How many of these Starbucks Holiday Drinks Have You Tried?
Grande, Caffè Americano Misto with two pumps of vanilla.
As of April 2020, this is my go-to Starbucks drink order. For several years, it was a Tall Chai Tea Latte.
Just two types of drinks. I don’t stray very far from what I know. I’m quite predictable and boring in that way.
However, part of the reason I’m not more adventurous, and I’m shy to admit this since I’ve only been going to Starbucks for 20+ years, is…. I’m not totally sure what’s on the menu or even how to order it. Quelle horreur!
Call it lack of research or choice overwhelm.
But there are sooo many options: tall, skinny, pumps, half and half, foam this, neat that, shots, shots, shots.
I can’t even process how many combos and customizations you can make, never mind if I’m even saying it right. Another reason I’m not more experimental is because I’m usually going through the drive through and getting flustered with the line of cars piling up behind me, the intercom is crackling, so it’s easier to stick to what I know.
Fun Fact: it turns out there are more than 170,000 ways to customize your Starbucks beverage!
But it’s time to venture into the unknown.
To help me branch out of my comfort zone, I’ve compiled a list of drinks to try this holiday season in order to create the (un)official Starbucks Holiday Drink Bucket List.
If you’d like to venture out and try a few new flavor or two then check out the list of holiday drinks (and some not so holiday drinks) for a fun little caffeine challenge.
I don’t need an inspirational quote, I need coffee
Proper Steps to ordering a Starbucks Holiday Drink
I thought I knew these, but every time I order I trip over what to say next so I thought it helpful to walk through each step as a refresher to help make ordering smooth and seamless.
Hot or Cold
I didn’t realize I should premise my order with the hot or cold instruction, but good to know it could help clarify which cup, direction, headspace the barista is going to shift to; that being said, I’ve yet to receive a Tall Chai Latte on ice, so i’ll consider this step optional.
Starbucks drinks are inspired by Italian coffee culture, so the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, wanted to convey that feeling by using Italian names in many of the menu items and sizes.
Short: 8 oz. 236mL
Tall: 12 oz. 354mL
Grande: 16 oz. 473 mL
Venti (Hot): 20 oz.591mL
Venti (Cold): 24 oz. (The extra room is to accommodate the ice.) 709 mL
Trenta (Cold)*: 31 oz. 916 mL (a litre is 33oz) though only for cold beverages like *Only available for Teavana® Shaken Iced Tea, Teavana® Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade, Iced Coffee, Cold Brew and Starbucks Refreshers®
Syrups (Flavor Pumps)
This is how Starbucks sweetens and flavors their lattes and iced coffees, so depending on how sweet you prefer your drinks or how much coffee taste you’d like to retain you can adjust with your choice of syrup.
Currently there are 11 different syrups, thinner and more watery, and 4 sauces which are thicker and usually made with nonfat milk. The number of offerings and flavors change throughout the year depending on seasonal menu items (looking at you Pumpkin Spice) or with the launch of new drinks.
Hot tip: Ask your local Starbucks if your favorite flavor is available for purchase. If they have enough in stock, you might just score yourself some much needed DIY Starbucks to wow holiday guests or to have ready in case you get snowed in this winter.
Starbucks even has a whole section of their website showing you how to brew their coffee at home, and providing an awesome collection of recipes (Bourbon Brûlé Latte anyone – check out these decadent coffee creations here
There are both dairy and nondairy options available, with choices ranging from nonfat to heavy cream. They even have Starbucks Oat Beverage aka oat milk recently made available.
The add-ons and take-aways – Customizing your drink
If the above options weren’t enough to customize your cup of joe to perfection, there are even more choices that enable you to tailor your drink even further. A friend told me once they order a “skinny – something – something, something”, since I had no clue how to insert this into an already complicated order process, I have never asked for it myself. But I do know it exists.
Here are a a few examples of customizations you could ask for –
More or less, or add: whipped cream, foam, drizzle of syrup etc.
Make it a “skinny” drink – which means blended drinks can be made with nonfat milk, no whipped cream, and sugar-free syrup if available
Add cold foam to an iced drink or cold brew for a cream texture
Extra shots of espresso
Order a tall size in a grande cup to avoid dumping coffee out to add cream or milk. You won’t waste coffee and you get more drink for what you paid for. This trick also applies to grande size in a venti cup.
Convert a hot drink to an iced one (like Brown Sugar Oat Americano into Iced Brown Sugar Oat Shaken Espresso, less sweet but still smooth). The reverse is true as well, try making Chai Tea Iced into a Chai Tea Latte or Iced Caramel Frappuccino into a Caramel Macchiato.
Hold the water with an iced tea or chai tea if you want a stronger drink and more flavor
Ask for light ice with your iced drinks to avoid watering them down
Short – for the days you just want something small
Ask for your iced drink to be shaken – it helps make them taste better. Or could you say it’s like having a festive morning cocktail, hmmm?<link>
Ask for liquid sugar so it isn’t clumpy or messy to mix when mixing into your drink
Ask for extra hot or kid temp – if you prefer a specific temperature you can get it hotter or more of a lukewarm instead
Final step – What type of Starbucks holiday drink do you want?
