The seasonal drink offerings have been on the menu at Starbucks for a minute now, but which most fills you with the holiday spirit?
It’s that time of year again, some say the most wonderful time, the time for peppermint, gingerbread and cinnamon to spice up coffee, hot chocolate, and other soul-warming beverages at Starbucks and cafes across the nation — all generously graced with a sprinkling of nutmeg, the official drink accent of the holiday season.
But not all winter seasonal beverages are created equal. Some are great, some are less great, some are outright bad. Some are suitable for regular consumption, some are so sweet one serving will have you set for the entire season. Most relevant to this ranking, some are very holiday, and some are just vaguely holiday.
Beverages that can get you drunk (liquor, liqueurs, beers, wine, and so forth) typically carry an ABV number — alcohol by volume — indicating what percentage of the beverage is alcohol. So, too, can we measure winter seasonal coffee-adjacent drinks with the totally-made-up metric of holiday spirit by volume (HSBV), which indicates the percentage of you that will be full of the holiday spirit after consuming said drink. Things that might boost a beverage’s HSBV include noted holiday spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) or evocative flavors (peppermint) but a lack of creativity (i.e. just picking a holiday dessert and calling it a latte) can also dilute the holiday spirit content. You’ll figure it out.
While this high-level evaluation can be applied to the menus of most (all) coffee shops peddling holiday flavors, for the sake of semantic simplicity, we’ll be ranking Starbucks holiday and/or winter seasonal drinks. It’s also worth acknowledging this isn’t about execution either. Beverages are all ranked on their platonic ideal, not the ability of your local barista and/or chain of choice to stick the landing.
One final housekeeping note is the necessary acknowledgment that all of these orders are more dessert than drink so approach the flavor combos from that mindset. I drink my coffee black too, but who among us cannot appreciate a good 16 oz. of sugar when they’re feeling especially curmudgeonly?