Cold weather is coming, which means caramel, honey, the sound of leaves crunching, pumpkins on the doorsteps, and ideal weather for the best hot Starbucks drinks.
Though my taste has changed since I first started drinking Starbucks about 14 years ago, some of my favorite Starbucks drinks have remained my favorites. My taste has developed, though, and now I can appreciate the subtleties of a well-made coffee and milk recipe like we can see on display with the Flat White or Cappuccino.
In this article, I’ve tried to be inclusive about the best hot drinks from Starbucks, taking a look at drinks for those with a sweet tooth, drinks for those who prefer just coffee and milk, and even drinks for those who don’t drink coffee or don’t drink milk.
In my list, I’ve also added ways to customize your drinks that make them especially tasty. Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Best Hot Drinks at Starbucks
- Caramel Macchiato
- White Chocolate Mocha
- Cafe Americano
- Flat White
- Pumpkin Spice Latte
- Chai Tea Latte
- Blonde Vanilla Latte
- Honey Almondmilk Flat White
- Cinnamon Dolce Latte
- Espresso Macchiato
The Caramel Macchiato remains a customer favorite in all weather. Simple, with vanilla syrup and fresh milk steamed and poured into a cup, followed by espresso and a caramel drizzle, leaving you with just enough sweetness. The Caramel Macchiato remains so popular because it’s sweet but not too sweet, allowing those who love the taste of coffee to still taste the coffee.
If you’re a lover of the coffee flavor in your beverages, I would highly recommend getting a grande Caramel Macchiato with an extra shot of espresso. The grande typically comes with two shots at Starbucks, and adding the third gives you an excellent coffee flavor.
If you don’t like the taste of coffee as much, spring for the venti, as a venti uses the same number of shots but in four extra ounces.
White Chocolate Mocha
Starbucks’ White Chocolate Mocha is delicious and beloved when the cold weather begins. Made like a latte, a mocha is steamed milk with chocolate syrup poured over a shot of espresso. A layer of whipped cream makes the first few sips of the mocha a fluffy, sweet delight.
What sets the White Chocolate Mocha apart from other mochas is Starbucks’ signature white chocolate syrup, which really hits the spot on a cold day.
For a really rich drink, I would suggest requesting your White Chocolate Mocha with whole milk for a really rich drink, rather than the standard 2%. If you’re feeling especially wild, you can substitute half-and-half, but be careful: this drink is extremely rich and high in calories.
Ah, the simple excellence of Starbucks’ espresso. An Americano is so-named because it is the favorite of Americans in Italy, as Italians typically don’t have the capabilities to make standard drip coffee in their cafes. The Americano is espresso and hot water—that’s all.
For a basic and dignified pick-me-up without any frufru, the Starbucks Americano is a great choice. The Americano is slightly smoother than Starbucks’ drip coffee, but the two taste very similar other than this difference.
I typically get my Americano black from the barista and add half-and-half to it at the self-service station, but if I’m feeling especially frisky, I’ll get the barista to steam some milk and pour it in hot to my cup. If you want an extra boost in the morning, ask for this drink with an extra shot. You can also add some flavoring (caramel syrup is a favorite of mine) to make the drink a bit sweeter.
When Starbucks rolled out the Flat White in 2015, it was something of an anomaly in America. It is a drink like a latte but utilizes something other than espresso (ristretto). Its standard iteration uses the richness of whole milk rather than Starbucks’ typical 2%.
When I first had the Flat White, I was amazed at the smoothness of the drink, the creaminess of the foam, and the relative sweetness of the coffee flavor (even though no sugar is added).
The secret to Flat White’s tastiness is two-fold. The first is ristretto, which is like espresso, but the water pushes through faster, creating a sweeter-tasting shot. The second is how the barista steams the milk, making a heavy microfoam that elevates the espresso to the top of the cup.
From my point of view, the Flat White is perfect as it is—no sugar, no flavoring, nothing else needed.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
I am a pumpkin lover, and always anticipate the return of Pumpkin drinks at Starbucks. Nothing says fall is here like Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. This drink almost needs no introduction, as it has become something of a pop culture icon, but it nevertheless remains an example of Starbucks’ unexampled flavoring brilliance.
The Latte is the base drink from which the flavors of pumpkin spice emerge. Starbucks baristas free-pour steamed milk over espresso shots to create a latte, a technique that helps bring out the flavor in the whole drink and allows the baristas to create the always-beloved latte art of social media fame.
What sets the Pumpkin Spice Latte apart is the flavoring Starbucks uses. The “pumpkin spice” is a combination of pumpkin, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon injected into the drink in the form of a pumpkin spice syrup steamed with milk. The drink is topped with whipped cream and dusted with pumpkin spice.
This drink is excellent without any modifications, but a recent way I’ve learned to order it is with almond milk. Though I prefer the way the milk tastes in a latte, there’s something delicious about how the almond flavor combines with the pumpkin flavoring.
