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This Year’s Starbucks Holiday Beverages, Ranked

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could conjure the strength to write this article upon hearing that the beloved Gingerbread Latte would not be available in the United States this season. The sweet, spicy, heaven-in-a-cup beverage is only being sold in Canada, because apparently Canadians are more deserving. (I guess that’s fair.) After researching planes, trains, and automobiles across our northern border, I have realized that it is much more cost-effective to simply learn to like the other drinks. So, here we are.

I kid. The Peppermint Mocha has been my right-hand man for years. Nothing can revive me from post-PSL depression better than espresso kissed with cool peppermint and semi-sweet chocolate. 

Has the Peppermint Mocha retained its high ranking this season? Read on to find out.

7. Pumpkin Spice Latte

I know what you’re thinking. How on earth can I rank the PSL dead last? It has its own Twitter account. I can, and I will, because she has had her time in the spotlight. I drove to Starbucks at 7:00 in the morning in August to grab my first PSL before getting on the train for my summer internship. I have been devoted to this beverage for 3 months; enough is enough. Post-PSL depression is a natural part of life, and we should all learn to embrace it. As a wise person once said: “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

6. Salted Caramel Mocha

I am biased against this one. I admit it. I can’t stand salted caramel in any form, let alone in an espresso beverage. For me, the ideal way to cut sweetness in desserts is using spice, not a heaping helping of salt. Besides, Starbucks has introduced far too many mochas into their product line. Someone has got to go.

5. Caramel Brulee Latte

I can say that I’m giving caramel a fair chance here, but this ranking is nothing short of incriminating. I don’t mind caramel-flavored coffee beverages. A good caramel iced coffee is something special, and I will defend its honor. However, there is nothing “bruleed” about this latte at all. Do I want it to taste burnt? No, but if a name is going to insinuate a smoky flavor (I’m looking at you, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha), I expect that flavor to make an appearance. Since this latte tastes too similar to your run-of-the-mill caramel, I’ll pass.

4. Eggnog Latte

The eggnog latte is not bad. In fact, I think steaming eggnog with espresso is clever, and I applaud Starbucks for their forward thinking. That being said, it falls flat for me. The eggnog itself is so rich that you feel like you’re drinking cake batter. (Yes, eggnog uses eggs to thicken it, I know. Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.) The flavor is pretty good, and I like the hint of vanilla, but the sweetness and thickness make me look elsewhere.

3. Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

I have a similar issue with this latte as I do with the Caramel Brulee, but the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha gets away with it. White chocolate is more unique and interesting than caramel—hate to say it—so this mocha gets a pass. However, the unfettered power of white chocolate makes this latte sickeningly sweet, even when reducing the pumps of syrup. Maybe some toastiness would calm it down a little.

2. Peppermint Mocha

No, this is not a typo. The Peppermint Mocha is not my favorite drink this season. Before you click out of this article, hear me out. The Peppermint Mocha has always been there for me, and I haven’t forgotten my roots. Everyone knows that peppermint and chocolate are meant to be together, and the whipped cream and chocolate shavings that they add on top seal the deal. But I do need to get something off my chest—I don’t like the Peppermint Mocha in its natural form. Four pumps of peppermint syrup in a grande is nauseating; it’s like setting your morning alarm to the Christmas Song as performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks and having those aggressively autotuned, slightly demonic voices rip you from slumber and douse you in a fresh coat of yuletide annoyance. Okay, perhaps it’s nothing like that, but four pumps of peppermint is more Christmas cheer than anyone needs. A grande Peppermint Mocha with three pumps of mocha and one pump of peppermint is the sweet spot, and if that were the default, maybe this drink would be number one.

1. Chestnut Praline

We have finally made it to the number one drink of the season. This beverage has fought mochas (many of them), eggnog, and peppermint, and has hailed supreme. The Chestnut Praline latte may seem like an odd choice; it does not scream Christmas in the same way as a Peppermint Mocha. I respectfully disagree. The first line of the most-performed Christmas song in the world reads: “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” You don’t get more Christmassy than chestnuts. The Chestnut Praline latte has done everything right—the nutty flavor comes through beautifully, with the praline adding sweetness, but not too much (thank God). Many Starbucks drinks, especially around the holidays, can be tooth-rotting, but the Chestnut Praline latte has a more subtle sweetness. If you’re not a fan of sweet things in general, you could decrease the pumps of syrup, but it is not necessary.

 

As we have become an increasingly capitalistic society, Starbucks emerged as a symbol of the holiday season. It never feels like Christmas without the printed cups—sans controversy—the store decorations, and the tasty drinks. I, for one, look forward to the arrival of these beverages year after year. Now that you can tell the hidden gems from the flops, get out there and order yourself a latte—and don’t forget the whip!

Collier Curran

Columbia Barnard '20

Collier is a senior at Barnard College who enjoys brunch, playing with cats, and yelling at the TV during episodes of the Great British Baking Show. You can pry em dashes out of her cold, dead hands.
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