As someone who’s worked at Starbucks as a barista, I’ve really seen and tasted it all, especially when it comes to the end of the year and the seasonal drinks begin to roll in. There are the good, the bad, and the somewhat okay drinks, both in the menu offerings as well as in customer creations.
If you’re curious as to what someone who’s been behind the bar thinks you should avoid ordering the next time you stop by the coffee shop, I’ve crafted a list of just a few drinks that I believe aren’t worth the purchase.
Things to Consider When Ordering at Starbucks
Before I get into the actual beverages, let’s go over a few general things that you might not realize aren’t exactly the best to request when placing your order at your local Starbucks.
Cold Foam on Hot Drinks
For some reason, it’s actually pretty common for customers to ask for cold foam even when they’re ordering a hot beverage. Though baristas still aren’t sure why this is the case, except maybe because the cold foam tastes good, it’s something you should probably avoid doing.
The cold foam instantly melts once added to a hot substance, so you aren’t really getting the texture of the cold foam. This means all that’s left is the sweet taste, which can easily be replicated by just adding vanilla syrup and cream to your drink.
Asking for Several Extra Sweeteners
Don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty good customer creations out there that have a few different syrups added to come up with certain flavors. However, you might want to consider limiting just how many extra sweeteners you’re adding to your beverage.
Apart from the negative effect it has on your health, even getting small amounts of several types of flavored syrups can be a hassle for the barista who’s trying to recreate the drink you’ve requested. Plus, the less complicated drinks tend to taste better anyway.
Saying the Name of a Secret Menu Item
This one might sound a bit odd, but there’s a huge misconception that there’s actually a secret menu at Starbucks. That may not be the case, but there is a vast array of drink creations out there on the internet that have been given unique names to match.
Unfortunately, Starbucks baristas don’t know all of these customized drinks by name, if any at all. That being said when you want to order one of these beverages, make sure you ask for the recipe itself rather than just saying the name of it.
Fall Drinks You Should Avoid Ordering
Alright, now that we’ve gone over a few ordering tips that are helpful to both customers and baristas, it’s finally time to dive into the list of fall drinks at Starbucks that are best to avoid. These include a few menu items as well as a handful of customer creations.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
That’s right, I’m gonna say it. The Pumpkin Spice Latte is an overrated fall beverage. That’s not to say that pumpkin isn’t the ultimate flavor of the autumn season. However, the basic PSL that you can easily order at any Starbucks is probably at the bottom of the list of fall menu items.
Honestly, the pumpkin sauce added to the drink is more of a sweet addition rather than a warmly spiced base. If you’re craving pumpkin, I’d recommend going for the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew instead. With that drink, you’ll get a strong coffee flavor that’s sweetened by the creamy fall foam.
Apple Crisp Oat Milk Macchiato
Listen, I was at Starbucks when the Apple Crisp Oat Milk Macchiato was first released and they hadn’t yet made it an oat milk-based drink. With anything other than oat milk, the apple flavors struggle to reach through. Regardless of the change, though, I have to say that this drink is still not top of the list.
Of course, the newest menu addition of the Apple Crisp Oat Milk Shaken Espresso definitely ranks higher than the macchiato version. Plus, you could even try to get the Caramel Apple Spice if you want a warmer apple drink, which is actually available year-round.
Apple Crisp Oat Milk Frappuccino
Just like the drink above, the Apple Crisp Oat Milk Frappuccino is a Starbucks fall menu item that sort of misses the mark when it comes to the seasonal flavor. The taste of apples is definitely lacking when the drink is in its frozen form.
The best way to enjoy it would be by adding some extra things to it, such as cinnamon dolce syrup and extra apple drizzle around the cup. So, maybe don’t take it completely off your list of drink choices if you’re willing to customize it a bit.
Pumpkin Caramel Cream
Getting into the non-menu fall Starbucks beverage options, we’ll start with the Pumpkin Caramel Cream. If you haven’t heard of this customer drink creation, this is essentially an Iced Caramel Macchiato that’s made with blonde espresso shots and has pumpkin sauce added to it, as well as whipped cream and a pumpkin spice topping.
The reason I say don’t get this drink is because it’s quite literally the same as the infamous secret menu drink: the Caramel Pumpkin Macchiato. There’s nothing really different about this one except for the specification of blonde espresso and the addition of whipped cream. Both of these aren’t necessary and can always be added if you really want them.
Vanilla Pumpkin Mocha
Next up is a drink that I have more of a reason to not recommend trying this fall. The Vanilla Pumpkin Mocha is a customer creation that takes things just a bit too far. It starts off with a Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew that’s made with both extra sweet cream and extra vanilla.
If you thought that was already too much, it also asks for pumpkin sauce and white mocha sauce to be added to the mix, not to mention the extra caramel drizzle around the cup and pumpkin cold foam at the finish. There’s just too much going on in this drink and it’s way too sweet, which is why I recommend sticking to something like the Cinderella Latte: a White Mocha made with pumpkin sauce.
Brown Sugar Pumpkin Shaken Espresso
The Brown Sugar Pumpkin Shaken Espresso might sound like a delicious drink customization, but the online recipe itself isn’t exactly the best way to get a beverage like this. Usually, it calls for a Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso that’s been topped with some pumpkin cold foam and caramel drizzle.
However, the point of a shaken espresso is for a semi-sweet drink that has a strong and rich coffee flavor, with just a touch of milk. So, I’d recommend foregoing the pumpkin cold foam and instead getting the drink made how it traditionally is with a bit of pumpkin sauce added to it. This will create a less milky sip that still has a good amount of fall sweetness to it.
Last on this list is one that may or may not sound appealing to you: the Pumpkin Juice. This isn’t something that’s ordered often, and for good reason. The idea is derived from the Harry Potter Pumpkin Juice, but the one from Starbucks isn’t going to have all of the spices that are present in the original.
This drink, when ordered at Starbucks, is actually just apple juice and pumpkin syrup. This means that the spices, apple cider, pumpkin puree, and other fruits won’t be present. So, essentially you’ll just be getting apple juice with an extra sweetness from the pumpkin sauce.
Ultimately, these drinks were all created for a reason, but that doesn’t mean they’re all worth your dollar. There are several other yummy fall drink options out there that I’d highly recommend over this list, as I mentioned above.
While I can only give you tips, tricks, and my personal opinion as a former Starbucks barista, I hope you’ll take these things into consideration the next time you visit the coffee chain. Maybe you’ll find something you like even better than the traditional Pumpkin Spice Latte.