Simply put, life is too short for bad coffee. After all, at the end of your morning cuppa joe, that my friends is where life begins.

While there are a plethora of frappuccino-slingin’ Starbucks locations throughout Jacksonville, here in the River City, we’re blessed to have an up-and-coming and at times, seemingly under-appreciated, local coffeehouse scene.

“Selling candified magical bean liquid with caffeine is very different from just enjoying a cup of good coffee,” Eryn Kimball, general manager at Delicomb in Jacksonville Beach, said. “Here in the South, we still have a good number of working-class people who see coffee as a sit-on-the-burner beverage paired with breakfast as opposed to a considerately made product. Craft coffee has yet to catch on and gain a following like craft beer has, and that’s unfortunate. Here [at Delicomb], we make our biscuits fresh everyday just like we do our coffee. Coffee is something that should be prepared and enjoyed with the same consideration as our breakfast.”

Being a former barista myself, I couldn’t agree more as a good shot of espresso is something I wholeheartedly enjoy. Coffee, for me, is something exciting, sort of like a hobby you could say.

With all the holiday shopping that’s about to ensue, I set out to find five seasonally festive espresso beverages you shouldn’t enjoy the holidays without. I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy (caffeinated) train.

Slide or swipe to view all five decadent coffees.

Bold Bean’s Spicy Chocolate Affogato: Unfortunately, we do live in a place with a bipolar attitude in regard to weather, especially in the winter. In search of a great drink for a hot winter day, I stumbled upon the perfect combination of espresso and holiday spice, as well as everything nice, at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters in Jacksonville Beach. Two shots of espresso are poured over a single serving of Naturally Smart Frozen Dessert (created right here in Jacksonville by local entrepreneur Mark Patterson and featured at OneSpark) and topped with a spicy chocolate sauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon making it a delicious treat with a little kick of heat.

Delicomb’s Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte: Out at the beach, with no Lillie’s Coffee Bar in sight, I needed a new vice for oceanfront caffeine. Delicomb’s pumpkin spice flavoring is made in-house from scratch and with organic pumpkin. Served over ice, it’s the perfect treat for our hot winter days on the beach under the Florida sun. Though you can never replace Lillie’s, I’ve found a new beach favorite for sure.

Sippers’ Gingerbread Cheesecake Latte: Smack dab in the backyard of what will soon be Ikea, lies a little hidden gem called Sippers Coffeehouse. Inside this charming little abode was a staff that put the caring and kindness for their customers in every ounce of this delicious holiday concoction. Cheesecake and gingerbread married happily every after in a warm ceramic cup with a shot of espresso. Need I say any more?

Vagabond’s Pumpkin Spice Latte: Vagabonding my way around the local coffee scene, I couldn’t not pay a visit to Vagabond Coffee Company’s new brick-and-mortar shop in Murray Hill. A warm, inviting atmosphere that is filled with the aromas of their homemade pop tarts and pies prepared me for the creamy deliciousness that was their ultra-delicious take on a pumpkin spice latte.

Starbucks’ Eggnog Latte: Don’t worry corporate America, I made sure to include your favorite coffee shop on my holiday trek. What sets this drink apart from all the rest of the coffee giant’s holiday choices is the creaminess from the steamed eggnog. It adds a different depth to the drink, while being so subtly sweet that you can really taste the different notes of the espresso. Topped with a little whip and a pinch of nutmeg, it’s a comforting way to spending those cold holiday evenings.

By Grant Gunderson | Contributor