Every holiday drink at Starbucks ranked, from the Sugar Cookie Latte to the Irish Cream Cold Brew

Starbucks New Holiday Cups
This year’s drinks. Starbucks
  • Starbucks has six holiday drinks this year, including its first non-dairy offering, the Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte.
  • I tried all six and ranked them.
  • The newest latte was close to unseating my all-time favorite, the Chestnut Praline Latte.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Every year, just moments after the wafts of pumpkin spice have disappeared from the air, Starbucks announces its holiday drink lineup, along with its special holiday cups.
Starbucks holiday cups 2021
This year’s drinks. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
This year’s holiday lineup, which hit stores November 4, consists of the Peppermint Mocha, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte, Chestnut Praline Latte, Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte, and Irish Cream Cold Brew.

The fan-favorite Gingerbread Latte was taken off the menu in 2019, and in 2021, we also lost the Eggnog Latte.

The Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte is their newest offering, and the chain’s first non-dairy holiday drink.

I trekked to my local Starbucks and ordered all six drinks.
All of the starbucks drinks
A handful. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
One of the baristas caught on to my plan from the jump — when I came to pick up my order, he asked if my coworker and I were “doing a taste test or something” for YouTube. Close enough.
My least favorite drink, unfortunately, was the Irish Cream Cold Brew.
Irish cream cold brew
Irish Cream Cold Brew. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
This was a bit shocking to me, as Starbucks’ fall cold-brew offering, the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, is one of my all-time favorite drinks. But the holiday version, which is the chain’s signature cold brew with “Irish Cream flavored syrup, topped with Vanilla Sweet Cream Foam and a strike of cocoa powder,” was not for me.

To me, it tasted sour, and it didn’t pair well at all with the foam. I was only able to take a few sips.

It is one of the lower-calorie options, containing 200 calories in a grande.

This was my real-time reaction to the cold brew.
Starbucks cold brew reaction
Not great. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
Clearly, this just wasn’t for me. It had an unfortunate lingering aftertaste.
The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha tasted exactly like the regular white chocolate mocha available year-round, with some added sugar.
Toasted white chocolate mocha
Toasted White Chocolate Mocha. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha is espresso, steamed milk, “and flavors of caramelized 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.

Apparently, the only difference between the holiday White Chocolate Mocha and the regular, year-round version are the red sugar sparkles and pearls, which mine, sadly didn’t have this year — though, in the past, they have been on the drink.

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

Plus, this drink is already cloyingly sweet. It essentially tastes like a toasted marshmallow.

The Caramel Brulée Latte, in my opinion, didn’t taste any different than a regular Caramel Latte.
The Caramel Brulée Latte.
The Caramel Brulée Latte. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
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 410 calories.

This sweet latte underwhelmed me. In my opinion, 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, which I’m assuming is what the little crumbs on top are. But they were 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. 

Next up is the Peppermint Mocha, returning for a landmark 19th season in 2021.
A Peppermint Mocha in a holiday cup.
A Peppermint Mocha in a holiday cup. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
Peppermint Mochas are a fan-favorite. We know this because it has been imitated by other big coffee chains, like Dunkin’.

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 whipped cream was missing from my drink, but overall, it was a pretty solid choice – if you like peppermint, that is.
Peppermint mocha
Peppermint mocha. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
Don’t expect subtlety in this drink — the peppermint flavor is very pronounced. I could barely taste the mocha in this drink, even with the dark chocolate curls, and the coffee might as well have been non-existent.

However, few flavors 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.

The two remaining contenders are the Chestnut Praline Latte and the Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte.
Starbucks holiday drinks
Trying not to get a cavity. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
At this point, I was just riding my sugar high.
This year’s addition, the Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte, was shockingly good. You can get it either iced or hot, and I opted for the hot version.
Sugar cookie latte
Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
The Sugar Cookie latte is Starbucks’ first non-dairy holiday drink (though, I swapped out the almond milk for oat milk), and I have a feeling it’s going to be a fan-favorite. The coffee brand describes it as “a modern twist on a holiday classic,” with their Blonde Espresso Roast and sugar cookie syrup topped with red and green sprinkles.

Even though mine was missing the sprinkles, I didn’t mind. From the first whiff I took, I already felt like I was inside a warm kitchen baking sugar cookies (or at least, inside a Bath & Body Works smelling a sugar cookie candle).

But, as my colleague Anneta Konstantinides pointed out, despite this drink’s sickly sweet name, it’s not too sweet at all. It does taste like a sugar cookie, but in a pleasant way, and the aftertaste that lingers didn’t bother me at all.

It’s 180 calories of festive cheer in a cup.

 

But my favorite holiday drink remains the same: the Chestnut Praline Latte.
Chestnut praline latte
Chestnut Praline Latte. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
The Chestnut Praline Latte is espresso, steamed milk, and chestnut praline syrup topped with whipped cream and spiced praline crumbs. It has 330 calories.

The nutty flavor 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 favorite topping.

Overall, for any non-dairy drinkers out there, you can’t go wrong with the Sugar Cookie Latte, but I remained loyal to the Chestnut Praline Latte.
2 favorites
My two favorites. Gabbi Shaw/Insider
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 flavor really comes through, but doesn’t overwhelm the coffee taste.

Starbucks was also long overdue for a non-dairy addition to its holiday menu, and it was such a pleasant surprise that the sugar cookie-flavored drink wasn’t a cavity in a cup. I can’t wait to try the iced version.

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.