The Starbucks drink framework is basically 4 different categories or types of drink.
Espresso drinks – include espresso shots as the base and this is where you get your Espresso, Latte, Cappuccino, and Americano from
Espresso – 1 shot
Latte – # shots of espresso + steamed milk + frothed milk foam (add syrups to get a wide variety of latte flavors)
Cappuccino – similar to latte but less milk and more foam
Americano – # espresso shots + hot water instead of milk
Regular drip coffee – water and coffee beans
Frappuccino® – Starbucks trademarked word to describe a blended, dessert-like coffee drink
Tea – can be hot with tea bag or iced tea with juices and flavors
Perfect Way to Order a Starbucks Drink
Taking the previous steps into consideration and putting them in together should result in your order sounding something like:
“iced tall full fat vanilla latte with caramel drizzle” or “tall hot chocolate with oat milk and extra whip, extra hot.”
By starting with the size and temperature of your drink, everything else should flow like java.
Now that we’ve brushed up on the ordering process and all the ways to concoct a different drink every day for the rest of our lives. We’re ready to own that Starbucks Holiday Menu!
Hold up, Starbucks has a secret menu
Much like Disney has a secret dance club and there’s a secret bar accessed through a phone booth in NYC hot dog joint, Starbucks has an unofficial “secret menu” as well.
Basically it is a collection of custom orders customers and baristas have created on their own and through the years by making changes to the regular menu items.
Because it’s off the books, you can’t go into a Starbucks and ask to see their secret menu or order some obscure concoction without having to also explain how to make this uber-custom drink.
To get the most positive experience from your clandestine order, it helps to be considerate of busy order times and the limitations of the store or staff in their ability to recreate a drink that isn’t part of their training or regular menu.
You may need to pony up as well since some customizations come with added costs meaning your regular $5 latte may be quite costly once you’ve made it pink.
When do Starbucks holiday drinks begin?
This year, the Starbucks Red Cups, which kick off all the merriment and controversy of a Starbucks Christmas season will be available Sunday, November 7th!
For those who are passionately obsessed with the holiday season and Starbucks, you can check in with Countdown to Red Cups https://www.countdowntoredcups.com/ to view their countdown to when this year’s holiday drinks will begin. They even have a fun quiz to tell you what holiday drink in a red cup you are – mine is Praline Mocha. Looks like I’ll have to add this to my bucket list.
So let’s get this bucket list rolling.
Best of luck everyone.
Starbucks Holiday Drink Bucket List
Just a friendly PSA: The recommended caffeine intake for a most healthy adults is 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, roughly four cups of brewed coffee. For Starbucks caffeine amounts per drink click here
Apple Crisp Frappuccino
Mix of flavors from apple brown sugar blended with coffee, milk and ice. Drizzles with spiced apple sauce and added whipped cream.
The holidays are magical and so is this secret menu latte. Ask for a Creme Frappuccino with two pumps of caramel syrup and two pumps of toffee nut syrup. Add either a dusting of cinnamon on top or go all in with 1 pump cinnamon dolce. Whipped cream and caramel drizzle optional.
Caramel Apple Spice
Steamed apple juice complemented with cinnamon syrup, whipped cream and a caramel sauce drizzle.
Candy Cane Frappuccino
Indulge in an iconic Christmas treat by ordering a Grande vanilla bean creme Frappuccino with two pumps of peppermint.
Round out your regular go-to by combining two pumps of hazelnut syrup and two pumps of vanilla syrup to create a nutty holiday inspired pick me up
Caramel Brulée Latte
Steamed milk with an espresso, flavored with a caramel Brulée sauce and topped with whipped cream and caramel Brulée topping.
Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino
Buttery caramel syrup blended with coffee, milk and ice, then topped with a layer of dark caramel sauce, whipped cream, caramel drizzle and a crunchy caramel-sugar topping. Wow
Chestnut Praline Latte
A seasonal chestnut infused chocolate flavor in espresso with steamed milk, topped with whipped cream.
Cold Brew Peppermint Mocha Creme Cold Foam
A super secret menu item that goes like this: Grande Cold Brew with Salted Cream Cold Foam, no salt topping, one pump peppermint and 1 pump mocha in the cold foam. With or without the caramel in the cold foam is up to you. It’s a holiday twist on the pumpkin spice cold foam
Eggnog Caffè Latte
The Starbucks Christmas classic. Real eggnog, mixed with a bit of milk, espresso, and topped with nutmeg on top.
Did you know you can get your Eggnog Latte on ice? A secret menu item if you ask nicely. All the deliciousness of Eggnog Latte but chillier.
Another Christmas classic, a fresh latte with a couple of shots of gingerbread syrup, topped with whipped cream and nutmeg.
