Starbucks holiday drinks: how do they stack up?


Lindsey Harrison

Starbucks rolled out four new designs for their signature red holiday cups this season.

While many aspects of the holiday season change from year-to-year, one thing that is inevitable is Starbucks’ red holiday cups and the introduction of their festive beverages. There are six different drinks available this year, including the newly introduced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte.

With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to know which drink is the best. Former staffer Lydia Hampton and I tried all of Starbucks’ holiday coffees to give you a closer analysis of each beverage.

For background, Hampton and I are both avid coffee drinkers who prefer a stronger and less sweet coffee but still appreciate the frills and fun of seasonal drinks. The drinks were evaluated on the basis of how the toppings contribute to the overall taste, the sweetness, the strength of the coffee taste, and the flavor. We also asked students the reason why each drink is their personal favorite.


  1. Toasted White Mocha

Topping Value: 1/10

Sweetness: 5/10

Coffee Level: 4/10

Flavor: Slightly vanilla, bitter, burnt taste

Student Opinion: This is nobody’s favorite drink.

Our Take: 

“I’m not tasting anything except burnt milk,” Hampton.

“I think the ‘toasted’ element of the drink only contributes to the coffee’s overall bitterness. This is the most boring, unpleasant, drink ever,” Harrison.


  1. Caramel Brulée Latte

Topping Value: 10/10

Sweetness: 11/10

Coffee Level: 2/10

Flavor: Caramel all the way, slightly burnt

Student Opinion: “It’s very sweet. It’s very caramelly. It’s very Christmas-y,” said senior Jack Hibbs.

Our Take: 

“Needs a lot more espresso ladies and gentlemen,” Hampton.

“I can’t get over the insane sweetness and burnt sugar aftertaste,” Harrison.


  1. Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte

Topping Value: 3/10

Sweetness: 8/10

Coffee Level: 4/10

Flavor: Almond-y vanilla, sugar cookie

Student Opinion: “I love it because it’s festive,” said senior Laney Wardell, “my favorite part is the sprinkles”.

Our Take: 

“The blonde espresso lets the almond and sweetness take over,” Hampton.

“It tastes like a straight-up sugar cookie. Almost too sweet, but still yummy,” Harrison.


  1. Chestnut Praline Latte

Topping Value: 10/10

Sweetness: 9/10

Coffee Level: 2/10

Flavor: Nutty, maple, cinnamon

Student Opinion: “My cousin introduced it to me when we went to Disneyland during Christmas. Whenever I order it, I always think back to that trip,” senior Arri Capones explained, “It also is a drink that isn’t too overwhelming and warms me up in the cold mornings”.

Our Take: 

“It tastes like you put a cinnamon bun in a blender,” Hampton.

“This is one of my long-time favorites. The candied chesnut is so festive and the flavor is very full,” Harrison.


  1. Irish Cream Cold Brew

Topping Value: 9/10

Sweetness: 5/10

Coffee Level: 7/10

Flavor: Caramel, chocolate, very creamy

Student Opinion: “It’s a very tasty iced beverage and i like holiday drinks that i can enjoy cold,” said senior Bridget Hale.

Our Take:

 “It has a good solid coffee taste without losing the holiday feel,” Hampton.

“The Irish cream cold foam in this drink is truly magical,” Harrison.

  1. Peppermint Mocha

Topping Value: 13/10

Sweetness: 6/10

Coffee Level: 4/10

Flavor: Peppermint chocolate goodness

Student Opinion: “I absolutely love anything mocha and [the Peppermint Mocha] reminds me of Christmas! My favorite part is definitely the little chocolate shavings that go on top of the whip cream,” said junior Maddie Woods.

Our Take:

“To me, this just tastes like Christmas. The peppermint keeps the chocolate from overpowering the drink,” Hampton.

“I was worried about the peppermint and coffee flavors together, however, the chocolate ties everything together nicely,” Harrison.


While everyone’s tastes and preferences are different, hopefully this will help make your decision a little bit easier when you get to the counter this holiday season.