Hello, fellow BuzzFeeders, Starbucks lovers, and curious cats alike! I'm Dannica, and I was a master barista and trainer at Starbucks for four years. After conquering the fall season by trying and ranking a plethora (by plethora, I mean five) of pumpkin spice lattes, as well as reviewing Starbucks' 2023 fall menu, I'm back again to taste test the new Starbucks 2023 winter drink menu *applause*!
Now, some people wait the whole year to get a PSL, but me? I'm a winter drink girly through and through. And if you're like me and love to get into the holiday spirit with a festive cup of coffee, I have some great news: Starbucks added NEW(ish) drink menu items nationwide. So if you're ready to dive into Red Cup Season: light your candles, play that holiday playlist, and throw on a scarf, 'cause it might get a little jolly up in here.
The two new drinks are the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte and the Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte. And though I didn't taste test the food, the "new" bakery items are the Gingerbread Loaf (which Starbucks had in 2019) and the Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop (which Starbucks last had in 2018).
Similar to Starbucks' 2023 fall menu, I'm just a smidge disappointed that none of the new winter items are actually, 100% new. I personally love it the most when Starbucks drops a new flavor (the macadamia nut syrup was a banger), but instead, they decided to sift through the Starbucks graveyard and resurrect a couple of things — which is also fine. Nonetheless, I decided to try out all the new menu items to see which drinks were worth checking out. As a former barista, I'll also include some fun facts, tips, and even some recommendations (like how to order a Salted Caramel Mocha). That said, without further ado, let's start!
DRINK #1: The Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte. Alright, so the main event of this holiday season is undoubtedly the return of the gingerbread syrup. Starbucks used to carry a Gingerbread Latte up until 2019 when it was replaced by the Irish Cream Cold Brew. I'm unsure whether or not this year's gingerbread syrup uses the same recipe as in the past, but this year's Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte comes hot or iced and is made with gingerbread syrup, oat milk (it used to be made with just 2% milk as the default), blonde espresso, and a dusting of pumpkin spice topping. At stores that offer Oleato, they offer an Oleato Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte, which is infused with extra virgin olive oil.
First sip of the hot Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte:
First sip of the iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte:
Try the Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte if you:
• Love the taste of baking spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
• Don't want a drink that's overly-sweet
• Are looking for a non-dairy holiday drink
• Like Starbucks Blonde Espresso
• I recommend adding in a different syrup to elevate the taste of the Gingerbread Latte. Try adding vanilla or brown sugar syrup pumps if you want your drink a little more on the sweeter side!
DRINK #2: The Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte. Riding on the coattails of fall's Pumpkin Cream Chai Latte (my fall favorite), the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte has a different build depending on if you get it iced or hot. Both variations feature gingerbread and chai syrups, and oat milk, but the iced version comes with a gingerbread oat milk cold foam!
First sip of the hot Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte:
Hot tips for the hot Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte:
• The chai and the gingerbread syrup receive the same number of pumps, so don't be afraid to modify your drink to your liking! For example, a tall hot Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte receives three pumps of chai and three pumps of gingerbread (six pumps altogether). It's totally fine to ask for fewer or more pumps.
• Chai lattes don't typically come with espresso, but if you want a little caffeine boost, ask for this drink to be made dirty! This will tell the barista that you want to add a shot or two.
• None of the gingerbread drinks come with whipped cream by default, but I definitely recommend adding it for just a touch of sweetness since the whipped cream is made with vanilla syrup.
First sip of the iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte:
Try the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte if you:
• Love chai and all the spices that come with it
• Are looking for a non-dairy holiday drink
• Don't like the taste of coffee but are still looking for something festive and caffeinated
• Want to try an oat milk cold foam
Hot tips for the Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte:
• I think this drink would be better if you subbed the oat milk cold foam with the vanilla sweet cream cold foam. The gingerbread syrup paired with the vanilla would make a great pairing with the chai, and I think it'd give the drink more body.
• There are only two pumps of gingerbread syrup in this drink, and that goes into the foam. If you like the gingerbread syrup and want more, ask for more pumps inside the drink itself, not just the foam!
• Like the hot version of this drink (and any chai latte, really) if you want to add espresso, ask for it dirty.
FINAL THOUGHTS: *Sigh* Unfortunately, this year's winter lineup didn't really do it for me. I feel it's important for me to reiterate that the problem I had with the drinks wasn't about the taste, but more that all of the drinks stayed within the same dome of flavor. Like, miss gingerbread syrup?! I was rooting for you! (Chai, sweetie, you did nothing wrong.) I swear, if the gingerbread syrup just had notes of dark caramel or a touch of brown sugar, it would have been so much better. Also, this new lineup doesn't really consider the people who don't like chai and spicy flavors, like, at all. Sure, there are other iconic holiday drinks to fall back on like the Peppermint Mocha (which you can get year-round, BTW), but I think everyone deserves to try something new here and there. If only there were some other new drinks non-chai fans could try...unless...
Okay y'all, let me put my apron back on so that I can recommend some current non-menu drinks that aren't spicy but still embody the holiday season. These recipes aren't 100% from my brain, but whenever customers asked me to make something for them, it was always one of the following drinks: Salted Caramel White Mocha, Caramel Apple Spice, and the Snickerdoodle Hot Chocolate. You can get these drinks year-round so long as you know how to order them. Even so, I love drinking these on chilly days because they're cinnamon-y, sweet, and make me feel like I'm walking through a Christmas market in Germany. Feel free to modify the drinks to fit your personal preference!
Here's how to order the Salted Caramel White Mocha:
This drink was featured as a fall menu item back in 2020, but it was extremely popular throughout the winter season as well. Starbucks stopped promoting it as a seasonal drink, so many people thought the drink was gone forever. The only thing Starbucks doesn't have any more for this drink is the salt topping, but asking for a salt packet on top makes it taste just the same.
• Order a white mocha with toffee nut syrup, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and a sea salt packet on top.
• This drink comes with espresso, but you can also order it as a Salted Caramel White Hot Chocolate/Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate if you don't want coffee.
Here's how to order the Caramel Apple Spice:
This drink has been around since before I'd worked at Starbucks, but I don't remember it ever getting the spotlight it deserves. This drink is non-caffeinated and tastes like apple pie, so if you're looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, this might be your next favorite.
• Most baristas should know how to make a Caramel Apple Spice, but if not, order a steamed apple juice with cinnamon dolce syrup, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and cinnamon dolce sprinkles.
Here's how to order the Snickerdoodle Hot Chocolate:
This is one of my favorite drinks EVER. As the name suggests, it tastes like a Snickerdoodle, and it's sooo Christmas-coded. Since it's a hot chocolate, it doesn't come with espresso, but if you want to make it a latte and add espresso, you definitely can.
• Order a white hot chocolate with cinnamon dolce syrup, whipped cream, and cinnamon dolce sprinkles (I normally modify the pumps so that it's not super sweet).
• For a latte — Order a white mocha with pumps of cinnamon dolce, whipped cream, and cinnamon dolce sprinkles.
And that's a (gift) wrap! All of the winter menu items will be available in Starbucks stores nationwide on November 2, and no matter what you choose to drink this holiday season, remember that there are so many options out there and so many different flavors to try. And if you need any help or other recommendations, kindly ask your barista and I'm sure they'll whip up something delicious for ya!
Do you have a favorite holiday drink? Is there a menu item that was discontinued that you desperately want to make a comeback? Let me know in the comments!