Honey Almond Flat White with Pumpkin Spice Topping
Keeping with the fall theme, the pairing of the almond, a hint of honey and zany pumpkin spice makes this a perfect nutty, sweet, creamy Instagram worthy drink.
Iced London Fog Tea
A creamier tea created with milk instead of water. Hold the liquid cane sugar and add two pumps of vanilla and top with cold foam.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
A twist on the Peppermint Mocha, lose the coffee and go for a hot chocolate with peppermint syrup, whipped cream and festive red sprinkles.
A classic mocha with peppermint syrup, topped with whipped cream and some festive red sprinkles.
Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino
As with the Eggnog Latte, you can also order a Peppermint Mocha as a blended ice drink, a mocha Frappuccino with peppermint syrup, whipped cream and of course the red sprinkles.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Something for Halloween, a seasonal coffee made with espresso, pumpkin-flavored syrup and steamed milk , topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices.
Pumpkin Spice Crème
A steamed milk version of the very popular Pumpkin Spice Latte. All the flavours of the pumpkin spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), a touch of whipped cream, but less jitters
Royal English Breakfast Tea Latte with a Spiced Apple Drizzle
Afternoon tea never tasted so Christmassy. Ask for an English Breakfast, or any black tea, and sweeten it with liquid cane sugar and topped with steamed milk and a velvety foam, and apple drizzle.
Steamed Apple Juice
Freshly steamed 100% apple juice (not from concentrate) is a classic fruit drink that will soothe your day.
Thin Mint Frappuccino
For all the memories reminiscent of Girl Scout cookies, create this bevy with Tazo Green Tea Creme Frappuccino as the base, for Grande orders it’s 2 pumps of mocha syrup, and 2 pumps of peppermint syrup, java chips blended in with mocha drizzle on top
Vanilla Steamer with Peppermint Syrup and White Chocolate Mocha Sauce
A smooth, frothy vanilla flavored luxury. For those times when you’d rather not indulge in the rich flavor of our world-famous espresso – but still desire a hot, creamy vanilla beverage.
Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew
Starbucks describes this as our slow-steeped custom blend of Starbucks® Cold Brew coffee accented with vanilla and topped with a delicate float of house-made vanilla sweet cream that cascades throughout the cup. It’s over-the-top and super-smooth.
White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino® with a drizzle of …. White chocolate!
A winter wonderland in a cup. Top it off with whipped cream and lace up your skates.
Hold the Sugar Please
Although these drinks all sound, and probably taste Ahhh-MAZING! I’m also looking to balance the scales and control my sugar intake this holiday season. Here are a few of the options I found that still taste great and keep you energized.
Generally, the quantity of syrup to size of cup is as follows:
Grande contains 4 pumps
Tall flavoured Starbucks contains 3 pumps of syrup
And, Venti includes 5 or 6 pumps of syrup
One pump of syrup equals roughly 4.8 or 4.9 grams of sugar which is a little more than 1 teaspoon (4.2g) and ranges between 20.2 to 26.5 calories.
This means a tall flavoured drink with 3 pumps equals 60.5 calories and 14.6g of sugar (3.49 teaspoons), this is before all the delicious little toppings and milk you’re adding.
For a detailed nutrition breakdown of Starbucks drinks you can visit this link
For a calculator converter for grams, teaspoons, ounces and different a number of baking ingredients besides sugar check this out
Better.net has put together a helpful list of lower-calorie drink options and suggested tweaks to make them lighter for your waist but still fulfilling.
Non-Sugary Winter Drinks from Starbucks
Dirty Chai Tea Latte
Order a Grande Chai Tea Latte either hot or iced and mix with skim or dairy-free milk. Add only one pump of chai, one pump of vanilla, and one shot of Blonde Espresso.
Iced White Peppermint Mocha
Order a Grande Iced Coffee with no Classic Syrup. Add one pump of peppermint and a pump of white mocha. Mix with a splash of skim or dairy-free milk and voila.
Salted Caramel Mocha
A Grande Cafe Misto with either skim or dairy-free milk and one pump of toffee nut and one pump of mocha. No whip cream.
Chestnut Praline Latte
Order a Grande using almond milk instead of whole milk to cut calories significantly (from 370 calories to 110 calories)
Holiday Flat White
Order a tall flat white with almond milk instead of whole
Eggnog Latte with light eggnog and half the pumps (2 instead of 4)
Less pumps, no whip, skim instead of whole milk or hold the sprinkles. A few changes can make a big difference, and even just ordering the smaller size is all you may need to satisfy that Starbucks craving but still get the max taste.
Starbucks Holiday Gift Idea
There you have it – a holiday drinking challenge that only involves caffeine. I’m looking forward to checking a few of these off my bucket list and expanding my order options.
A couple of gift ideas come to mind which would be great for family and friends or acquaintances:
Print off this bucket list of ideas and pair it with a gift card for them to get started on their own caffeine indulgence.
Or write your favorite secret menu order in a card and partner it with a gift card so the next time they visit they can enjoy the same drink.
It’s like you’re having a coffee with them, but like also not.