This Year’s Top Holiday Treats at Universal Orlando Resort

December 12, 2023

For me, the holiday season is all about memories. I grew up celebrating Christmas, so this time of year always conjures visions of decorating the tree, buying presents, dressing up my dog in Christmas bandanas, watching Christmas movies with my family and, of course, food. Lots and lots of food.

Regardless of your unique celebrations, I hope you can look back upon holidays past with adoration for the memories you made. This whole season is rooted in nostalgia, which I found is also prevalent among the specialty holiday snacks around Universal Orlando Resort.

I got the opportunity to speak with a few of the chefs responsible for some of the greatest theme park dishes I’ve ever had, and learned all about how their traditions factored into them.

Grab an empty stomach, a holiday beverage and let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen | Universal CityWalk

The coquito milkshake

Like lots of kids did, a young Chef Christian Markussen grew up writing letters to Santa. When it came time for Chef Christian, along with Chef Chris Colon and Chef Cheryl Figueroa Rivera, to develop the 2023 holiday menu for Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, they were faced with the challenge of outdoing the previous year’s milk and cookies milkshake. They wanted to create one that would impress even Santa himself.

“We wanted to build on some flavors that were successful in last year’s holiday season,” Markussen says. The team asked themselves, according to Markussen, “What can we do that’s over the top?”

Markussen explains that they wanted to pair the childlike giddiness of coming to Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium with the holiday spirit and connect it all back to their collective memories of writing letters to Santa.

After settling on the milkshake’s theme, the team was tasked with developing the flavor of the specialty drink. Markussen says they wanted to create a unique flavor that still relates back to the holiday season.

“For us, it’s trying to capture — what are the most quintessential flavors that we could get for the season that aren’t overplayed everywhere else?” Markussen says.

The coquito milkshake

They settled on Coquito, a classic Puerto RIcan cocktail with coconut and rum flavors. He said the coquito flavor profile is very similar to eggnog, but different enough to lure in the eggnog haters. 

The milkshake itself is delicious, with a thick, coconut-flavored shake. It’s very fresh too, with flakes of coconut. The hint of rum flavoring (DON’T WORRY; it’s a 0% ABV milkshake meaning there is no alcohol) really rounded it out by mellowing the sweetness. I’m personally not a fan of eggnog, but can definitely get behind coquito.

The coquito milkshake

Perhaps the best part of the milkshake was the adorable letter to Santa on top. Made of chocolate, the detail on it is insane! It rests on a mountain of whipped topping which is also sprinkled with red. 

Hop on Pop | Seuss Landing in Universal Islands of Adventure

The hot chocolate bomb in front of a candy cane deoration

Naturally, Seuss Landing is holiday central at the Universal Orlando Resort. The Grinch has taken over fan-favorite Hop on Pop with a plethora of green items inspired by the heartwarming villain.

A hand holding an ice cream sandwich

One of my favorite items was the Ice Cream Sandwich. It looks thematically perfect for the world of Dr. Seuss, fit with green cookies and a large block of ice cream. As Sous Chef Nicole Oiler pointed out, nothing in Seuss Landing is uniform. It only makes sense for the ice cream sandwich to have a whimsical shape!

A tray of green cookies

If you’re more interested in the green cookies than the ice cream, you’re in luck. The sugar cookies are available separately and are super soft. I prefer gooey cookies over crispy ones, so I definitely grabbed a handful of these. 

A close-up of hands holding the hot chocolate bomb and the bomb after exploding in the hot chocolate

Another fun option is the Grinch’s Heart Hot Chocolate Bomb. It comes with a cup of hot chocolate, which you drop the heart into. As it slowly melts away, it makes the drink so much better (and greener)! I personally loved watching the marshmallows mysteriously bubble to the surface after the heart sank. It’s perfect for the days when Central Florida dips below 75 degrees! If you’re not feeling up for a heated beverage, you can also grab the heart as a snack.

The inside of the hot chocolate bomb

All of these green treats have a smaller, red cinnamon accessory, meant to signify the Grinch’s heart before it grew three sizes. It’s a heartwarming reminder of the beloved story! 

Battery Park | Universal Studios Florida

A person holding a piece the three cheese grilled cheese sandwich

Over in Universal Studios Florida, Battery Park takes a more traditional — and savory — take on holiday favorites. My personal favorite things at this booth were the grilled cheese, the s’mores sandwich and the spiked eggnog, but you can’t go wrong with any of the options.

A person holding a piece the three cheese grilled cheese sandwich

 After taking my first bite of the 3 Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich, it quickly propelled itself into the running of the best things I’ve ever eaten in the theme parks. The sandwich has three different types of cheeses (cheddar, muenster and mozzarella), of course, along with a bacon and tomato jam. It sounds a little overwhelming, I know, but trust me, each ingredient levels the dish up even more!

Chef Ronald Cope explains that the inspiration behind the dish is from his own childhood. He grew up eating grilled cheese and tomato soup and he wanted a way to fuse the two together for this year’s holiday food lineup. 

The turkey sandwich

The Turkey Dinner Sandwich is something most of us have grown up with.The Turkey Dinner Sandwich is served warm with freshly carved turkey breast, toasted multi grain cranberry bread, savory brie cheese, and lusciously tart cranberry orange aioli spread — it’s a great combination of flavors.

A person holding a bowl of butternut squash soup

If you happen to be in the park on a cool and drizzly day like we were, you can’t go wrong with the two soup options — tomato soup and butternut squash soup. Soup is perfect this time of year, it is soup season after all!

A person pouring a drink into a cup

The Classic Nog Eggnog was delicious. It was such a powerful combination of flavors. I would definitely recommend it Fire style, which comes with some Cinnamon Whiskey poured over as a floater. It is the holidays, after all! The intensity of the alcohol shot blends well with the sweet drink, and the cinnamon pairs perfectly. If rum’s more your thing, you can order it with rum instead. 

A hand holding a smore's sandwich

Dessert is my favorite part of any meal and you’re not going to want to miss the S’mores sandwich. With gooey marshmallow and melted chocolate sandwiched between chocolate brioche bread, it’s perfect for invoking old fireside memories. It brought me back to my childhood and crisp December Virginia nights spent sitting by the fireplace and watching Christmas movies with my sister. 

Sweet, savory and everything in between — regardless of which avenue you take for holiday treats, you can’t go wrong with any of them! However, my top recommendation firmly rests with the Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich. 

Happy holidays!

What’s your favorite holiday dish at the Universal Orlando Resort? Let us know in the comments or on social media! Check out more of the holiday fun around the resort here.

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