Starbucks holiday drinks ranked from worst to best

When fall is announced by Starbucks, everyone goes bonkers for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. However, the true dash to the Starbucks counters around the country is when the holiday drinks are announced. Early each November, the roster of returning and new festive coffee concoctions are released to the awaiting public. There's even a website dedicated to the countdown to Starbucks' holiday releases.

After all, it's not the holiday season until we can drink something that gives us winter vibes out of a red paper cup. In a world where limited edition and viral drinks have been harnessed by all the major brands, and even indie cafes, we wait for these drinks to signal us that's it's time to shop, wrap, decorate, and carol to your heart's content. 

But once those holiday menu boards go up, it gets to be a little overwhelming. With new flavors and old favorites all contending for space, how do you decide which festive drink to order? We can help with that. This is our definitive ranking of Starbucks' offerings of holiday past — many of which are making a valiant return in 2019 (and some that we hope are gone forever). Let's see how your favorites stack up on our list!

16. Starbucks Eggnog Latte

Look, if you like eggnog, that's your prerogative. Yes, we get it, it's festive and a holiday tradition, and it goes all the way back to medieval times — but we think maybe that's where it should have stayed. It's gross. You know it's true.

Even if you don't think it's a disgusting idea, there's nothing that even makes Starbucks' Eggnog Latte that remarkable. All this latte contains is steamed eggnog, espresso, and nutmeg. That's it. If you need this boring drink so badly, make it at home — it doesn't need to take up space on the holiday drink menu. Give us something new and exciting. Not... hot eggnog. Starbucks briefly had a moment of clarity in 2014 and removed it from the seasonal menu where it's been since 1986, but the backlash was so intense they had to cave to peer pressure and bring it back just a couple weeks later. This one's all on you, devoted public.

15. Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino

Yes, you're reading that right. This was a holiday drink that actually existed at Starbucks. If you don't remember it, there's a pretty good reason for that. It debuted for a whopping four days in the USA and Canada in 2016, and it was never heard from again. One has to wonder who thought to take the world's most hated holiday dessert (if you could really call it that) and more or less puree it into a Frappuccino. It was a gimmick, clearly, but one that still didn't really pay off.

The ingredient combination and bizarre flavor profile probably lent itself to that as well. Starbucks explains its Fruitcake Frappuccino as a Hazelnut Crème Frappuccino with dried fruit, cinnamon, whipped cream, and a topped with a combination of caramel dots and matcha. Um... yum? We don;t think so. Those who were brave enough to taste it described it as chunky and tasting nothing like fruitcake itself. We're still not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

14. Starbucks Juniper Latte

Having been released nationwide only in 2018, the Juniper Latte was quite divisive. With an evergreen aroma, notes of sage, and juniper syrup infused milk with a pine-citrus sugar topping, the drink came off very earthy. Perhaps too earthy. If juniper sounds familiar, and you didn't realize it's the berry that grows on evergreen trees, you may know it better as the main flavor of gin. It's why a lot people hate gin, citing the fact it tastes like Pine-Sol or one of those tree air fresheners you'd put in your car. For some reason, Starbucks thought this was the flavor to infused into syrup and pour into some espresso — because anyone who likes Christmas trees obviously wants to know what they taste like.

Taste testers said the latte tasted medicinal or woody, with a light juniper flavor that lingered long afterwards. It remains to be seen if the Juniper Latte will grace Starbucks' holiday menu ever again, but we're inclined to think not... unless there's a secret underground movement of espresso and gin loving lumberjacks.

13. Starbucks Holiday Spice Flat White

Considering you can now get a flat white on Starbucks' regular menu whenever you want, it does take the luster off of its holiday edition, the Holiday Spice Flat White. Geared more towards caffeine heads than festive drinkers, the flat white contains ristretto shots of espresso (think of it as a more concentrated espresso shot), steamed milk, and a collection of holiday spices like nutmeg, ginger, clove, cinnamon, etc. Don't get us wrong, it's quite tasty and a nice pick-me-up in the morning, but it's also nothing to jingle your bells about.

There is still that same velvety mouthfeel that flat whites have, and it's a more subtle and less sweet addition to typical holiday menus that are overloaded with sugar. For those points, this drinks gets some points. However, without the selection of mulling spices, there is simply nothing holiday about it. So it's nice and tasty enough, and great for a caffeine buzz, but otherwise it's just kind of on the nicer side of humbug.

12. Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

If you like sugar, you'll love the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks. It's like candy in a cup. (Well, there is candied cranberry sugar on top so maybe it's more like candy on top of a cup.) 

As tasty as it might be, it does come with a rather intense calorie and sugar count. As you might expect, it's delicious. With caramelized white chocolate, you get the nice, warm toasted flavors associated with curling up by the fire under a big wool blanket. Plus it adds depth of flavor to typically overly sweet white chocolate.

