Starbucks just brought back its holiday cold brew, and it tastes like a frothy caffeinated hot cocoa

I tried Starbucks’ holiday drink, the Irish Cream Cold Brew. Starbucks; Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
  • Starbucks’ Irish Cream Cold Brew is back on menus starting this week.
  • The holiday drink – which was first released in 2019 – features Starbucks’ Irish cream syrup, vanilla sweet cream cold foam, and a dusting of cocoa powder.
  • The delicious drink puts a minty twist on hot cocoa flavours, but isn’t so sweet that you can’t enjoy it daily.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Starbucks has announced that it’s bringing back the Irish Cream Cold Brew this week to kickoff the month of December.

While the coffee giant didn’t announce any new holiday flavours this year, it surprised fans on Tuesday by revealing that last year’s hit drink would be returning to menus.

Joining classics like the Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog Latte, the Irish Cream Cold Brew is one of Starbucks’ best holiday drinks.

I was happily surprised when Starbucks revealed last year that its new holiday drink was an Irish Cream Cold Brew.

The Irish Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

I’m not a huge coffee drinker by any means, and when I do get coffee I need something pretty sweet.

But I had loved Starbucks’ Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, which was released in August 2019, so my hopes were high that the Irish Cream Cold Brew would deliver results as well.

At a preview tasting ahead of the drink’s official launch last year, I was impressed right off the bat that the finished product looked almost identical to its promotional picture.

A promotional image of Starbucks’ Irish Cream Cold Brew compared to the real deal. Starbucks/Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

The Irish Cream Cold Brew is made with Starbucks’ cold brew coffee and its Irish cream syrup, a Starbucks representative explained when I tested out the drink during a preview last year.

The drink is topped with vanilla sweet cream cold foam, as well as a dusting of cocoa powder.

The top of the drink was especially pretty, and the cocoa powder made it look extra festive.

The top of the Irish Cream Cold Brew looked extra festive. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

A Starbucks representative told us that the vanilla sweet cream cold foam is the same that was used in the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, minus the pumpkin spice dusting.

The cocoa powder made the drink smell like hot chocolate, which immediately put me in the holiday spirit.

On my first sip, I was hit with the vanilla sweet cream cold foam, which was nice and thick.

I immediately smelled the notes of cocoa when I went to take my first sip. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

The drink tasted sweet but wasn’t overpowering the way a Frappuccino can be. The foam also paired well with the Irish cream syrup, which a Starbucks representative told me had “hints of cocoa and vanilla.”

“Starbucks’ cold brew has a subtle hint of cocoa in the cold brew, and the Irish cream has hints of cocoa and vanilla,” the representative said. “So they complement each other well, and they bring those flavours out more.”

I could definitely taste the cocoa notes in the coffee, and even though the drink was iced, it felt cosy due to the traditional holiday flavours. The taste brought me back to Christmas morning when my family always drinks hot cocoa while opening presents.

I realised the Irish Cream Cold Brew tasted like caffeinated hot cocoa, and I couldn’t help but love it.

The Irish Cream Cold Brew is Starbucks’ first iced holiday drink in the US since 2017. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

Starbucks decided to launch a new cold holiday drink after noticing the popularity of its iced beverages.

“Cold is booming,” a representative told me during the drink preview. “It’s more than 50% of our beverage sales, and we know that everybody loves them year-round.”

And, after the popularity of the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, Starbucks knew cold brew was something its customers would still crave during the holidays.

As someone who only really enjoys drinking coffee when it’s iced, the Irish Cream Cold Brew felt like the perfect drink for me.

The Irish Cream Cold Brew had just enough sweetness that it could still work as a daily drink. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

I have to confess, I am that girl who still orders Caramel Frappuccinos from time to time, but even I agree that they’re too sweet to enjoy very often.

However, the Irish Cream Cold Brew is the perfect in-between. You can still taste the coffee, but the flavour is subtle enough for those of us who don’t love the taste of caffeine – but still want its kick.

Plus, the notes of cocoa and vanilla add a festive touch that feels right at home in the season of twinkling street lights and never-ending Christmas carols.

I loved the drink so much that I got another to go, and couldn’t believe how good the foam looked even as I navigated the streets of Manhattan.

I took another Irish Cream Cold Brew to go, and was amazed at how long the foam lasted on top. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

Unlike many of Starbucks’ special iced drinks, the Irish Cream Cold Brew still looks presentable even as the foam disintegrates.

Fellow Insider reporters discovered that Starbucks’ Tie-Dye Frappuccino and Phantom Frappuccino went from Instagram-ready creations to unappealing mush after they began to melt.

But my Irish Cream Cold Brew held up nicely even as the minutes passed. The sweet cream dropped down in pretty streaks across the coffee, eventually turning it from the colour of espresso beans to a milky caramel.

The Irish Cream Cold Brew is Starbucks’ first iced holiday drink in the US since the the Spiced Sweet Cream Cold Brew was released in 2016.

Starbucks’ Irish Cream Cold Brew will be available for a limited time. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

And if cold brew isn’t your style, a representative told Insider that customers can add the Irish cream syrup to any Starbucks beverage – like an Irish Cream Latte – for an additional charge.

They also noted that the cold foam can be made with almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk.