I tried every holiday drink that Starbucks has on the menu this year — here's what I thought

StarbucksStarbucks holiday drinks.
  • Starbucks is currently offering six holiday drinks: the Peppermint Mocha, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, the Gingerbread Latte, the Eggnog Latte, the Chestnut Praline Latte, and the Caramel Brulée Latte.
  • I tried them all.
  • While they’re all sweet enough to please even the biggest sugar enthusiast, the winner was one of the least sweet drinks, and an underdog: the Chestnut Praline Latte.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In the US at least, the second the clock strikes midnight on November 1, people toss their Halloween garb in the closet for another year and bring out the tinsel and Christmas music. For better or worse, it’s officially the holiday season.

This means that it is also time for Starbucks’ famous holiday drink menu. Not surprisingly, it’s filled with holiday staples like eggnog, peppermint, and gingerbread. In fact, it features six holiday drinks this year: the Peppermint Mocha, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, the Gingerbread Latte, the Eggnog Latte, the Chestnut Praline Latte, and the Caramel Brulée Latte.

Here at Insider, we love a taste test, so we decided to put all of these drinks to the test.

Each one cost $US5.45 for a grande (medium) size, with a range of caloric values. Read on to see what we thought.

Every year, just moments after the wafts of pumpkin spice have disappeared from the air, Starbucks announces their holiday drink lineup, along with their special holiday cups.

StarbucksStarbucks’ holiday cups.

As usual, the cups were the cause of some backlash and controversy.

This year’s holiday lineup, which hit stores November 1, consists of the Peppermint Mocha, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte, Chestnut Praline Latte, Gingerbread Latte and Eggnog Latte.

First up, I tried the Peppermint Mocha, a Starbucks staple. It returned in 2018 for its 16th season.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERA Peppermint Mocha in a holiday cup.

Peppermint Mochas are a fan-favourite. We know this because it has been imitated by other big coffee chains, like Dunkin’ Doughnuts.

It is also a holiday classic, made with espresso, steamed milk, mocha sauce, and peppermint-flavored syrup. It’s topped with whipped cream and “dark chocolate curls.”

It contains 440 calories in a grande size.

Sadly, the “dark chocolate curls” were missing from my drink, but overall, it was a pretty solid choice — if you like peppermint, that is.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Peppermint Mocha has plenty of whipped cream.

Don’t expect subtlety in this drink – the peppermint flavour is very pronounced. I could barely taste the mocha in this drink, and the coffee might as well have been non-existent.

However, few flavours conjure the holidays and winter as well as peppermint does. So if you’re looking for a drink to sip on while blasting “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” this is your best bet.

Next up, I tried the Eggnog Latte and the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, to mixed results.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Eggnog Latte and the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha.

The Eggnog Latte is described by Starbucks as a “perennial holiday favourite made with rich, steamed eggnog and our signature espresso,” and topped with nutmeg. A grande has 450 calories.

The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha is espresso, steamed milk, “and flavours of caramelised white chocolate finished with whipped cream and a topping of holiday sugar sparkles and crispy white pearls.” Despite the sugar sparkles and pearls it has fewer calories – “only” 420.

Full disclosure: I’ve never had normal eggnog before, so I didn’t know what to expect. My conclusion? I don’t like eggnog.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Eggnog Latte.

Simply, I just didn’t like how this tasted. To me, it was almost a little sour, though the dusting of nutmeg was a nice touch.

The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha tasted exactly like the regular white chocolate mocha available year-round, with some added sugar.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Toasted White Chocolate Mocha.

Apparently, the only difference between the holiday White Chocolate Mocha and the regular, year-round version are the red “holiday sugar sparkles and crispy white pearls.”

That’s completely ok with me because I’m a huge fan of the year-round version. However, if you like the actual taste of coffee, this is not the drink for you. The white chocolate sauce completely masks any coffee flavour.

Plus, this drink is already cloyingly sweet: with the added sugar sparkles and pearls I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out I got a cavity from the few sips I took.

The three remaining contenders were the Caramel Brulée Latte, the Gingerbread Latte, and the Chestnut Praline Latte.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Caramel Brulée Latte, the Gingerbread Latte, and the Chestnut Praline Latte.

The Gingerbread Latte consists of milk and espresso, both gingerbread-flavored syrup and vanilla-flavored syrup, whipped cream, and nutmeg. It’s one of the less-caloric options, having just 330 calories.

A Caramel Brulée Latte is described by Starbucks as “espresso, steamed milk, and rich caramel brulée sauce, topped with whipped cream and a caramel brulée topping.” It has a whopping 450 calories.

Finally, the Chestnut Praline Latte is espresso, steamed milk, and chestnut praline syrup topped with a “Chestnut Praline Topping” that’s basically sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and clove. It has 330 calories.

The Gingerbread Latte was already a favourite of mine, and it held up.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Gingerbread Latte.

I love a good gingerbread cookie, so it was no surprise that I love the Gingerbread Latte.

While the whipped cream and nutmeg left something to be desired, the gingerbread flavours really came through. Like most of the other drinks, it’s extremely sweet, but since I don’t mind sweet things I thought it was great.

However, the gingerbread flavour definitely taste artificial. Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte benefited greatly once they added real pumpkin puree, so I wonder if this drink could use some real ginger as well.

The Caramel Brulée Latte, in my opinion, didn’t taste any different than a regular Caramel Latte.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Caramel Brulée Latte.

For being tied for first for most calories, this latte was underwhelming. There isn’t anything to differentiate it from Starbucks’ regular Caramel Latte.

It is supposed to have a topping that’s reminiscent of crème brûlée, a popular custard dessert, but I’m not sure mine had that, or whether it was just too subtle to taste.

If anything, it tastes a bit smokier than the regular Caramel Latte, which makes sense – brulée means burned in French. In the context of baking, it normally refers to the torching of sugar. If you like caramel, but sometimes find it a bit too sweet, this charred-tasting version is for you.

The last drink of my holiday experiment was the Chestnut Praline Latte, which surprisingly turned out to be my favourite of all six drinks. Yep, I liked it even better than the Gingerbread Latte.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERThe Chestnut Praline Latte.

This was my first time drinking the Chestnut Praline Latte, and I was pleasantly surprised – pleasantly enough to declare it my favourite.

The nutty flavour wasn’t too overbearing, so I was able to still get a taste of the coffee. It was also not as sweet as the rest. In fact, I’d say it strikes the perfect balance between syrupy and sweet. The Starbucks website was correct in saying it evokes “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”

The spiced praline crumbs were also my favourite topping, followed closely by the red sugar crystals on the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha.

Overall, the Chestnut Praline Latte is the only drink I felt compelled to finish — clearly, the winner in my book.

Gabbi Shaw/INSIDERDelicious.

At just 330 calories, the Chestnut Praline Latte is one of the lowest-calorie options on the holiday menu, and it tastes great! The chestnut flavour really comes through, but doesn’t overwhelm the coffee taste.

However, if you’re looking to get in on the holiday fun, but hate the taste of coffee, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha is the drink for you.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.