We Tried The New Starbucks Holiday Drinks, And They're A Cup Of Holiday Cheer

Halloween is over, the weather is turning colder, and you know what that means. Pumpkin spice is out, and holiday flavors are in. The red cups from Starbucks are here!

At this point, the rotation of unique flavors at Starbucks indicates seasonal change more than the weather or the calendar. It's that time again, and Starbucks has launched its new line of holiday drinks, complete, of course, with an assortment of festive to-go cups. This year Starbucks sees the return of several long-time holiday favorites, including Peppermint Mocha; Caramel Brulée Latte; Chestnut Praline Latte; Toasted White Chocolate Mocha; and Irish Cream Cold Brew. And back for a second year, Starbucks is offering a non-dairy option—the Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte. Each latte comes wrapped in one of four holiday cup designs just for an extra kick of magic and wonder (via Starbucks). Of course, not all holiday traditions live up to their hype. So we set out to see whether these much-anticipated flavors deserve their reputation or if they get a bah humbug.

Flavors and toppings

Starbucks holiday drinks are all about flavors. In the lineup this year, four of the drinks start with a base of steamed milk and espresso and then have different syrups added in. True to its name, the Peppermint Mocha starts with peppermint and mocha syrup and is topped with whipped cream and chocolate curls. The Caramel Brulée features a limited-edition caramel-brulée sauce and is topped with whipped cream and brulée bites. The Chestnut Praline features limited-edition chestnut-praline syrup and is topped with whipped cream and crumbled bits of praline. And the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha features a limited-edition toasted white chocolate mocha syrup and is topped with whipped cream, holiday sugar sprinkles, and crispy white pearls.

Starbucks, always ready for customization, lets you choose from its wide assortment of dairy and non-dairy milks and allows any of the above lattes to be made hot, iced, or as a Frappuccino

The Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte uses a Blonde Roast espresso and is made with sugar cookie syrup and almond milk. It is topped with red and green sprinkles. While it also can be made hot or cold, there is no whipped cream on this, keeping it dairy free. Although we are sure if you asked, your barista would add it.

Finally, the Irish Cream Cold Brew features a Starbucks Cold Brew base mixed with Irish cream syrup and is topped with vanilla sweet cream and cocoa powder.


We all know Starbucks is not the budget option for coffee. But you do not find yourself at a coffee shop getting a pumped-up espresso or a whipped holiday delight because of the price. They are a treat, and the holidays can be the time for such an extravagance.

The price of the Peppermint Mocha, Chestnut Praline, Caramel Brulée, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, and Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte are all the same. At the Starbucks in our area, prices range from $5.35 for a short up to $6.25 for a venti. A midsized grande will run you $5.75. This price is for a hot latte, cold latte, or Frappuccino. While this is on the pricier side, it is worth noting that for the holiday drinks, Starbucks is not charging more for the non-dairy Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte, even though it typically commands a $0.50 upcharge for a non-dairy-based latte. This must be Starbucks' holiday gift to the non-dairy drinkers among us. The Irish Cream Cold Brew comes in slightly cheaper and ranges from $4.75 for a tall up to $5.75 for a tranta, with a grande at $5.25.

Seasonal availability

Starbucks had the grace to wait until after the spooky season before dropping its new holiday drinks. These festive features are available as of Nov. 3, 2022, notably, an entire day earlier than last year (via Starbucks). How long will they be available? As long as the snow tickles your nose and cheer is in the air, or until Starbucks runs out. Starbucks has yet to release an end date for its holiday drinks. Based on previous years, the holiday drinks will likely be available until at least early January, but we cannot know for sure. 

Most of this year's holiday drinks include limited-edition syrups and flavors, so once Starbucks is out, it is out. Some Starbucks locations may run out of syrups before others, so it is important to get to one of your local locations to grab these drinks while they are still hot. You do not want to miss out due to cold feet.

A lot of latte

The holidays are a time for sweet treats, and the Starbucks holiday drinks certainly deliver. A grande Peppermint Mocha Latte with 2% milk comes in at a whopping 54 grams of sugar. For context, a Snickers bar is roughly half that at 28 grams of sugar (via Snickers). The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha is similarly sweet with 55 grams of sugar. But things go down a little with the Caramel Brulée Latte at 48 grams of sugar, and the Chestnut Praline Latte at 38 grams.

These holiday drinks are also a little heavier, each with between 14-16 grams of fat per serving. While that gives a creamy mouth feel, it may counteract some of the caffeine and be a little too comfy cozy.

