20 best food and drink advent calendars for Christmas 2018
The countdown is officially on and there’s a calendar for everyone, whatever your vice
Can you remember when an advent calendar was no more than two pieces of card stuck together, with a few tedious Christmas characters waiting for you behind each window? No, us neither, as kids we were lucky enough to get the cheap chocolate variety, but either way, things have certainly moved on and it’s no longer the little ones having all the fun.
We’ve rounded up a selection of non-chocolate advent calendars boasting both food and drink (sometimes together) which are guaranteed to score you serious brownie points with the foodie in your life. Below you’ll find sweet, savoury, boozy and more saintly options, ranging from 12 doors, to the full 25. After all, if there’s ever a time to indulge, it’s December, and what better treat than a daily dose of your favourite food or drink.
It’s also worth mentioning that historically the most popular advent calendars have sold out fast, so if you’re keen to get your hands on one, don’t leave it too late.
Virgin Wines Advent Calendar: £79.99, Virgin Wines
Wine not (sorry) treat yourself this Christmas with this cracking advent calendar featuring a selection of Virgin Wines’ most popular vinos from over the past year. You’ll be able to quaff your way through reds, whites, roses and even sparkling styles, including Champagne. There are 24 windows to open, behind which will be a bottle of 187ml-200ml wine – but you won’t find any naff miniatures here. Oh no, these award-wining boutique wines have been produced in a single serve, especially for this calendar.
It’s great for the wine buffs as it takes in grapes from across the globe, but is also a great opportunity to discover new styles that you might not be familiar with. To help with that education there’s a daily digital wine tasting experience to unlock each day, with videos and food-matching tutorials all relating directly to the wine in your glass.
Snaffling Pig Pork Crackling & Beer Advent Calendar: £65, Snaffling Pig
You’re going to have to clear some room for this whopping calendar that stands at a metre tall. A match made in heaven, it combines two of our great loves – 12 premium packets of pork scratchings and another 12 bottles of Meantime beer with which to wash them down. Porky flavours include "marvellous maple", "perfectly salted" and "low & slow BBQ", the latter of which was awarded a star in the Great Taste Awards 2018.
Meanwhile on the drink front you can expect London lager, pale ale and "yakima red" – a fruity, citrus-led brew made with British and German malts which give it its deep ruby colour. Although there are 24 doors, each day you’ll be rewarded with either a beer or packet of pork scratchings (not both) but that’s probably for the best come to think about it.
Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar: £149.95, Ocado
Whisky aficionados will be delighted with this premium selection of 30ml drams from around the world. You’ll sample 24 different whiskies from as near and far as Ireland and Japan, Scotland to India and just about everywhere in between. Some brands you’ll recognise, but there will undoubtedly be some new discoveries along the way. We loved the stylish wax sealed tops and nostalgic bottle labels – all you need to do is add a roaring fire for maximum winter vibes. If you’re feeling particularly flush, there’s a "Very Old & Rare" edition priced at £9,999.95 – but you’d definitely need to be on the nice list for that.
The Gin and Tonic Advent Calendar: £99, Amazon
As a nation, our love for gin shows no sign of slowing down, so here's a legitimate excuse to have a daily drop. This calendar features a 70cl bottle of gin – The Lakes Gin by the multi award-winning Lakes Distillery – which you’re instructed to open first. From then on, each day will offer up a new tonic so you can play around with your favourite combo in the lead up to Christmas. Tonic brands may repeat but flavours don’t, expect the likes of Fever Tree, Fentiman’s and Double Dutch.
That Boutique-y Gin Company Advent Calendar: £99.95, Master of Malt
If you’re after more gin and less tonic, try this extra special treat instead. Drinks by the Dram have teamed up with That Boutique-y Gin Company to bring you this artisan selection of 30ml serves. Juniper is your only consistent, with no gin repeated across the 24 days. These are not your everyday gins with botanicals such as Christmas tree needles, an entire gingerbread house and even real gold inside.
Fizz Advent Calendar: £125, First4Hampers.com
If there’s one month where it’s perfectly acceptable to start the day with a glass of fizz, it’s probably December. Celebrating all things sparkling, this calendar has packed in 23 20cl bottles of prosecco, cava and sparkling wine. Brands are generally pretty well known – think Bottega and Frexinet – and most flavours are repeated once. Including both white and rose fizz, Christmas Eve sees the biggest treat of all – a bottle of Lanson Champagne.
