Junior Anna Frankel grimaces at the Caramel Brulee Frappuccino.

Sipping in a winter wonderland

As a longtime Starbucks consumer and fan of its flavorful spins on coffee, I’m a bit peculiar — I’ve tried only a couple drinks on Starbucks’ highly publicized holiday menu. To rectify this, I ordered everything on the Featured Drinks menu on the Starbucks app. Self-proclaimed Starbucks veterans juniors Emma Boersma and Anna Frankel accompanied me on my Nov. 9 quest to review the nine drinks on this year’s holiday drink menu — which premiered on Nov. 2 — at The UV Starbucks (458 Howe Ave.). Drink prices range from $4.25 for a “short,” the smallest size, to about $5.75 for a “venti,” the largest size. 

Peppermint Mocha

Of the nine festive drinks, the Peppermint Mocha was the only one I — or any of us — finished. Although Anna and I thought it lacked any indication of containing coffee, the mocha tasted like a decent-quality peppermint hot cocoa. Unlike many of the other drinks, the flavors were balanced, and the warm, silky drink would be perfect on a cold winter day.

Neither Anna nor I detected coffee, but Emma did. However, she thought that the peppermint simply tasted of a generic spice flavoring and that the chocolate was weak and watered down.

Caramel Brulee Frappuccino

A blend of toasted caramel and butterscotch, the Caramel Brulee Frappuccino instantly overloaded my tongue with sugar. The interesting flavor combination included a hint of coffee and, according to Emma, soap. 

Emma complained that this Frappuccino was worse than its nonseasonal counterpart, the Caramel Frappuccino, while Anna compared it to the Butterbeer at Universal Studios’ theme park: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

Although superior to its Frappuccino counterpart, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha merely tasted like a slightly diluted regular mocha made with lower-quality chocolate. 

Since this mocha was too sweet for them, Anna and Emma said that they would normally rather drink Starbucks’ regular mocha, the Cafe Mocha, instead.

“Why wouldn’t you just buy a regular mocha?” Emma asked critically.

“If I was craving something sweet, I would go for it,” Anna said. 

Chestnut Praline Latte

Chestnuts and pralines harmoniously blend with coffee and milk in the Chestnut Praline Latte, a mild-tasting drink that reminded me of Starbucks’ Chai Latte. 

Too sweet for Anna and Emma, the drink was highly criticized by Anna for tasting only of praline, sugar and milk. But both Emma and I recognized all the flavors, and Emma said she would order the drink again with less sugar added.

“This doesn’t have any weird tastes like the other ones,” Emma said. “It tastes normal, which I like.”

Caramel Brulee Latte

Like the Caramel Brulée Frappuccino, the milky Caramel Brulée Latte tasted of toasty caramel and an overwhelming amount of burnt sugar, but its coffee flavor was stronger. 

While I would not buy it and instead preferred its Frappuccino equivalent, this latte was decent compared to the others. 

Boerma and Anna enjoyed it considerably less than I did, and Anna declared that the holiday lattes all tasted like “disgusting sugar.”

Gingerbread Latte

Before I brought the drink to my lips, a strong cinnamon scent hit me, warning me of the Gingerbread Latte’s overpowering flavor. This cinnamon taste combined with gingerbread, milk and coffee to form a drink detestable to my tongue. None of us drank more of the Gingerbread Latte than necessary. 

Emma and Anna agreed that the latte’s cinnamon and gingerbread taste was overwhelming.

Although Anna said she wouldn’t buy it, she added the Gingerbread Latte was better than the caramel-flavored drinks.

“It just tastes like a super sweet gingerbread cookie,” Anna said. 

Eggnog Latte

Ever wanted to drink sour, rotten eggnog with coffee? Then you’re in luck! Starbucks’ Eggnog Latte combines the taste of burnt crystalized sugar, fermented vanilla Greek yogurt and coffee. In fact, Anna gagged upon smelling the drink. 

“I’m assuming this is just what eggnog tastes like, but this tastes rotten, and it smells really bad,” Anna said. 

However, Emma said she didn’t think eggnog was supposed to taste this way. Furthermore, she said she couldn’t taste any coffee, least of all any latte flavor. 

And the horror wouldn’t end: The Eggnog Latte’s sour aftertaste sat on my tongue like an unwanted houseguest until we decided to cleanse our palates with a  Butter Croissant from Starbucks.

Toasted White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino

At first, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino seemed to lack all flavor, leaving me with a few seconds of drinking tasteless slush. But this lack of flavor was preferable to the wave of salt, sugar and coffee that followed, coating my tongue in a bitter, salty confusion.

“I really could never drink that,” Anna said, describing the drink as a mix of “gross white chocolate” and “intensely sweet salted caramel.”

Emma agreed that the sugar was overpowering.

“I don’t know how to describe it — it’s soapy, bitter and salty. Congratulations on inventing a new flavor, Starbucks,” Emma said.

Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino

If I didn’t know what I was drinking, I would assume the Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino was slushy chocolate milk. Simple and ordinary, this sweet drink offers no peppermint flavor. Anna agreed, and Emma added that it tasted like a regular mocha frappuccino.

Like children in a sweets shop, Anna, Emma and I were excited to sample all that Starbucks’ holiday drink menu had to offer. But the festive collection left a taste of disappointment in our mouths as we exited the store with only one of our nine cups empty.

When I return to Starbucks this holiday season, I’ll order one of my two seasonal favorites — the Chestnut Praline Latte if I want caffeine or the Peppermint Mocha if I don’t.

-By Larkin Barnard-Bahn

Originally from the print edition.

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