I'm truly a fiend for all things seasonal and holiday coffees and lattes. From pumpkin spice season to the holidays (and all year round — I've always been a sucker for the ice cream flavors that Dunkin' sells in the summertime), I feverishly consume as many of these (overtly sugary) drinks, celebrating the respective season with a beverage in my hand or on my desk.
This year, I opted to take a more "scientific" (lol) approach and ordered all of the current Starbucks items in their Holiday oeuvre in order to ascertain what the best drinks really are. Of course, Starbucks has a revolving door of drink offerings: some come around year-after-year, while others are one and done, unfortunately. For example, this year's menu doesn't include gingerbread or eggnog lattes, much to the dismay of many Starbucks aficionados.
This year, the coffee chain has a list of seven holiday beverages, so I bravely ordered every single one of them and risked stomachaches and jitteriness in order to properly and accurately rank these drinks.
In order to mitigate ice dilution, variables and biases, I ordered all of these items at the same size and temperature and made no customizations or modification whatsoever to the menu items as is. I'm not a believer in the "secret menu" realm, or in making baristas do inexplicable amounts of work, so I'm not tapping into that landscape here whatsoever. Lastly, the new Irish Cream Whiskey Barrel-Aged Cold Brew was not at my location, so I didn't get to include that here.
So queue up some of your favorite Christmas tunes and settle in, because without further ado, here is the Starbucks 2022 holiday beverage ranking:
This drink is thinner than the other drinks and the almond milk notes come through very distinctly, almost to the point that it's the prominent flavor. It has a very sweet aftertaste.
I think the name and aesthetic is more appealing than the taste itself. I prefer this drink with anything other than almond milk and I think it's also better iced, but it's also just generally not the most exciting drink? I have some sort of aversion to the flavor of heated almond milk; to me, it's just not very appealing.
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I have a confession. I've always thought I wasn't a big proponent of anything Peppermint Mocha flavored, so this took me by surprise. It was far and away the victor of this taste test: bright, festive, warming, leaves a tingly aftertaste, very rich, not too sweet and it has the perfect blend of chocolate and peppermint.
I think this drink is exponentially better when it's hot, so this may also be a reason for the change of opinion. I find that the iced variation usually results the über-thick mocha sinking to the bottom, barely incorporating into the actual drink itself. This is not an issue whatsoever in the hot iteration.
Cinnamon Dolce Latte: While this is not a "holiday" item per se, this drink has all the warmth and familiarity of the holiday drinks and I think it's especially terrific when enjoyed during the season. It's been a favorite of mine for years.
Sugar Plum Cheese Danish: This is one of Starbucks's best food options. The fruit jam is has a very fruit-forward flavor and it's not not overly sweet, there's a slight "holiday spice" essence coming through, the cheese component is smooth, rich and creamy and the pastry itself is flaky and buttery with a subtle crystallized sugar thing going on. The combination is just stellar (and I've always loved the name!)
I will note that sipping all of these drinks and then enjoying the sugar plum danish did leave a bit of a saccharine note in my mouth and it didn't dissipate after drinking a host of water. I also assume that no one reading this will nonchalantly be ordering seven drinks and then drinking them in succession, though, so I don't foresee this being an issue for the standard customer.