The drink is made by pouring espresso over the white chocolate mocha sauce, then topping it with steamed milk, whipped cream, and candied sugar. Talk about a drinkable dessert. The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, back for 2019, is available hot or on ice, but opting for the warm version adds more to the toasty flavor. The fact is, that people really love it.

11. Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino

If the regular Toasted White Chocolate Mocha wasn't enough for you and you want yet even more of a decadent treat, then the Frappuccino version is what the doctor ordered. Made with the same delightful ingredients of slowly caramelized white chocolate, espresso, milk, and candied cranberry sugar, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino becomes like a milkshake singing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." That's because you will be probably dancing around after inhaling this tasty treat. A tall has 44 grams of sugar, and we all know you're not getting a tall.

It's delicious. It's ridiculous. And it is even better than the regular mocha offering. Starbucks fans were delighted when the Frappuccino version was released. One might think it's weird to enjoy a (mostly) frozen beverage in the cold months, but it isn't all that weird — in fact it's the perfect solution for when the heat is cranked up just a bit too high. Whether it be iced coffee or a whipped cream topped Frappuccino with all the fixings, the point is that it's a holiday treat for yourself.

10. Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

There's few people in the world that don't love hot chocolate. But what's better than just plain hot chocolate? Flavored hot chocolate from Starbucks — more specifically, hot chocolate covered in salted caramel. The salted caramel holiday drinks often come out in fall alongside king of all seasonal drinks, Pumpkin Spice Latte, but there is some sense of the holidays in this drink as well, especially when paired with its fellow holiday hot cocoa brethren.

This Starbucks drink is a sugar bomb, what with four pumps each of toffee nut syrup and mocha sauce, plus a pump of vanilla syrup. What cuts through that sweetness, however, is the smoked sea salt topping. While you can buy the mix in stores now, you'll need to add your own whipped cream and salty caramel topping. 

Fans of the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate are sure to be drooling over the European version, aka the Salted Caramel Brownie Hot Chocolate. Originally it dropped in the United Kingdom, but it was also available in many countries throughout Europe. That's just not fair.

9. Starbucks Caramel Brulee Frappuccino

What's better than a creme brûlée and some caramel? A marriage of a creme brûlée and caramel with copious amounts of whipped cream. Thus we have the Caramel Brulee Frappuccino, a serious drinkable dessert and a half. There is nothing healthy about this drink, not in the slightest, but there's something about drinking a drink so decadent around the holidays that just feels right. It's also a favorite among Hawaiian Starbucks customers, which makes a bit more sense than drinking this in a blizzard in Wisconsin, if you think about it.

You may also want to get a few extra squats in after devouring one of these. No one is going to say a Frappuccino is healthy, but you may not be aware of just how much sugar is in this holiday package. How about 61 grams in a grande? Yeah, you read that right. Don't try and fret too much about it, after all... calories in December don't count. 

8. Starbucks Toffee Almondmilk Hot Cocoa

Vegans and dairy-free folks rejoiced when Starbucks unveiled the Toffee Almondmilk Hot Chocolate in 2017. While there are plant-based drinks available and plenty of items on the Starbucks menu can be made dairy-free with their epic customization abilities, to have a holiday drink specifically made with a non-dairy milk is a major win. Nutty and delicious, this hot chocolate has a great depth of flavor, plus an extra layer with the included mocha sauce. It's chocolate, almonds, and toffee in liquid form; what more do you need? Well, other than for it to be a regular menu item, that is.

Starbucks customers and fans usually gripe about how the picture-perfect drinks that are advertised rarely live up to the hype of what you get when your name is called. However, the Toffee Almondmilk Hot Chocolate actually does live up to its photographed original.Get your Instagram ready!

7. Starbucks Chestnut Praline Latte

There may be backlash that this isn't higher on the list, even though it's still pretty high up there. Many people are a fan of this spicy caffeine treat. The Chestnut Praline Latte is a pretty fancy Starbucks holiday drink, what with it's caramelized chestnuts and spiced praline crumbles. This is the sort of latte you order when you want to invoke Europe's Christmas spirit. 

At least that's what Starbucks research and development manager Amy Dilger thought when she created it. "The rich, earthy, sweet, roastiness of chestnut is a perfect foil to espresso." She said. "Then we balanced the nutty chestnut flavor with brown sugar and spice." It's those blend of ingredients that give it a more nuanced and complex flavor profile. You get sweet, then nuttiness, then a touch of smokey bitterness. It's a European Christmas wrapped in a grande cup that also comes iced. No matter which way you enjoy it, it's going to be nutty and delightful.

6. Starbucks Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Of all of the hot chocolates, this is the real classic, isn't it? Peppermint is synonymous with the holiday season and the Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Starbucks is no exception. Already known for their rich hot chocolate, this includes a dash of mocha sauce to really round out those flavors. Coffee adds depth to chocolate after all (try baking with it some time and be amazed). Between the chocolate, the mocha, the peppermint, and the chocolate sauce drizzle over whipped cream, this is a drink worthy of St. Nick himself.

