Every Starbucks holiday drink, ranked by festive-ness

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Tier Two: 11 percent HSBV, or the wine of holiday spirits

Wine drunk sneaks up on you, just like the light levels of good cheer you will feel drinking any of these.

8. Chestnut Praline Latte

Do you know what a praline is? Did you think you had like, a pretty good idea — nuts, right? sweet…maybe? — but actually, now that you’ve been put on the spot, you don’t really know? Pralines are, essentially, candied or caramelized nuts. “At minimum, nuts and sugar,” per Wikipedia. More importantly, they are very festive. You only really hear about pralines around the holidays, when they suddenly appear everywhere in Christmas cookies, desserts and desserts fronting as coffee.

(But really, Google searches for pralines spike in late December, and also in Louisiana, and also in Belgium. Belgians love pralines, I guess. As they should, pralines are an amazing wander-around-an-outdoor-Christmas-market snack.)

Chestnuts, roasting on an open fire or otherwise, are also a very holiday-oriented nut.

The holiday spirit that flows through most high HSBV beverages draws some of its strength by its scarcity in other seasons/drinks. Chestnuts and pralines are both available the rest of the year, but you only really feel like they’re around in December. That makes the chestnut praline latte, boasting the flavors of caramelized chestnuts and spices, dusted with spiced praline crumbs, a high-concentration holiday spirit drink.

Also: Points for creativity. Chestnut-praline is an underrated holiday flavor combo.

7. Brown Sugar Shortbread Latte

This is a new one and according to Starbucks, it’s “just delightful, and just here for the holidays.” With “traditional shortbread cookie flavors” and topped with “crunchy shortbread sugar topping,” it certainly sounds delightful.

Brown sugar is a sneaky great flavor, specifically a sneaky great holiday flavor. Maybe it’s the molasses. I don’t know, I just know brown sugar connotes warmth and sweetness, but sweetness tempered by something (I guess the molasses?) so it’s not quite an onslaught of just SUGAR. Anyways, brown sugar is great and makes a vague kind of sense with the holiday season.

Shortbread is similarly a sneaky great cookie. It may not be the flashiest cookie on the Christmas cookie tray, but it’s definitely the one you can eat the most of, which is certainly something to consider. Don’t sleep on shortbread cookies.

This may be a me-thing, but I feel in my soul that a Brown Sugar Shortbread Latte could knock you out with holiday spirit.

6. Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

This one’s special because this is the part of the ranking in which I put forth my theory that white chocolate is an extremely seasonal flavor, extremely well-suited to the winter months.

White chocolate, of course, has a very distinct taste and the gustative distance between white and milk or dark chocolate is further than that of milk-to-dark. Good white chocolate is typically quite sweet, but also creamy, smooth and ideal for complementing other flavors, like mint or raspberry or coffee. It’s not as bitter as most chocolate, on account of the part of the cocoa plant its made from, and when caramelized, it’s a lot like dulce de leche.

Still, white chocolate is not especially popular, partially due to the fact that the distance between good white chocolate and bad white chocolate is often quite significant, with a correspondingly vast price differential. That makes white chocolate — good white chocolate, in an expensive, high-quality bar or an elaborate dessert — feel a little indulgent, a little rich. Something fitting for a special occasion, like the holidays. (Also, on a very basic level, white is a holiday season color, because snow. If a red cup can evoke the holidays, so too can white chocolate.)

Anyways, like the Brown Sugar Shortbread Latte, white chocolate just feels like a holiday flavor — and an underappreciated one at that.

In this light, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha is a very holiday-spirit-heavy drink. It’s your standard latte base — holiday drinks live and die by the espresso and steam milk base — but with the “flavor of caramelized white chocolate.” So what you’re getting is lots of white chocolate, but with those nutty, creamy dulce de leche undertones. And then, it’s topped with whipped cream and candied cranberry sugar. (Cranberries are, of course, unassailably a holiday flavor.)

In conclusion, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha is a drink that is very evocative of the festivities on account of the secret high-levels of holiday spirit in white chocolate.

5. Holiday Spice Flat White

Behold, Starbuck’s only holiday drink that’s not in the latte family. A flat white, as you may or may not know, is an espresso shot with an equal and even layer of steamed milk and foam. (These proportions are the primary reason a flat white is not just a very small latte. You can also order it with extra shots if Italian portion sizes are not for you.)  One could also describe the milk/espresso makeup of a flat white as “bolder than a latte, smoother than a cappuccino.”

The Holiday Spice Flat White, as the name suggestions, features “warm holiday spices,” specifically sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. (And a little ginger? And a little citrus?) Worth noting, the flavors come from a powder that is steamed with the milk before added to the ristretto espresso shots, meaning it, ideally, is neither grainy nor syrupy.

Word on the Starbucks subreddit, which is mostly frequented by baristas i.e. experts, the HSFW is truly the most magical drink of the season — especially if you prefer your holiday spirit with more spice than sugar.