scones, and even teacups on their website. 

Lovey’s Tea Shoppe, 4430 Coast Highway, Pacifica; 650-359-1245.

If it’s not tea you’re after, try a warm cup of Tiger Tea & Juice’s red bean milk, made with organic Straus creamery milk and sweet red bean. (Photo courtesy Tiger T./Yelp)

Brown rice tea at Tiger Tea & Juice, Burlingame

Though known for their black sugar boba and other iced drinks, Tiger Tea & Juice is serving a seasonal offering of brown rice tea, available hot. Also known as genmaicha, an apocryphal tale of the drink’s origin involves a samurai’s servant, named Genmai, being beheaded after mistakenly spilling brown rice into his master’s tea, only to have the drink named after him when the mistake was later deemed delicious. The more likely reality is that genmaicha is named after its constituent components: genmai, or brown rice, toasted, and mixed with cha, or tea — green, in this case.

Tiger Tea & Juice’s version is a classic, with the subtle and refreshing vegetable sweetness of green tea bolstered by the warmth and nuttiness of the toasted, steeped brown rice.

Tiger Tea & Juice, 1803 El Camino Real, Burlingame; [email protected]

The hot, tart and spiced Glühwein is the perfect drink to warm you up on a chilly evening at Gourmet Haus Staudt’s outdoor patio. (Photo by Zack Fernandes)

Glühwein at Gourmet Haus Staudt, Redwood City

Storied Redwood City German beer garden and grocery store Gourmet Haus Staudt is kicking off winter by stocking its shelves with all manner of Bavarian holiday treats: from holiday cookies to advent calendars, and stöllen  —  a traditional German Christmas bread studded with candied fruits and marzipan. 

In the bar, they’re serving a seasonal Nurnberger Glühwein  —  a hot wine seasoned with citrus and warm spices, popular in the Christmas markets of Germany. The beverage is so iconic, it’s received its own Protected Geographical Indication, meaning that only mulled wine produced in the town of Nuremberg, Germany, can be labelled Nurnberger Glühwein. 

The bar serves the piping hot mulled wine in a large mug, where the 9% ABV drink  —  just a bit stiffer than many of the double IPAs Gourmet Haus Staudt serves on tap  —  is sure to bring warmth to the coldest of winter bones. It’s also available by the bottle in the shop for you to heat and serve at home.

Gourmet Haus Staudt, 2615 Broadway, Redwood City

Bar manager Duncan Harrison called in the culinary experts in Zola’s kitchen to help develop the spice blend for the bar’s Mole’d Wine. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Mole’d Wine at BarZola, Palo Alto

For the craft cocktail lover, BarZola in Palo Alto is shedding its French influence in favor of a Mexican mole negro-inspired take on mulled wine.

The Mole’d Wine  —  as BarZola calls it  —  borrows the rich sauce’s use of cacao for depth, earthiness and intensity, along with black cardamom and chiles for additional spice. Bar manager Duncan Harrison took a culinary approach to the cocktail’s development, asking the kitchen staff to weigh in on the blend of chiles for the cocktail. 

Harrison describes the drink as “mulled wine meets Mexican hot chocolate” and serves it with a dark chocolate stroopwafel as a garnish to play off the drink’s spice and chocolate undertones.

BarZola, 585 Bryant St., Palo Alto

The Salto del Agua features Gran Ponche Mexicano, an artisanal pomegranate and hibiscus flavored punch from Mexico. (Photo courtesy San Agus/Instagram)

Salto del Agua at San Agus, Palo Alto

At San Agus, the bar team has come up with a riff on Mexican ponche navideño (Christmas punch) to keep you warm for the season.

The Salto del Agua features Gran Ponche Mexicano, an artisanal punch that’s new to the spirits market this year. Made in Comala, Mexico, from a base of rum with pomegranate and hibiscus, Gran Ponche Mexicano joins tequila, spices, and lemon in a mug to make San Agus’ warm cocktail.

San Agus, 115 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto

A garnish of cloves, orange peel, star anise, and grated cinnamon and nutmeg spice up the hot toddy at Timber & Salt. (Photo by Zack Fernandes)

Hot toddy at Timber & Salt, Redwood City

Though often not listed on the menu, most bars are happy to prepare the hot drink staple of the cocktail world: a hot toddy. At Timber & Salt, they take it a step further by offering customers a choice of base liquor between whiskey, rum or cognac. To add warmth to the drink, the bar uses St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, a Jamaican liqueur made from rum and allspice berries, as well as grated cinnamon and nutmeg.

Another off-menu staple is the Irish coffee, a cup of sweetened, brewed coffee spiked with Irish whiskey and topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. At Timber & Salt, there’s no whipped cream from a can, with bartenders whipping cream to order in cocktail shakers for each glass.

Timber & Salt, 881 Middlefield Road, Redwood City

Zach Fernandes Profile Photo

Zack Fernandes

Bay Area transplant by way of Singapore and Philadelphia. I make burgers by night. Find me @zachareats on Instagram and at zackfernandes.com

You May Also Like

‘We’re all in this together’: How Peninsula restaurants are adapting to pandemic-related issues

A restaurant tucked away in a downtown Palo Alto nonprofit is reopening for the first time since COVID

‘We’re not trying to disrupt the industry’: How a Y Combinator-backed food hall startup is bringing a ghost kitchen alternative to the Peninsula  

Off-campus bites: 16 budget-friendly restaurants near Peninsula colleges