The red cup “controversy” at Starbucks was intense, as was the reaction to the polar bear cookies. (If you missed it, some people thought the bear’s red scarf made it look like the bear’s throat was slit.)

But how come nobody’s talking about the real Starbucks controversy? Which is this: Are the much-anticipated Starbucks winter drinks really the best out there? Or can we do better?

You’re in Charlotte, so the answer is yes, you can do better. Local coffee shops are putting together creative, beautiful drinks made from quality ingredients. Here’s a look at nine local drinks to try this winter.

Pro tip: Forgo the “to go cup.” Take your drink in a real mug so you can admire the presentation and savor the experience.

Engine 7

daily press engine 7

Cortado, Aleppo peppers and spices, chocolate, ginger oil, with a cookie.

The Daily Press, 3227 North Davidson Street

Salted Caramel Latte

crown station salted caramel latte

Espresso from Magnolia Coffee, caramel syrup, vanilla vodka (optional, but do it if you can), half and half, salted rim.

Crown Station Coffee House & Pub, 1425 Elizabeth Avenue

Partridge in a Pear Tea

daily press partridge in a pear tea

Pear, white tea, vanilla cashew cream, clove oil, almond, banana bitters.

The Daily Press, 3227 North Davidson Street

Eggnog Latte

not just coffee eggnog latte

Steamed eggnog from North Carolina’s Homeland Creamery, with a double shot of espresso and a dash of cinnamon on top.

Not Just Coffee: 7th Street Public Market, 224 East 7th Street; Atherton Mill, 2140 South Boulevard

Cobbler’s Cup

daily press cobblers cup

Iced Olke Birre, Peach Oolong, Cinnamon Bark Oil, spices and citric acid rim, pecan, magnolia and habanero bitters.

The Daily Press, 3227 North Davidson Street

Peppermint Mocha

smelly cat peppermint mocha

Served with house-made brownie.

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse and Roastery, 514 East 36th Street

Happy Plum Fairy

daily press happy plum fairy

Plum and cinnamon syrup, cardamom oil, beet juice, seltzer, whipped cream

The Daily Press, 3227 North Davidson Street

Gingerbread Latte

smelly cat gingerbread latte

Made with house-made gingerbread syrup. Served with house-made gingerbread man.

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse and Roastery, 514 East 36th Street

Hazelnut Praline Café Crème

amelies hazelnut praline cafe creme

Hazelnut white chocolate ganache, espresso, steamed milk, whipped cream and crushed hazelnuts.

Amelie’s French Bakery and Café: 2424 North Davidson Street; 301 South Tryon Street; 7715 Pineville Matthews Road, Space 34B; 157 East Main Street, Rock Hill, SC

Photos: Jody Mace; Smelly Cat

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