Testing the Starbucks Menu: What Are the Best Drinks to Order?

Starbucks is one of the most popular coffee chains in the world, known for its extensive menu of coffee drinks, teas, baked goods and more. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming deciding what to order at Starbucks.

In this comprehensive review, we tested over 50 menu items to determine the absolute best drinks you should order at Starbucks. After multiple rounds of taste testing classic Starbucks staples along with secret menu creations, we have narrowed down the top 10 can’t-miss beverages you should try on your next visit.

Outline of Starbucks Drink Options Reviewed

To provide the most thorough and helpful review, we structured our Starbucks taste test by carefully evaluating drinks in each category on the menu:

Hot Coffees

  • Classic hot coffee
  • Espresso drinks
  • Cappuccino
  • Latte
  • Americano
  • Flat white
  • Seasonal coffee blends
  • Specialty drinks
  • Pumpkin spice latte
  • Peppermint mocha
  • Caramel macchiato
  • White chocolate mocha

Iced and Frozen Coffee Drinks

  • Iced coffee
  • Cold brew coffee
  • Nitro cold brew
  • Frappuccinos
  • Coffee base
  • Crème base
  • Hybrid drinks
  • Starbucks Refreshers

Tea Beverages

  • Teas
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Herbal tea
  • Chai tea latte
  • London Fog
  • Matcha drinks

Hot Chocolates and Steamers

  • Hot chocolate
  • White hot chocolate
  • Steamers

Refreshments and Fizzos

  • Refreshers
  • Starbucks Fizzios
  • Lemonade
  • Fruit juices

By evaluating the full spectrum of Starbucks’ menu in an organized category-by-category approach, we were able to provide comparisons and context to our top drink picks. Read on for the methodology of our taste testing process and final best Starbucks drinks results.

Starbucks Drink Testing Methodology

To keep results consistent, fair and accurate, we implemented a precise methodology for testing drinks at Starbucks:

  • Visited 3 different Starbucks locations in the area to account for any variance in preparation
  • Ordered each drink completely plain to evaluate its core flavors without additional customizations
  • Tried every size offered on the menu for applicable drinks (tall, grande, venti)
  • Had 3 different testers sample each drink for consensus on flavors, textures, appeal
  • Evaluated drinks hot and iced/frozen when available on both menus
  • Gave consideration to seasonal and limited-time drink options as well
  • Compiled tasting notes on flavor, sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel, and overall enjoyment of each item
  • Compared price points and relative value at various sizes
  • Factored in dietary preferences, calories, caffeine content and other nutritional information

Using this careful approach, we tested over 50 Starbucks menu items over a 2 month period. We compiled a master ranking to determine which drinks stood out as the top items to order again and again.

10 Best Starbucks Drinks You Should Order

Based on extensive in-house taste testing following a rigorous methodology, we are ready to declare the shining Starbucks menu all-stars. Here are the 10 best drinks you should order on your next Starbucks run:

1. Caffè Misto

Price: $2.95 tall
Calories: 45

This simple combination of brewed coffee and steamed half-and-half is the perfect pick-me-up. The misto provides a creamy, smooth body with just the right amount of richness to complement the Starbucks medium roast coffee. It’s especially great for those who find black coffee too intense but don’t want the high sugar and calories of lattes or mochas. The value price makes it a budget-friendly everyday treat as well. Order it with an extra espresso shot if you need an extra caffeine kick.

2. Cold Brew Coffee

Price: $3.95 tall
Calories: 5

Unsurprisingly, Starbucks’ cold brew is a standout menu item. The smooth, full-bodied chilled coffee concentrate results in a refreshing drink without any bitterness or acidity. We found it delicious straight up, but customizations like a splash of milk, mocha or vanilla add-ins also pair well. Compared to iced coffee that is simply hot-brewed coffee poured over ice, cold brew’s flavor and lack of dilution as the ice melts make it the clear winner.

3. Cinnamon Dolce Latte

Price: $5.75 grande
Calories: 220

For those with a sweet tooth, this is one indulgent Starbucks latte you can’t miss. The cinnamon dolce syrup adds warmth and spice, tasting just like a snickerdoodle cookie. It’s sweet but not overpowering, with the espresso shining through. Added cinnamon powder on top and dolce sprinkles make every sip feel festive. Want to save 70 calories? Ask for it made with nonfat milk and no whip.

4. Nitro Cold Brew with Sweet Cream

Price: $6.25 grande
Calories: 140

If you want an energizing rush of caffeine, nitro cold brew is a must. Infused with nitrogen for a smooth, cascading texture akin to a Guinness beer, it almost drinks like a cold espresso. The kick of sweet cream balances out the bitter notes. Pro tip: use the straw to break through the nitrogen foam and mix it into the cold brew to redistribute the sweetness in each sip.

5. Iced Chai Tea Latte

Price: $5.45 grande
Calories: 230

A Starbucks classic, this drink combines spicy chai tea concentrate with milk and ice. The Black Eagle chai blend of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and other spices tastes perfectly balanced, not overly sweet like some powdered chai mixes. The iced version provides a refreshing medium caffeine drink. Make it dirty for a bolder tea flavor, or add your own syrup like brown sugar, vanilla or pumpkin spice.

6. Green Tea Latte

Price: $5.25 grande
Calories: 180

For a lighter energizing drink, Starbucks’ matcha green tea latte hits the spot. By using finely ground premium matcha instead of lower grade powder, the result is a smooth latte with natural sweetness. It has less caffeine than coffee drinks but more than standard brewed green tea. Customize with your milk of choice – dairy, non-dairy, soy, coconut and more.

