Of all the sweets popular during this twinkle-lit — yet exhausting — time of year, maybe we love peppermint for its first syllable. Peppermint’s cool, minty zip gives us the pep we need to survive all the relentless comfort and joy. (And let’s not forget the tidings. The ceaseless tidings!)
To put a candy-striped spring in your step, follow our handy guide to peppermint-flavored yums around town.
Sublime candy cane doughnuts
A few Christmases ago, Sublime Doughnuts created a shinily glazed, peppermint-infused yeast twist — red and white and shaped like a candy cane. I never got a chance to taste it.
And, perhaps I never will. Turns out, the candy cane doughnut, circa 2016, is completely different — round, smeared with snow-white frosting and amply encrusted with crushed peppermint candy.
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This switcheroo is pretty much like dreaming of a puppy under the Christmas tree and instead getting … two puppies! The sensation of minty, candy crunch on top of Sublime’s famously light and fluffy yeast doughnut is ridiculously delightful.
I’m already wondering what peppermint dream Sublime will concoct next year.
$2.25, Sublime Doughnuts, 535 10th St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-897-1801, sublimedoughnuts.com.
Oh Howard! ice cream
My Howard Johnson memories pretty much consist of fried clams. Then again, I’m not Jake Rothschild, who sees all the world through an ice cream lens.
“Peppermint stick ice cream was my childhood favorite,” the owner of Jake’s Ice Cream recalled. “It was a treat my father used to take me and my brother and sister to enjoy at Howard Johnson’s. I made this as my homage to that wonderful memory.”
A scoop of this stuff is just swell, as we used to say back in HoJo’s heyday. It’s prettily pink, very creamy and studded with charmingly irregular bits of crushed peppermint candy. Some are tiny shards and others are as big as gumballs. All are deliciously crispy and cool.
$3.95 / single scoop, Jake’s Ice Cream, 660 Irwin St., Atlanta. 678-705-7945, jakesicecream.com.
North Face hot chocolate
At Cafe Intermezzo, there is golden light and sparkling chandeliers, a 64-page menu and a jewel box cake case. I especially adore the stone Corinthian columns that support nothing but the cafe’s rarefied European air.
The North Face hot chocolate is absolutely in keeping with all this excess. Hot milk sweetened with great gobs of chocolate syrup arrives in a 16-ounce bowl festooned with cocoa-stained milk foam. Nested in the center is a large dollop of the irresistible whipped cream called schlag. And, on top of that, is a sprinkling of chocolate chips.
And that’s not even the best part. On the side is a dainty flute filled with peppermint schnapps. Tip it in, stir, and pretend you’re enjoying a boozy apres ski treat in the Austrian Alps. It’s not hard to do.
$9.60, Cafe Intermezzo, 1065 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-355-0411, cafeintermezzo.com. Also available at Cafe Intermezzo locations at Avalon at Alpharetta, Dunwoody and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
King of Pops white chocolate peppermint pop
King of Pops really knows how to push our seasonal buttons. For me, summer hasn’t really started until I’ve had one of its watermelon mojito pops.
The King has special harbingers of Christmas, too, including a white chocolate peppermint pop. Unlike some of KoP’s more intense fruity flavors, this treat is as subtle as a snow flurry. The white chocolate and peppermint are more aromas than flavors. They’re gently and creamily delicious. Even the color is but a blush — the palest, prettiest pink.
Add it to your list of holiday season essentials.
$4, King of Pops, 337 Elizabeth St. N.E., and Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 678-732-9321, atlanta.kingofpops.com.
Aurora Coffee Polar Bear iced coffee
Aurora Coffee comes off all edgy, but this Little Five Points joe stop has a soft and cuddly side. Witness the Bear Menu. These iced coffees are syrup-spiked and fun to slurp through a straw. They have names like Red Bear (coffee, milk and gingerbread syrup), Brown Bear (coffee and chocolate milk) and even the Teddy Bear (straight up cold milk, cookies not included).
Our favorite, of course, is the Polar Bear, which is laced with plenty of milk and white chocolate and peppermint syrups. It’s very beige and very sweet. But, don’t worry. You can keep your L5P cred if you “wound” your bear with an espresso shot or go “grizzly” and add super-strong iced coffee concentrate.
$3.25 / 12 ounces and $4 / 20 ounces, Aurora Coffee, 468 Moreland Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-523-6856, auroracoffee.com.
Proof Bakeshop peppermint macarons, bark and marshmallows
Oh, Proof Bakeshop, my cup runneth over with you. To be more specific, my $3.78 cup of hot chocolate runneth over because you’ve plunked a handful of homemade peppermint marshmallows into it.
These square, pink-dappled mallows are beguiling — so light and fluffy and intensely pepperminty — they make an already delicious cup of cocoa transcendent.
On the side, you must have a $2.25 peppermint macaron. White and dotted with red sprinkles, this delicate confection is crisp-shelled outside, moist and chewy inside, and wonderfully minty. When you break it apart, you’ll find it has a secret surprise inside — a dollop of chocolate cream. Amazing.
On your way out, grab a $6 cello bag of peppermint bark. It’s straightforward stuff — layered white and dark chocolate and a sprinkling of crushed candy. It’s a classic way to end your pepperminty jaunt about town.
Proof Bakeshop, 100 Hurt St. N.E., Atlanta. 678-705-3905, proofbakeshop.com.