Savoury Food Calendars
Carluccio’s Luxury Advent Calendar: £85, Carluccio’s
Carluccio’s have curated the crème de la crème of luxurious artisan products from across the country and popped them into one very tempting advent calendar. Behind each of the 24 colourful doors you’ll find a different tasty Italian treat – from pasta to oils, truffles to sauces. Leaving you with a veritable feast to cook up on Christmas Eve – if it lasts that long of course.
So Wrong it’s Nom Cheese Advent Calendar: £8-£10, So Wrong its Nom
What’s not to love about this tongue in cheek advent calendar, created by food blogger Annem Hobson from So Wrong It’s Nom. Last year this calendar sold out after the hashtag #CheeseNotChoc went viral with dairy lovers. It’s back and bigger than ever for 2018, containing 24 individually wrapped pieces of cheese across seven different flavours (jarlsberg, applewood, edam, red leicester, wensleydale, cheddar and a limited edition ginger cheese). This will need to be kept refrigerated but the clever book style design allows one half to be torn off after the initial 12 days of Christmas, to maximise fridge space. Cheesus would surely approve.
The Big Chilli Advent Calendar: £29.95, Sous Chef
We all know someone that thinks of themselves as a hot head – they’ll be the one ordering a vindaloo whilst laughing at everyone else’s korma. Put them to the test this Christmas with The Big Chilli Advent Calendar which contains 25 dried chillies – from the mildly spicy to the blow-your-head-off hot. To ensure you get the most out of each days little fire-starter, the calendar comes with a recipe book, including a vegan option for every recipe to ensure no one is left out. Glass of milk at the ready…
Tea & Coffee Calendars
Pukka Tea Advent Calendar: £9.99, Ocado
The element of surprise is somewhat lacking from this wall hanging calendar, but none the less we appreciated the vast selection of organic herbal teas and the good price makes up for it. Instead of doors to open, each individual tea bag is tucked into a numbered pocket, and behind each one you’ll get a little festive message about each flavour, such as: “The bells ring out for oolong. Spiced with silky cinnamon. To set your body free. With blissful greener tea." Catchy.
Festive flavours include vanilla chai and wild apple & cinnamon, as well as our favourite night time brew which always guarantees a great night sleep (maybe save that one for Christmas Eve) There are 24 doors – presumably you’ll be enjoying something stronger on Christmas Day itself.
The House of Newby 2018 Advent Calendar: From £58, Newby Teas
For a more premium tea offering, Newby have this beautifully designed twenty-four day advent calendar, featuring their award-winning teabags. The navy blue box features a grand house (the five-story frontage of the Newby Teas global headquarters no less), with snow-covered gold windows. The double doors pull out to reveal a chest of 24 multi-coloured drawers, each containing four individual wrapped teabags within.
There’s a different flavour each day, spanning black, green, oolong, herbal and fruit teas. If you’re thinking of gifting this gorgeous calendar, it also comes with a gold ribbon and gift tag. Last year’s advent calendar sold out in the third week of November so best move fast if you’re keen to get your hands on one.
The Little Boys Room Personalised Coffee Advent Calendar Box: £54.95, Not on the Highstreet
If there’s one thing we can’t go without in the morning, it’s a shot of coffee. It becomes even more of a necessity when the Christmas parties have started to take their toll. So what better treat to see behind each of the 25 doors than a Nespresso compatible coffee pod. The colourful advent calendar can be personalised with your loved ones name and each pack contains 13 different flavours, so you can expect some repeats.
The Protein Ball Co. Advent Calendar: £12.99, Real Foods
They may be bite-sized, sweet treats but these protein packed balls are a far cry from the cheap chocolate you used to get as a kid. Each individually wrapped protein ball is gluten free and there are two new vegan flavours – the lemon and pistachio gets our vote. Whether you use them to power through your morning workout or save it for the dreaded afternoon slump – you’ll feel smug knowing ingredients are natural and they contain no added sugar. On Christmas Eve you’ll be treated to a special festive flavoured treat, but there are only six flavours in total, so expect some repeats.