Chai Tea Latte
The drink of choice for teenage girls everywhere, the Chai Tea Latte is one of the few caffeinated but non-coffee Starbucks drinks that virtually everyone loves.
Of course, the taste of chai is an acquired taste, and as a young person, I didn’t love it. Chai is black tea infused with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Even cold chai drinks have a warm flavor, reminding the palate of warm winter nights spent by the fire.
Starbucks’ Chai Tea Latte is essentially a flavored Starbucks latte without the espresso. The chai tea is injected into the milk via a pump, like syrup put into Starbucks beverages. The chai and milk mixture is steamed and poured into the cup.
Chai Tea Lattes are great drinks to get with custom milk options. Soy milk goes exceptionally well with Chai Tea Lattes, but almond milk and coconut milk also make sense with this drink.
Blonde Vanilla Latte
Espresso is typically brewed with dark roast beans, and Starbucks is especially famous for the darkness of its roasts. However, brewing espresso with light roasts is just as possible. Starbucks’ Blonde Vanilla Latte explores the sweet taste of blonde (or light roast) espresso combined with Starbucks’ ubiquitous vanilla syrup in a latte form.
Beyond the introduction of blonde espresso, nothing separates the Blonde Vanilla Latte from Starbucks’ Classic Vanilla Latte. However, blonde espresso’s smooth, slightly more acidic flavors allow for new and exciting combinations and variations on the theme.
For example, getting the Blonde Vanilla Latte with whole milk allows for a more decadent drink that, in my opinion, brings out more of the sweet flavors of the espresso while cutting down on the blonde’s acidity.
Starbucks’ Cappuccino is the perfect test of their well-trained baristas’ skills. The Cappuccino is well-known as a foundational drink, the drink on which baristas-in-training cut their teeth as they’re learning how to combine milk and espresso to make Starbucks’ various coffee drinks.
Depending on the coffee shop you go to, cappuccinos and lattes tend to be quite different, with cappuccinos having a much higher espresso to milk ratio. In Starbucks, the difference is less detectable.
Ideally, a Starbucks Cappuccino features much foamier milk than a latte, creating a significantly lighter drink than its latte equivalent.
As far as customization goes, you can order the cappuccino “dry,” which means you will get more foam and less milk. Alternatively, you can order the cappuccino “wet,” meaning you will get less foam and more milk.
Honey Almondmilk Flat White
I mentioned above that the Flat White is perfect as it is and doesn’t need any fiddling. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and the Honey Almondmilk Flat White is a delightfully delicious and decadently delectable take on Starbucks’ original Flat White, especially for those of you who can’t or don’t drink milk.
Using a combination of blonde espresso, sweetened almond milk, and a hint of honey, the Honey Almondmilk Flat White from Starbucks is an explosion of sweet and nutty flavor in your mouth.
I find when I drink this drink, the coffee flavor is detectable but extremely subtle. For those who don’t like the flavor of coffee, that is excellent. For me, I tend to order mine with an extra shot of espresso.
Cinnamon Dolce Latte
One thing Starbucks does very well is drinks on the “very sweet” end of the spectrum. The Cinnamon Dolce Latte is the perfect example of that. The very sweet cinnamon dolce syrup mixes perfectly with the milk and espresso to make a drink that won’t just give you a caffeine buzz but a healthy sugar high as well.
Topped with whipped cream and cinnamon dolce topping, it’s no wonder this drink is one of sweet toothers’ most beloved Starbucks drinks.
If you like the idea of the cinnamon dolce taste but feel a bit squeamish about all the calories, I would recommend ordering the Cinnamon Dolce Latte without whipped cream and cinnamon dolce topping. You can also reduce the number of cinnamon dolce syrup pumps (4 is the standard for a Grande) for a lower calorie drink.
Not to be confused with the Latte Macchiato, the base drink from which the Caramel Macchiato emerges, the Espresso Macchiato is Starbucks’ realization of the classic drink, made in the style of old Italy.
The Espresso Macchiato is a small drink, much closer in size to a shot of espresso than to a latte. The word macchiato in Italian means “stained,” which refers to the drink’s composition. When making a macchiato, a barista merely “stains” the espresso with a dash of hot frothy milk.
The final drink served in a tiny espresso cup is meant to be sipped slowly in a cafe while perusing the pages of Il Giornale or gesticulating wildly in conversations with friends.
All joking aside, I love the simple way the espresso can speak for itself in the Starbucks Espresso Macchiato, and this drink is a drink I always recommend to coffee lovers.
In this article, I’ve walked you through my favorite Starbucks hot drinks. We’ve covered the taste of espresso best exemplified in the macchiato and Americano, as well as the sweetness of the cinnamon dolce latte and the always-classic Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Now you’re fully equipped to get the best out of Starbucks’ menu when the cold weather gets serious. However you like your hot drinks, I wish you a happy winter season and a world of well-made drinks.
Did I leave good hot drinks at Starbucks out? Please, let me know below, and be sure to check out my favorite Starbucks pumpkin drinks. Or if it’s a particularly warm day, check out these iced drinks from Starbucks.
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