11 Best Hot Drinks at Starbucks, According to Baristas (Pros!)
Ah, the ‘Bux. Who doesn’t love Starbucks? You’ve probably downloaded the app on your phone and can place a mobile order incredibly quickly. After all, you have your favorite order waiting, and the caffeine-free wildlings strapped into booster seats behind you also have their favorite drink options for the kids. Then again, sometimes you want to mix things up and try something totally new. But with Starbucks’ substantial menu — not to mention their seasonal rotations — it’s easy to be hit with a case of decision paralysis when it’s time to order your coffee. Who better to ask than the people selling the drinks? Baristas definitely have the scoop on the best hot drinks at Starbucks.
Of course, choosing a new bevvie for your commute to work or for sipping while sitting in your child’s school queue can be a gamble. With your favorite drink, you know exactly how it should look and taste. You can tell if that tall iced chai with skim milk and eight pumps of chai looks right before you even put it in your hand. Too bright ? Spices will not heal your throat properly. Hanging on to the cup? They used the wrong milk, and it will be very sweet. With a drink you’ve never tried before, you’re not sure what you’re getting. That’s where baristas come in, though.
It’s safe to say that being a Starbucks barista (or “partner”) can probably be tough. After all, they deal with the world before we were caffeinated, when our true demon forms fly as high as any other abnormal flag. Still, most baristas really enjoy their jobs and love to see our smiles when they hand out our takeout cups. And while they like to provide us with our “usual” drinks, they also like the chance to treat themselves to something new. So when asked to share their recommendations for the best hot drinks at Starbucks, they were more than happy to oblige. Here are their top suggestions.
Apple Caramel spice
Baristas’ most popular hot drink suggestion? Apple Caramel spice. Starbucks describes it as “steamed apple juice topped with cinnamon syrup, whipped cream, and a drizzle of caramel sauce.” brb, drool.
Hot chocolate — with a twist
“Not enough people play with hot chocolate,” says Stacy M. of Cincinnati, Ohio. “You can literally add pumps of any syrup we have.” The tastiest hot chocolate additions?
- Cinnamon Dulce (if you can find it)
- Peppermint (obviously!)
- caramel nuts
- irish cream
- Dark caramel sauce
Plus, if you like the idea of flavored hot chocolate but want some extra caffeine, ask your baristas to add two shots of signature espresso. It’s like a Caffè Mocha tea with no chai in the mix.
Seasonal hot drinks
While there’s no official report on Starbucks’ top-selling drinks, most baristas agreed that seasonal lattes are huge sellers, especially in the fall and winter. “When PSLs and peppermint mochas are on the menu, it almost feels like that’s all we’re selling,” Stacy told Scary Mommy. In addition to these two super-popular choices, other seasonal Bux stars include Almond Milk Iced Sugar Cookie Latte, Burnt Caramel Latte, and Toasted White Chocolate Mocha.
Chai Latte Tea
“Beverage sales vary from region to region and even from store to store,” shares James A., who works in Palm Beach, Florida. “Our store consumes a ton of chai tea lattes every day. When I replaced a nearby store and closed, I noticed that they were barely selling any.” Maybe it’s because Chai Tea Latte seems like a drink people either love or hate because of its particularly robust flavor. If you don’t mind complex (and spicy) drinks, this might be your new go-to.
“Never underestimate the Caramel Macchiato,” emphasizes James. “A lot of people really like it, hot or iced. Also, a lot of newbies tend to order it too. I think the caramel makes it look like a safe choice.”
Starbucks Home Roasts
“You’d be surprised how many hot coffees we sell. We have a lot of regulars who love our different roasts,” says Stacy. “I even know a few people who collect the bags in which we sell our ground coffee.” A popular choice? Seattle’s Pike Place Market Cafe.
Fallon P., a SoCal barista, also wants people to get into flavored syrups. “We can make steam from any syrup,” she explains. “For example, you can get a PSL steamer: the pumpkin spice is just steamed with milk, but we omit the coffee.”
Some additional expert recommendations
- Pistachio Latte: Don’t neglect this newbie! Steamed milk, pistachio syrup, shots of espresso and salted brown butter topping make this the perfect warm mix of salty and sweet.
- Blonde Vanilla Latte: The blond espresso gives it the caffeine kick you crave, but it’s not too strong.
- Honey Almond Milk Flat White: This creamy and sweet cup of hazelnut tea combines almond milk, Starbucks Blonde Espresso Roast and a hint of honey. If you want to hack it for an even more indulgent experience, order extra pumps of honey and sub-out almond milk for the oat milk.
- Americano coffee: If you’re a coffee purist, you can’t go wrong with this classic. Made with two shots of espresso and hot water, its bold flavor is exactly what black coffee lovers crave.