Photo by Molly Fenner

Time to be honest here- I’ve always been a little mystified by Starbucks. All the cryptic promises of “macchiato-this” and “frappucino-that” were enough to keep me confined to my usual order of “a grande dark roast, please and thank you.” However, as my dad likes to remind me, variety is the spice of life. So accompanied by my trusty friend, I visited the Oakland Starbucks during one of their “Buy One, Get One Free” promotions to demystify the Starbucks holiday menu.

4) Chestnut Praline Latte

To be fair, I’m not exactly a connoisseur of chestnuts, so I went into this one unaware of what to expect. The praline notes were particularly strong, but 16 ounces later, I still have no idea what chestnut tastes like. The crunchy topping of spicy pralines was pretty damn delicious, and I would have loved more of it. My biggest gripe with this drink was that while the flavors were fine, there was nothing remarkable about it that would make me want to come back for more. The flavors were more akin to sweetened milk than to something that invokes images of the holiday season.

3) Gingerbread Latte

When I think of gingerbread, I imagine a richly spiced cookie delicately accented with the flavor of molasses. Starbucks’ version is the reverse of this, with lots of molasses and just enough cinnamon in the background to leave a little kick. I was left pretty confused after my first sip and if you had asked me to guess what flavor this latte was, “gingerbread” probably would have been pretty far down my list. That doesn’t make it less of a viable option, but if you’re looking for something truly festive, keep on reading.

2) Peppermint Mocha

This stuff is Christmas in a cup. I was afraid that the peppermint would easily overwhelm the delicate flavors of espresso and chocolate, but it surprisingly complemented them. In fact, the sweetness of the chocolate was offset well with the sharp contrast of peppermint. This mocha reminds me of a more grown-up rendition of hot chocolate, and it would be a great festive treat as you study for finals. The peppermint mocha is one of the more unique offerings that Starbucks has, and it is not to be missed during the short window that they have it on the menu.

1) Caramel Brûlée Latte

Ah, the glorious caramel brûlée latte. It’s everything that is delicious about creamy, rich creme brûlée in a cup, and I am infatuated. The drink itself is defined by caramel tones with buttery notes, but the real icing on the cake is the crunchy sugar topping that it comes with. The topping compliments the flavors of the drink and helps to keep things from being too monotonous. The caramel brûlée latte is unique and wonderful, and merits every inch of its first-place spot in this ranking.


Photo by Sool Lee

4 drinks just won’t cut it for you? Check out these drinks off of the secret holiday menu.

If you’re a fan of peppermint and chocolate, then this recipe is for you; it has 3 ingredients and all you need is a microwave and a fridge.

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without cookies, right? Then try these new holiday cookie-inspired drinks from Dunkin Donuts to get you in the spirit.

If it’s just too cold to make it out to Starbucks tonight, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. These hot chocolate recipes are easy enough to make at home and will keep you warm and your tummy happy all winter long.