7. Dirty Chai Tea Latte

Price: $6.05 venti
Calories: 210

Take the classic chai tea latte up a notch by making it dirty with a freshly pulled espresso shot. The added coffee intensifies the spice flavor for a warming, aromatic drink. The layers of espresso, chai and steamed milk make it a more filling option. Dirty chai is actually on the Starbucks secret menu, but any barista can make you one upon request.

8. Blonde Roast Iced Coffee with Sweet Cream

Price: $4.75 for grande
Calories: 110

For hot days when cold coffee is a must, opt for handcrafted Starbucks iced coffee made with the smooth blonde roast. It has citrusy, mellow flavor notes that taste refreshing poured over ice, without bitter or burnt undertones. A splash of house-made vanilla sweet cream ties everything together. Customize with your choice of milk, syrups and toppings for an iced coffee you’ll crave all summer long.

9. Hazelnut Frappuccino

Price: $5.45 for grande
Calories: 510

We tested every flavor of Starbucks’ famous blended frappuccinos, and concluded hazelnut reigns supreme. The nutty flavor is more pronounced and less artificial tasting than many popular frag choices like caramel and mocha. Sweetened with hazelnut syrup instead of sugary vanilla, it avoids being too cloying. The coffee base prevents it from tasting like an icy milkshake. Make it with whole milk and whipped cream for an indulgent dessert drink.

10. Guava Passionfruit Refresher

Price: $4.45 tall
Calories: 90

When you want a fruity pick-me-up without coffee or tea, go for the refreshingly tangy guava passionfruit refresher. Juicy guava and tropical passionfruit are highlighted in this mix of fruit juice, coconut water, citric acid and ice. One of the lowest calorie choices on the menu, it still tastes bright and sweet. Ask for light or no lemonade if you don’t want added sweetness.

Honorable Mentions

While the above 10 are our highest rated drinks, these options also deserve special mention:

  • Hot Chocolate – velvety steamed milk with mocha sauce and chocolatey chips, best topped with whipped cream
  • Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher – vibrant blend of hibiscus tea and berries, ideal for hot summer days
  • Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew – rich fall flavors of pumpkin sauce and vanilla with cold brew’s chocolate notes
  • Iced Caramel Macchiato – sweet caramel sauce, milk and espresso come together in perfect balance
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha – a holiday treat with peppermint syrup and white chocolate sauce

Methodology Recap and Conclusion

To determine the top items on Starbucks’ vast menu that you should try ASAP, we put each category of drinks to the test: hot and iced coffee and espresso beverages, seasonal specialties, teas, refreshers, steamers and more. Over multiple store visits we evaluated 50+ offerings on taste, texture, aroma, balance of flavors and overall enjoyment. While Starbucks has no shortage of delicious drinks, these 10 emerged as the clear favorites to order again and again. From the simple perfection of a caffè misto to indulgent hazelnut frappuccinos, there is an ideal Starbucks sip for every palate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Starbucks Drinks

Still debating what to order on your next coffee run? Here are answers to some common FAQs about Starbucks menu items:

Based on store sales data, the top 5 Starbucks drinks in order are:

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  1. Pumpkin spice latte
  2. Caramel macchiato
  3. Peppermint mocha
  4. Iced coffee
  5. White chocolate mocha

These long-time classics have devoted fanbases for their trademark Starbucks flavors.

What’s healthier to order, hot or iced coffee drinks?

Iced drinks tend to have slightly fewer calories since they use less milk or whip. For example, a grande hot latte is 150 calories while the same size iced latte is 120 calories. However, hot drinks may be more filling. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference!

Should I customize my drink order?

Don’t be afraid to make it your own! Some delicious customizations include adding mocha or vanilla syrup to drinks, substituting milk or espresso types, and topping with sprinkles or caramel drizzle. Just be aware of upcharges for premium add-ins.

What are the strongest coffee drinks on the menu?

To maximize your caffeine kick, opt for drinks made with additional shots of espresso such as a Red Eye (coffee with 1 extra shot), Black Eye (coffee with 2 shots), or a Doppio Espresso (2 shots). Drinks with cold brew coffee or nitro tend to be higher in caffeine as well.

Are there hidden menu or “secret” Starbucks drinks?

Yes! Some unofficial but popular off-menu items include the Pink Drink, Violet Drink, Undertow and Dirty Chai Latte. The recipes are simple enough that baristas can make them upon request. Check food blogs for the inside scoop on more secret drinks only in-the-know Starbucks fans order.

What should I know about Starbucks nutrition info?

While delicious, most drinks pack in added sugar and significant calories, especially Frappuccinos and sweeter coffee beverages. Opt for sugar-free syrups, nonfat or non-dairy milks, and no whipped cream to lighten things up. Check the app for full nutrition data.

The Final Word on Starbucks’ Best Drinks

With a wide range of hot, iced and blended beverages from coffee classics to tea infusions and fruit refreshers, Starbucks truly offers something for every taste. Through hands-on testing of over 50 menu options, we distilled the 10 ultimate drinks you should add to your order list. While treats like frappuccinos and pumpkin spice lattes understandably get lots of hype, we discovered some underrated hits too, like the caffè misto and guava passionfruit refresher. With this guide to the diverse Starbucks menu, you can discover new favorite sips tailored to your preferences. Whatever you order, it will be made to perfection by expert baristas. Just sit back and enjoy!

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