Tier One: 4.5 percent HSBV, or the beer of holiday spirits
One beer won’t mess you up, and one of these drinks won’t change your December day.
12. Pumpkin Spice Latte
Get all the way out here with this late season B.S. I have neither the interest nor the time to rehash the relative virtues of the pumpkin spice latte. How you feel about cinnamon, nutmeg and clove — admittedly a strong trio of holiday spices! — is highly irrelevant to the matter at hand.
By December, the PSL has been on the Starbucks menu for at least two months. It has been the star of many explicitly fall-focused Instagrams. It’s as autumnal as the changing leaves and a constant barrage of people telling you fall is their favorite season.
Not a single person associates the pumpkin spice latte with December unless they have some highly specific personal reason. As such, there’s just no way a pumpkin spice latte is affecting your holiday spirit levels.
11. Salted Caramel Mocha
It’s very unclear whether the Salted Caramel Mocha is an official winter seasonal drink, which is part of the reason it scores low on the holiday spirit factor. (Apparently, it’s mostly a matter of whether your local Starbucks carries sea salt year-round.) Still, the toffee nut mocha with caramel drizzle and salt topping does seem especially appealing in the winter months.
And while Starbucks describes the palate as “the flavors of fall” it scores slightly better than the PSL on account of the latter’s near-synonymous association with a season that is not the holiday season.
So, enjoy a salted caramel mocha in December, but don’t expect to feel terribly moved with the Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa spirit.
10. Caramel Brulée Latte
According to Starbucks, this official winter seasonal drink features “rich caramel brulée sauce” and “caramel brulée topping,” which is extremely unhelpful if you’re unfamiliar with a bastardized version of the French word for burnt. In any case, the caramel brulée sauce, based on the best internet estimations, features caramel syrup (duh) as well as french vanilla syrup. So the vibe here is burnt (in a good way) sugar and caramel.
It is not a crème brûlée latte, which presumably would feature hints of custard, not caramel, though you would not be the first or only person to misorder the CBL as such.
The caramel brulée latte provides just a hint of the holiday spirit, on account of its explicit branding as such. It’ll do, but any boost in mood or inclination to buy all your co-workers thoughtful presents can’t be untangled from the power of the red cup in which its served.
9. Cinnamon Dolce Latte
The Cinnamon Dolce Latte (“cinnamon dolce flavored syrup” and “cinnamon dolce topping,” wow, still so helpful, Starbucks) is not specifically a winter seasonal drink, but it involves cinnamon which significantly ups its holiday spirit content, even over the aforementioned explicitly holiday-branded caramel brulée latte.
Anyways, according to the baristas who frequent the Starbucks subreddit, cinnamon dolce pumps add a sweet cinnamon flavor “like a cinnamon roll,” perhaps with some hints of butterscotch or caramel or vanilla, too. (As opposed to a Big-Red-gum-esque cinnamon flavor.)
Lovely, sweet, probably warms the soul — but it’s otherwise December business as usual.