The most popular Starbucks holiday drink might surprise you

Many of our beloved (and not-so-beloved) holiday foodways have origins lost in the mists of time – or, in the case of wassail, an ancient Anglo-Saxon alcoholic haze. Other traditions are a bit newer, but nonetheless equally dear to us, or actually even dearer. Almost everyone would gladly dispense with fruitcake, eggnog's iffy, and hardly anyone even knows what either sugarplums or wassail actually are, truth be told. (We could look it up, but why bother? They're probably kind of gross in the way that so many of those old-time foods tend to be.)

What none of us can live without, however, is our annual fix of Starbucks holiday bevvies. Red cup season rolls around and at that point (no matter how early it may be) we're ready to get our peppermint on – and our eggnog, and our chestnut praline, and whatever else the year's offerings may bring. It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas...The only problem, though, is that it's always so hard to choose which one to order since they all look so good! When faced with such a tough decision, sometimes you just want to ask yourself, what would 656 total strangers do? Well, lucky for you, Mashed just happens to have 656 such strangers on speed dial, so we called them up and asked! Kidding – using the telephone is so last millennium. But we did bug 656 randomly selected people for their Starbucks holiday faves.

Peppermint Mocha wins the popularity contest

You may – or may not – be surprised to know that the top of our holiday hit parade was Peppermint Mocha, with 26.52 percent of the vote. Whether hot of frap, the voters didn't say, so we're going to go with either or both, yes please! Peppermint and chocolate are a classic flavor combo, and anything with peppermint in it always screams Christmas because of candy canes. While just plain peppermint plus chocolate can at times be overwhelmingly sugary – think peppermint bark, the seasonal treat that really only tastes good for the first two or three bites – the addition of coffee adds just the right edge of bitterness to mitigate all that sweetness.

If you like sugar, sugar, more sugar, peppermint, and a little sugar without any pesky chocolate or coffee to get in the way, though, you can always go off-menu and ask the barista to build you a Candy Cane frap. Unlike many other secret menu items, this one is relatively easy for them to make (just adding peppermint syrup to a vanilla bean frap), so you don't have to ruin some poor Starbucks' worker's holiday by making them go crazy with insanely complicated flavor combos and garnishes.

The runners-up were less overtly Christmas-y

In second place with 23.48 percent of the vote was Salted Caramel Mocha, which seems to be a holdover from Starbucks' fall seasonal menu though salted caramel has been popular year-round since the 20-teens. The number three pick, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, is considered a holiday drink because...we're not entirely sure why. Maybe because of the sparkly sugar topping, plus it's white, so could be vaguely reminiscent of snow? 

Well, whatever the reason it makes the holiday list, it was tasty enough to win over 19.05% of our poll respondents. In last-but-not-least place with 15.09 percent was yet another caramel drink, Caramel Brulee. This drink doesn't even look particularly holiday-ish since there's nothing particularly festive about its beige and white color scheme, but it doesn't have to be red and green and bedecked with glittery sugar Santas in order to taste good. Still, this seems like a drink that could easily be on the year-round menu, since Starbucks does caramel drinks in summer, too.

A lot of people had other ideas

Fully 15.85 percent of our respondents (a number slightly higher than that of those who picked Caramel Brulee, went with "other." Some of the drinks they named included the ever-popular PSL, Peppermint Hot Chocolate (regular and white), Chestnut Praline Latte, Caramel Apple Spice, and Eggnog Latte. Other folks shouted-out non-seasonals like regular coffee (Starbucks sells that?), decaf coffee (ditto, with extra question marks), regular mocha, iced green tea, and the Java chip frap.

There were, of course, a number of Starbucks naysayers, some of who had quite rude (and yet not particularly quote-worthy) things to say about the chain, while others poo-poohed the idea of sweet drinks, seasonal drinks, or coffee in general. There were others who went the opposite route, saying they loved all Starbucks' seasonals. Several mentioned Starbucks being out of budget for them, but the top comment goes to this respondent who finds Starbucks unaffordable, and yet wishes that weren't the case, at least as regards one item: "Can't afford Starbuck's, love their hot chocolate." Aww...sure hope Starbucks offers a deal on that item soon so Anonymous Respondent can have a merry, chocolatey Christmas.