We are not trying to talk you out of one of these lattes. Everyone should enjoy what they love over the holiday. If you are looking for a little less from your lattes, Starbucks offers some customization suggestions, such as choosing a different milk (Starbucks has three dairy and three non-dairy options), skipping the whipped cream and toppings, swapping the syrup for a sugar-free version, or simply opting for fewer pumps of sugar. A typical grande has four pumps each of peppermint and mocha syrup.

It is not all bad, either. Because of their milky base, the lattes have between 12-15 grams of protein, and FitBit estimates that a Starbucks latte has 60% of a person's daily calcium needs.

Less is more

The two iced holiday drinks from Starbucks are lighter fare than the other lattes. The Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte is constructed similarly to the other lattes but is pitched primarily in its iced form. It contains no whipped cream and has an almond-milk base, meaning it has only 6 grams of fat. That makes it the lightest and least creamy drink option. In addition, it contains 27 grams of sugar, making it less than dairy-milk lattes, but it has only 3 grams of protein.

The Irish Cream Cold Brew, while less customizable than the lattes, also comes in lower in sugar and uses a coffee cold brew base, not milk, making it a lighter drink option. A grande Irish Cream Cold Brew has only two pumps of syrup, half of what comes in a latte, and 24 grams of sugar. Interestingly, even though it has no milk, the Irish Cream Cold Brew still contains 11 grams of fat, likely due to the foam on top. In addition, because of the lack of milk, it has only 2 grams of protein, even less than its almond-milk neighbor. Everything is a trade-off.

Peppermint Magic or not

The Starbucks Peppermint Mocha tastes like the holidays in a cup. It has been a classic for 20 years, and according to Starbucks, it is the most beloved holiday drink on the menu. The chocolate and coffee blend together beautifully, as they do, and the peppermint is present without being overwhelming. Instead of being overpoweringly peppermint, the drink tastes like elves lovingly stirred a latte with a candy cane before serving it up.

There is one gripe we have with the Peppermint Mocha, though. Every year it is billed as a holiday exclusive. The thing is, it is actually available all year round. The Peppermint Mocha features steamed milk of your choice, a shot of espresso, mocha syrup, and peppermint syrup, all topped with whipped cream and dark chocolate curls. Starbucks' Twitter account confirmed that it keeps all the ingredients, save the dark chocolate curls, on hand year-round. This makes it the only holiday drink that does not include a limited-edition syrup in the drink itself. Is the hype worth a more straightforward ordering process and some chocolate shavings? For us, it feels like a bit of a cop-out.

Some like it hot

We have already established that these drinks have a lot of sugar. The Caramel Brulée Latte is no exception. The Caramel Brulée Latte is so overpoweringly cloying that you forget what the other flavors should be. This would be an alternative if it is too cold for a caramel milkshake. But even as sweetened lattes go, this one feels very sugary, specifically brown sugar. We could barely taste any espresso. We did, however, like the little crunchy caramel brulée pieces that come on top. This is a nice callback to the intended brulée flavor.

On the other hand, the Chestnut Praline Latte offers a similar brown-sugar flavor but does it so much better. Where the Caramel Brulée Latte feels very one note, this latte sings. The lightly nutty chestnut praline syrup adds a rounded flavor, it is not sickly sweet, and it has a lightly spicy finish to keep it interesting. All this and the candied chestnut bits topping the latte add a lovely crunch.

The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha was a bit of a surprise, in a primarily good way. Starbucks describes the flavor as "caramelized white chocolate," but we got more of a marshmallow flavor when we tried it. It was not as "toasty" a flavor as we thought, but it was pleasant, and the white chocolate makes for an incredibly creamy drink. While we are not sure Starbucks hit the flavors it intended, we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Iced, iced, baby

For those living in a warmer climate or who simply prefer a cold beverage, Starbucks has something in its present bag for you. 

The first is the Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte. For this one, it definitely leaned into the almond flavor. While the latter has strong notes of vanilla, which we assume from the sugar cookie syrup, the almond flavor comes through powerfully and makes the latte taste more like birthday cake than a sugar cookie. In addition, the green and red sprinkles on top are lovely, but since the drink is cold, they do not melt well, so when drinkers take a sip, they end up with an unpleasant crunch in their mouth. 

We found the Irish Cream Cold Brew very pleasant and drinkable. This was easily the least sweet of all the drinks, though the vanilla sweet foam makes for a lovely burst of flavor. The cocoa powder on top looks beautiful and adds a subtle chocolatey note. Overall, this is the best drink of the bunch as a daily order. Our biggest complaint is that since there are only two pumps of Irish cream syrup in the base, the flavor does not shine through as well as it could. It is subtle. Still, the drink offers a lovely festive flare that can take any fan of cold brew straight through the New Year. 

Overall, with six flavorful drinks to choose from, there is something for every taste this holiday season.