You can cheat the holiday season (what would Santa think?) and get a peppermint hot cocoa treat all year round by just asking for a hot chocolate with peppermint syrup. There's just something about having it during the holiday season that makes it extra tasty though. If you're feeling "extra" or just want to amp up that peppermint flavor without more syrup, throw a candy cane in there and watch it slowly melt into the hot chocolate. Talk about a minty treat!

5. Starbucks Snickerdoodle Hot Chocolate

Not all hot chocolates are created equal. The Peppermint Hot Chocolate is great, and the Toffee Almondmilk Hot Chocolate is super tasty as well, but the Snickerdoodle Hot Chocolate is just... perfection. It's the Rudolph of Starbucks' hot chocolates. Everyone raves about the others, but it's the cookie-in-a-cup chocolate delight that is truly the best of the ranks. In addition to the already rich hot chocolate base, there's white chocolate sauce and cinnamon dolce syrup, and the whole thing is topped with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar. It's seriously like drinking a cookie, one that we can only hope returns to the holiday menu sometime in the future.

Costumers who wanted to up a bit of roasted flavor, had this hot chocolate made with almond milk. What a great idea, right? The nuttiness of the almonds really pair well together with the cinnamon dolce syrup and Snickerdoodle base. Multi-dimensional hot chocolate, who'd have thunk?

4. Starbucks Gingerbread Latte

Ah gingerbread. Between the men, houses, and cookies, it's definitely a flavor that represents a lot of what makes the holiday season smell and taste so good. This has been a staple of the Starbucks holiday menu for years, has made its way into United States grocery stores, and is especially appreciated in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

The secret of the Gingerbread Latte is in its simplicity. It's steamed milk, espresso, gingerbread syrup, whipped cream, and ground nutmeg. That's it. This is where our associations with the holiday season come into play. You just can't have it without gingerbread. Also, it's delicious. That helps. Starbucks loves gingerbread so much, they even once had their own Gingerbread Cafe Kit so you can make your own Starbucks at home. Out of gingerbread, of course.

Bad news for devotees of the Gingerbread Latte however. It's not coming back in 2019 in the United States. If you want to get your gingerbread on, you'll have to go up to select stores in Canada. Or, you can just head to Dunkin' instead... we promise not to tell.

3. Starbucks Spiced Sweet Cream Nariño 70 Cold Brew

When you think of the smells of the holiday season, chances are that traditional mulling spices are going to come to mind. Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and all-spice can make everything smell and taste a bit like the holidays. This includes cold brew. Created by brewing long and slow with cool water, cold brew coffee has seen a rise in appreciation in the past few years.

Starbucks is always looking for trends, and cold brew was definitely one of them. Better yet, they wanted to create a dedicated holiday brew, and so it came up with the Spiced Sweet Cream Nariño 70 Cold Brew in 2016. Slow steeped for 20 hours, this cold brew is then infused with flavors such as cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and vanilla. It's then finished with a velvety smooth float of house-made sweet cream. What makes this cold brew a serious holiday winner is the subtle flavor of the mulling spices. They don't overpower the taste of the brew itself, but only enhance them. It's holiday flavor that's not in your face, but still very delicious.

This one isn't on the 2019 menu, but fingers crossed for 2020. 

2. Starbucks Caramel Brulee Latte

First making its appearance about a decade  ago, the Caramel Brulee Latte is a long-time love of Starbucks holiday fans. Mimicking the sweet smokiness of a charred crème brûlée, a custard dessert topped with a crisp sugar topping from France (but may not be French), mixed with the sweet decadence of caramel, there's so much to love in this drink. 

Some people can't live without it, and there is a pretty legit dupe available on the secret menu. Much like its Frappuccino cousin, this latte is buttery and sweet and creamy. Plus the addition of the crunchy caramel brulee bits atop a mountain of whipped cream adds texture and even more yum. Starbucks knows its Caramel Brulee Latte is a fan favorite, and now offers multiple insights into how to make it and variations on the regular latte with its Caramel Brulee Latte kit. Not every drink gets its own kit.

1. Starbucks Peppermint Mocha

Having the Peppermint Mocha at the number one spot may seem like a cheat, especially as you can technically get them all year round. You don't even have to do a secret menu, it's simply there on the main board. However, there's just something about it being in a red cup during the holiday season that just makes it taste better. Plus, it's been a staple of the holiday seasonal drinks for over 16 years. That's quite an endorsement from customers and Starbucks alike. After all, if pumpkin spice is the flavor of fall, peppermint is definitely the flavor of winter.

Made with espresso, melted chocolate, peppermint syrup, steamed milk, and topped with vanilla whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings, it's just Christmas in a cup, isn't it? The Peppermint Mocha even got its own cocktail treatment from Starbucks, an iced version available in grocery stores, as well as a bespoke blend and instant kits.