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Sunday, September 19, 2021

How good are Starbucks 2020 holiday drinks?

More hits than misses for 2020’s holiday menu

I have spent the last ten months in a small town that boasts two restaurants. Through ample free time and lack of places to go over the past few months, I have gotten acquainted with the Starbucks holiday menu. I feel it’s now my duty to pass down the integral information I have acquired through hard work and decade-old gift cards.

Eggnog Latte

The existence of this drink truly shook me to my core. Everything about it haunts me. Besides the fact that it has the least appetizing name of all time, it’s scary to be made. The ear-splitting screech of steaming the eggnog is like a warning alarm reminding you to really consider if it should be ingested. If you have the ability to cognitively distance yourself from the fact that you are drinking hot, thick egg milk, the semi-sweet flavor really isn’t anything remarkable.

 Despite its unpleasant name and flavor, it probably has the most dedicated fans of any drink on the menu. I’ve seen people walk in the store, ask if they have eggnog and leave before the cashier can even finish explaining that it’s out of stock. What it is to live like that, I can only speculate, but I have to give eggnog credit where credit is due.

The Eggnog Latte is ride or die. If you are daring enough to order it in a Frappuccino version you are a braver soul than I will ever be. At this time of year, most locations are out of stock. Until next year Eggnog Latte, until next year.

Chestnut Praline Latte and Caramel Brulee Latte

These two drinks have very different flavors, but I always group them because the names sound similar. They both capture the essence of the Starbucks holiday menu which I have classified into a straightforward acronym: FFF (festive, fancy, fun). The FFF factor of these lattes applies to people looking to try something new.

The flavor of chestnut praline is not my personal favorite. If I want an unhealthy drink I’d rather go for the ultra sweet drinks rather than the more dulled taste of the chestnut praline. My initial review was hot sock water, but later the sugar and nuttiness came through and I began to realize why people like it. I wouldn’t get it myself, but I’d drink it if it were put in front of me.

I do not know what caramel brulee is supposed to be, but it tastes like hot butter if that’s what you’re into. This drink does shine because of its topping. The large, amber colored sugar granules really add an attractive visual component. It wins the award for prettiest holiday drink.

Peppermint Mocha 

Peppermint Mocha is definitely the most popular holiday drink on the menu. It’s understandable why—it is a classic and has a more festive feeling than anything else on this list. The main flaw is that it can come on a little too strong.

The flavor balance of the drink is off because it contains an absolute monstrosity of syrup. Picture a grande hot cup—about ⅓ of that is going to be just syrup, which is kind of gross. If, like me, the standard amount of syrup is too much for you, order this drink with half the pumps. This dulls the flavor and lets you taste the espresso and mocha rather than being overwhelmed with peppermint.

 Technically, this drink can be ordered year round, but this classic is better enjoyed during the holidays. Plus you get a chocolate topping that is only included when you order the drink in the holiday season. In my professional opinion, I would say go for the Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha for a better, less bitter flavor.

Toasted White Mocha

When I taste this drink I can picture the Starbucks scientists in their Starbucks lab working around the clock to perfect the white chocolate flavor. The normal year-round white chocolate sauce is already one of the chain’s best flavoring options, but the toasted version makes it a little more exclusive and fun. There’s not a super noticeable difference—it’s like white mocha but nuttier and there’s almost a sweet marshmallow flavor. I would say the best way to describe it is like drinking liquidized cake. 

The main flaw of this drink is the topping. The first time I got it I was like, “Wait, did they drop something in my drink?” But it’s just the sprinkles that come with the holiday version. The red topping is nice, but the large, crunchy white pearls are so disrupting they feel like someone put food in the drink. It’s pretty and looks nice, but I always ask for no topping. Overall, it’s a great drink if you are wanting something more extravagant.

Bonus: Cranberry Bliss Bar®

The Starbucks food catalogue can be a hit or miss, but they outdid themselves with one item this year: the delicious, supple, out of this world Cranberry Bliss Bar®. It’s essentially just a triangle of chilled cheesecake that is horrible for you. It honestly pairs well with most of the drinks on the menu and is very worth buying, if you want to treat yourself to an extra festive Starbucks experience.
Written by: Livvy Mullen — arts@theaggie.org

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