New season, new flavors: Ranking the Dunkin’ and Starbucks holiday drinks

By Vani Hanamirian, Staff Writer, sports

Every winter, frenzies of people gather in Dunkin and Starbucks, waiting to get their hands on limited-time holiday flavors. In the spirit of testing both my taste buds and abilities, I sampled each company’s holiday menu and ranked them based on ultimate deliciousness, presentation, and creativity—so you don’t have to. 

America’s treadmill—Dunkin’—released three syrups: Brown Sugar Cookie, Peppermint Mocha, and Toasted White Chocolate. Dunkin’s signature drinks including each flavor are the brown sugar cookie cold brew, peppermint mocha latte, and toasted white chocolate latte. 

Brown sugar cookie cold brew: 8.5/10

Medium $4.85

This cold brew tastes exactly like it sounds. Although categorized as a sweet flavor, it isn’t as thick as the caramel and it is more like a syrup instead of a swirl.

The flavor itself isn’t sweet enough to stand alone in a black coffee, but collaborates well with milk.

The brown sugar cookie cold brew comes topped with a special brown sugar cold foam and cookie pieces. While the cookie pieces make the drink delicious upon first sip, they start to get soggy after 15 minutes and mix terribly with the coffee. This creates a weird texture of soggy cookie pieces and the drink itself. 

Peppermint Mocha: 4/10

Medium $4.95

Peppermint mocha is a classic holiday flavor, but Dunkin’s version has too strong of a mint flavor that doesn’t mix well with the chocolate. It also doesn’t mix well with the coffee—I ended up drinking a mouth full of coffee and with too much peppermint swirl, which was not an appetizing taste. If the peppermint and mocha mixed more evenly with the coffee, this drink would be delish. 

Toasted white chocolate latte: 8/10

Medium $4.95

The toasted white chocolate was a good choice, but could’ve been better. It reminded me of a sweeter version of Dunkin’s French vanilla flavor. It tasted like how one might imagine white mocha—a creamy white chocolate taste with just the right amount of sweetness. While you’d expect it to be a sweet flavor, when combined with espresso and milk in the signature latte, the sweetness factor is subdued to make the drink enjoyable.

Now, let’s move on to (maybe) America’s peloton, Starbucks. The company’s seasonal flavors are sugar cookie, toasted white chocolate, caramel brulee, chestnut praline, peppermint mocha, and Irish cream. The signature drinks are the Caramel Brulée Latte, the Chestnut Praline Latte, the Peppermint Mocha, the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, the Irish Cream Cold Brew, and the Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte. 

Caramel Brulée Latte: 8/10

Medium $5.45

The Caramel Brulée Latte was a fantastic addition to Starbucks’ menu this year. I enjoyed the creamy caramel mixing with the espresso to create a sweet-but-bitter taste. I tried this drink both hot and iced, and prefer it hot because the flavor comes through stronger without ice. This is definitely a drink I will order several more times throughout this holiday season. 

Chestnut Praline Latte: 5/10

Grande $5.45

This beverage is fine. There was no specific flavor that arose in my mouth with every sip, but I did still enjoy it. I gave this drink a five because it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything special. While it didn’t make me gag, would I order it again? Probably not. 

Peppermint Mocha: 4.5/10

Grande $5.45

Peppermint mocha drinks require a particular taste preference, and if one does enjoy such a flavor, then they’d find it to mix well with coffee. I personally do not enjoy peppermint mocha as a flavor. It is a solid choice if you can get over the overwhelming peppermint flavor that comes with any peppermint mocha drink. 

Toasted White Chocolate Mocha: 9/10 

Grande $5.45

When I worked at Starbucks, the white chocolate mocha was one of our most popular drinks. The toasted white chocolate mocha tastes the same, hence its deliciousness. I am unsure how adding ‘toasted’ to the name makes it different from the basic white chocolate mocha, the only difference is the sprinkles added to the top of the drink. The sprinkles do not taste like anything other than sugar and honestly take away from the drink itself because they add an unnecessary crunch. The hot version of the toasted white chocolate mocha was much better than the iced version because the flavor stood out more in the hot version.

Irish Cream Cold Brew: 4/10

Grande $5.25

This drink is exactly what one would imagine. It isn’t anything special and has been on the Starbucks holiday menu since 2019. I enjoy the Irish Cream flavor mixed with the vanilla sweet cream, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys these flavors in tandem.

Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte: 8/10 

Grande $5.45

My friends rushed to Starbucks when the holiday drinks dropped, and several of them ranted about the sugar cookie flavor. This is the drink I was most excited to try, especially since I enjoyed the Dunkin’ one and figured the Starbucks’ version would not disappoint. This latte is very, very sweet, which is to be expected. It tastes almost like straight sugar, which can be a turn-off for some, but not for me. I loved the taste and understand why my friends were eager to try it. 

Overall, while I prefer Dunkin’s holiday drinks, the variety and flavors at Starbucks are far better this season. Trying these drinks opened my eyes to the differences in the two brands in terms of quality of syrups and price. Starbucks has better quality offerings but the downside is the cost can be very steep. My favorite drinks were the white chocolate mocha at Starbucks, the sugar cookie at Dunkin’ and the caramel brulée latte at Starbucks.