Boostbox Protein Advent Calendar: £39.99, Boostbox
Gym-bunnies will go ga-ga for this fitness focused countdown to Christmas. Whilst most of us start to get a bit lax when it comes to the December diet (too many Christmas sandwiches and mince pies to get through), this will keep the more dedicated on the straight and narrow. From flapjacks to balls, cookies to bars, you’ll recognise some of the biggest names in fitness nutrition including Pulsin, Bounce and Lumberjack. You really get your money’s worth with full-size products behind each of the 25 doors.
Sweet (but not chocolate) Calendars
Buttermilk Fudge Advent Calendar 400g: £14.99, Buttermilk
This feels more like the traditional chocolate varieties we were used to as kids, but instead of cocoa, you’ll find crumbly Cornish fudge. The cardboard frontage is decorated in seasonal navy blue, red and green, with simple illustrations of Christmas puds, santas and snow globes. Inside you’ll find fudge individually wrapped (in home-compostable paper, not plastic). Expect three different flavours including rum hot chocolate, gingerbread and mince pie (our favourite). On Christmas Day you’ll be rewarded with an extra-large bar of caramel sea salt fudge.
The Naked Marshmallow Advent Calendar: £15, The Naked Marshmallow Co
This was a popular choice last year, but the calendar has been updated for 2018 with brand new flavours including salted caramel, candy floss, strawberry cream, gingerbread, mint choc chip and the American favourite; s’mores. Aside from the marshmallows themselves you’ll also get a chocolate spoon on Christmas day, designed to melt into your favourite hot drink. We’d recommend adding on the marshmallow toaster (£3.95) so you can easily melt your daily treat.
Candy Kittens Advent Calendar 336g: £12, Ocado
Recently gone vegan and worried about how you’ll get through December without a daily treat? Well worry no more because Candy Kittens have got your back. Bizarrely you’ll find 28 windows on this calendar as they felt like you deserved some half days, so you really are getting your monies worth. Behind each of which there's an individual bag of Candy Kittens, containing 2-3 vegan, gluten-free sweets. Flavours repeat but include sour watermelon, blueberry, peach fizz and wild strawberry.
Joe & Seph’s Popcorn Advent Calendar: £25, Joe & Seph’s
Open up the book-like advent calendar and you’ll find a great big Merry Christmas awaits. The cover is designed to look like a whimsical popcorn shop, with falling snow and twinkling Christmas lights. Although Joe & Seph’s are known for their progressive flavours, you’ll only find 12 of the sweet varieties in this pack – no savoury. Not that we were disappointed by that, we got to try mini bags of everything from toffee apple & cinnamon, raspberry cheesecake and classic caramel amongst others.
Wally and Whiz Advent Calendar: £40, Harvey Nichols
This has got to be the most stylish offering on the market. Available in pale blue or peach, the draws concertina out to create a beautiful display. Inside each of the 24 drawers is a pack of Wally and Whiz wine gums. Free from alcohol, gluten, lactose and suitable for vegans, the Danish company create their flavours using fresh, natural ingredients. Except the likes of apple and cinnamon and elderflower and cherry.
Selfridges Selection Mince Pie Advent Calendar: £34.99, Selfridges
Last year Selfridges were blown away by the love for their 12 door advent calendar full of mini mince pies – so this year they’ve gone all out and have crammed in 24 of the festive favourites. We can all think of at least someone that would happily eat mince pies all year round – this one’s for them. The assortment includes a range of textures and tastes, including almond-topped, citrus-infused and traditional for the purists.
Trussell Trust Reverse Advent Calendar Campaign
Christmas is undoubtedly a time of excess for many. However not everyone is in a position to indulge. For that reason, we’d like to suggest considering taking part in this campaign by the Trussell Trust if you can. It’s pretty simple, every time you open a door in your own advent calendar and take a treat for yourself, you also donate a much needed item of food to a box destined for a local food bank. To check what stock is most needed in your local area, visit here and click on the links to “Give help”/”Donate food”. They ask that you try and get donations in as early as possible so that foodbanks have enough time to distribute before Christmas.
Verdict: Best food and drink calendars for Christmas 2018
If we could wake up to just one, it would be the Virgin Wines advent calendar. However for a cheaper treat the So Nom it’s Wrong cheese advent calendar would also put a big smile on our face in the run up to Christmas. Merry Cheesemas!
Stacey Smith is the founder of food & drink website Crummbs
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.