Campus Life, Lifestyle

2021 Starbucks holiday drink review

I love coffee. More than the average person. Ever since I was little, I loved the smell and taste of coffee. Before I was allowed to have it, I would sneak small sips out of my mom’s mug. 

I remember my first caffeinated drink vividly — Starbucks was offering free samples of a Caramel Frappuccino while I was on vacation. I was hooked instantly and for the remainder of the trip, I begged my mom for a Caramel Frappuccino daily. A proven example of effective marketing.

Starbucks knows how to market, advertise and brand their products to consumers.

This is evident in Starbucks’ holiday menu success. The first Starbucks handcrafted holiday drink, the Eggnog Latte, was created in 1986, and since then, the menu has evolved into a seasonal tradition. In addition to their holiday menu, Starbucks created holiday cups in 1997. Since then, the highly anticipated day Starbucks starts serving their holiday drinks marks the beginning of the holiday season for so many of us. 

On Nov. 3, Starbucks announced its six holiday beverages that would be a part of the 2021 holiday season’s menu. Returning beverages include the Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte, Chestnut Praline Latte, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha and the Irish Cream Cold Brew. Starbucks also revealed a new dairy-free addition to the menu, the Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte. 

I shamefully admit that I have tried each Starbucks holiday beverage to the dismay of my dining plan and bank account. To save everyone the time, money and effort, I have reviewed and ranked each beverage from the Starbucks 2021 holiday menu. I primarily critiqued the drinks on my opinion of flavor, uniqueness and holiday feel, and ranked them from worst to best. 

6: Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

The drink is described as a “caramelized white chocolate” mixed with mocha sauce and finished with “sugar sparkles” and “white pearls.” It did not live up to its description. Instead of tasting caramelized white chocolate, I mainly tasted milk and cream. The cream heavily overpowered the coffee, and I was left feeling disappointed. 

5: Irish Cream Cold Brew

I was surprised the Irish Cream Cold Brew ranked this low, too. It’s described as a cold brew mixed with “Irish cream flavored syrup, topped with Vanilla Sweet Cream Foam and a strike of cocoa powder.” The Irish cream flavor was lacking, and the syrup did not blend well with the foam losing any flavor the drink may have had. This drink tasted similar to Starbucks’ Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew.


Starbucks holiday drink review and rank
A hand holds a Starbucks holiday cup in front of a lit Christmas tree. From the new Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte to the classic Peppermint Mocha, Mia reviews and ranks the Starbucks holiday drinks from worst to best. COURTESY OF JASMIN SCHULER VIA UNSPLASH

4: Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte

The Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte was simply average. The beverage includes the Starbucks Blonde Espresso Roast, “sugar cookie syrup” and almond milk topped with sprinkles. While it did taste like a sugar cookie, the latte was not special and did not embrace the holiday flavor. It is still a solid dairy-free option, and I loved that it was not too sweet. 

3: Caramel Brulée Latte

It is described as a latte with “rich Caramel Brulée Sauce” topped with whipped cream and a “Caramel Brulée topping.” This drink tasted strikingly similar to a regular and familiar caramel latte. It did not remind me of the holidays and presented no unique flavor. However, I loved the caramelized sugar topping, which added a sugary crunch to the drink. A caramel latte is my personal drink of choice, and it was still a very delicious latte — hence why I ranked this beverage third. 

2: Peppermint Mocha

The Peppermint Mocha is a Starbucks holiday classic — now going into its 19th year on the menu. The drink features a typical mocha combined with “peppermint-flavored syrup” topped with whipped cream and “dark chocolate curls.” A fair warning — the drink has strong notes of peppermint. The peppermint flavor combines beautifully with the mocha while not being too overpowering. It is a unique drink that reminds me of the holidays. What’s not to love? 

1: Chestnut Praline Latte

The Chestnut Praline Latte takes the cake. The drink is described as a standard latte with “flavors of caramelized chestnuts and spices … topped with whipped cream and spiced praline crumbs.” The spices combine magnificently with the latte flavor, with neither flavor overpowering the other. The latte closely resembles hazelnuts without being too nutty or sweet. The beverage perfectly and uniquely resembles the holidays in a cup that you can only get during the festive season. 

This review reflects my own personal opinion, and I encourage you to try a few different drinks on the holiday menu because they are all good in their own unique way. I also want to recommend my favorite item on the standard Starbucks menu — the Starbucks Iced Shaken Espresso. It deliciously combines notes of strong espresso with vanilla, and it is one of the only beverages that manages to keep me feeling caffeinated all day — so, consume at your own risk.

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