I Made Starbucks’ Iconic Holiday Drinks Dairy-Free: Here’s What I Thought
Nothing says the holidays are here like the bright red, festively designed Starbucks cups filled to the foamy brim with one of their holiday drinks like a Sugar Cookie Latte with oat milk or their Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino – two flavors I now know well.
Yesterday, I had the chance to taste-test four of Starbucks' specialty holiday drinks – made with oat milk – at the store on 14th Street and Ocean Drive in Miami. Here's what I thought about each, ordered in their iced-coffee versions since it was well into the mid-70s by the time I got there. Watch the video below for the full review and ratings out of five.
I Taste Tested Starbucks 4 Holiday Drinks with Dairy-Free Milk
This week is different from my normal routine: I'm in Miami Beach for a few days, working remotely in the sunshine with palm trees overhead, the opposite of what I was doing a few days ago in freezing New York. Truthfully as sunny as Miami is, I felt more of a holiday spirit when bundling up in the Big Apple.
Not that there's no festive cheer in the warmer weather, but there is something special and nostalgic to me about being in a cold climate during the holidays, maybe because I'm from New England. However, I found the perfect solution to help ring in the holiday cheer and the month of December in Florida. Drum roll, please...Starbucks holiday drinks are what felt like my home away from home.
That's one reason I wanted to taste test the new "red cup" holiday drinks at Starbucks. The other was to see if they would "hold up" in taste to being made with vegan or plant-based ingredients like non-dairy milk. We chose oat milk but they offer almond milk as well, and soy milk if you prefer. Oat milk is my choice because it tastes the most like the real thing. Still, I wondered: Would the foam properly aerate?
Starbucks in Miami Beach has a view of palm trees
This Starbucks shop at Ocean Drive is much different from the one I go to in New York where it's crowded, has long lines, and there's always a rush to get in and out. This Starbucks was relaxed and people were sitting outside at tables, enjoying their drinks in the sunshine filtering through the palm fronds on the north edge of beautiful Lummus Park. To the East, visible from the terrace was the blue expanse of ocean, while to the West was the row of art deco hotels, starting with the chic and welcoming Betsy.
I arrived at the Starbucks in style, with my co-workers Lucy Danziger and Caitlin Muccerino, we all happened to be in Miami during the same time. Lucy ordered the drinks at the counter and explained to the barista that we wanted to make them all dairy-free with oat milk, and he said, "No problemo. Just tag us on your Instagram, he asked. We have our own account!"
The choices were almost endless since Starbucks offers soy, almond, oat, and coconut milk for anyone who avoids dairy, like us. Note that most of the holiday drinks can be made plant-based with the exception of the white chocolate one, so we passed up on that flavor and ordered the Caramel Creme Brulee, the Praline Chestnut, the Mocha Peppermint Frappuccino, and the super-popular Sugar Cookie Latte, all made with oat milk.
Starbucks Holiday Drinks Made Plant-Based: A First-Person Review
Out of the three of us, I was the designated taste-tester, and trust me, I was thrilled. Caitlin was part of the production (making sure we had them all straight) and Lucy acted as director and videographer, as you can see in the reflection of my glasses.
The first drink I tried was the Caramel Creme Brulee
The first sip was a shock in the system, a sugar shock. This drink is very, very sweet. The taste of creme brulee was much richer and powerful than the caramel taste, something I was happy about since creme brulee was usually my go-to dessert back before I went vegan. The duo of caramel and creme brulee makes a tasty pairing.
The second drink I had was the Chestnut Praline
This one was also delicious, but not as sweet as the first one, which I appreciated. The aftertaste has hints of chestnut so it's not like you're drinking a chestnut smoothie. The drink is more infused with chestnut so it's not overpowering. But if you like chestnut you'll love it.
The third drink was the Sugar Cookie Latte
This one tasted like pure sugar – but after all, isn't it supposed to? It is as sweet as can be and tastes just like a sugar cookie.
Last but not least was the Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino
This is like drinking an ice cream sundae. This isn't a coffee drink per se, but a dessert. This drink was over-the-top delicious. And if you're a peppermint fan you won't be able to drink just a few sips. You'll want the whole thing! It had an all-natural light taste of peppermint and a rich taste from the chocolate and the mocha. This one was the winner.