Make It A Venti

What Are The Best Hot Drinks At Starbucks? Baristas’ Top 10+ Picks

Caramel Apple Spice your world.

Written by Deirdre Kaye
Originally Published: 
Finding the best hot coffee at Starbucks means narrowing down the extensive menu.
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Ah, the 'Bux. Who doesn't love Starbucks? You probably have the app downloaded on your phone and can place a mobile order in an astoundingly swift fashion. After all, you have your favorite order on standby, and the uncaffeinated wildlings buckled into booster seats behind you have their favorite kid-friendly drink options, too. 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 get struck by a case of decision paralysis when it comes time to order your coffee. Who better to ask than the people who sling the drinks? Baristas definitely have the scoop on the best hot drinks at Starbucks.

Sure, picking a new bevvie for your commute to work or to sip while sitting in the car rider line at your kid's school can be a gamble. With your favorite drink, you know exactly how it should look and taste. You can tell if that grande iced chai with nonfat milk and eight pumps of chai looks right before they even put it in your hand. Too light-colored? The spices aren't going to scar your throat properly. Clinging to the cup? They used the wrong milk, and it'll be extra sweet. With a drink you've never tried before, you're not sure what you're getting. This is where baristas come into the picture, though.

It feels safe to say that being a Starbucks barista (or "partner") can probably be challenging. After all, they deal with the world before we're caffeinated, when our true demon forms fly as high as any other freak flag. Still, most baristas genuinely enjoy their jobs and love seeing our smiles when they hand us out our cuppas to go. And as much as they love supplying us with our "usual" drinks, they also love the chance to delight with something new. So, when asked to share their recommendations for the best hot drinks at Starbucks, they were excited to oblige. Here are their top suggestions.

The Caramel Apple Spice

The most popular hot drink suggestion from baristas? The Caramel Apple Spice. Starbucks describes it as "steamed apple juice complemented with cinnamon syrup, whipped cream, and a caramel sauce drizzle." Brb, drooling.

Hot Chocolate — With a Twist

"Not enough people play around with the hot chocolate," says Stacy M. from Cincinnati, Ohio. "You can literally add pumps of any syrup we have." Tastiest hot chocolate additions?

  • Cinnamon Dulce (if you can find it)
  • Raspberry
  • Peppermint (obviously!)
  • Toffee nut
  • Caramel
  • Hazelnut
  • Irish Cream
  • Dark Caramel Sauce

Also, if you love the idea of a flavored hot chocolate but want an extra caffeine boost, ask your baristas to add two shots of signature espresso. It’s like a Caffè Mocha sans chai tea in the mix.

Seasonal Hot Drinks

While there's no official reporting on Starbucks' most-sold beverages, most baristas agreed that the 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 sell," Stacy tells Scary Mommy. In addition to those two super-popular choices, other seasonal Bux stars include the Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte, the Caramel Brulee Latte, and the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha.

Chai Tea Latte

"Drink sales vary from region to region and even store to store," James A., who works in Palm Beach, Florida, shares. "Our store goes through a ton of chai tea lattes each day. When I subbed at a neighboring store and closed, I noticed they hardly sold any." That may be because the Chai Tea Latte seems to be a drink people either love or hate due to its particularly robust flavor. If you don’t shy away from complex (and spicy) beverages, though, this could be your new go-to.

Caramel Macchiato

"Never, ever underestimate the Caramel Macchiato,” emphasizes James. “A lot of people really love it, hot or iced. Plus, a lot of first-timers tend to order it, too. I think the caramel makes it seem like a safe choice."

Starbucks' House Roasts

"You'd be surprised how many hot coffees we sell. We have a lot of regulars who love our various roasts," Stacy says. "I even know a few people who collect the bags we sell our ground coffee in." A popular pick? Seattle's Pike Place Market coffee.


Fallon P., a barista from SoCal, also wants people to get in on the flavored syrups. "We can make steamer out of any syrup," she explains. "Like, you can get a PSL steamer: The pumpkin spice is just steamed with milk, but we omit the coffee."

A Few More Expert Recommendations

  • Pistachio Latte: Don't overlook this newbie! Steamed milk plus pistachio syrup, shots of espresso, and salted brown butter topping make this the perfect hot blend of salty and sweet.
  • Blonde Vanilla Latte: The blonde espresso gives it the caffeine kick you crave, but it isn't overly strong.
  • Honey Almond milk Flat White: This cuppa creamy, nutty sweetness pairs 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 oat milk.
  • Caffè Americano: 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 just what fans of black coffee want.
  • The Cinderella Latte: Yes, this latte tastes just as magical as it sounds. It's like a pumpkin spice latte, but with a bit more flair. Order a PSL, but sub the pumps of Pumpkin Sauce for white chocolate mocha sauce. Your taste buds will thank you.
  • White Chocolate Cinnamon Chai Latte: Start with a simple Chair Latte but ask for a pump of cinnamon dolce syrup and a pump of white mocha syrup. Top it off with whip cream and cinnamon powder sprinkled on top to bring out its full effects.
  • Butterbeer Latte: There is no beer in this latte despite its name, but it still is a super fun hot drink. When it's your turn in line, order grande steam milk. Then ask for three or four pumps of caramel, toffee nut, and cinnamon dolce syrup. If you're looking for a caffeinated beverage, ask for a shot of express and then top it off with whipped cream and caramel crunch.
  • Snickerdoodle Hot Cocoa: It's always a great time to slurp some Starbucks hot chocolate, but have you ever tried the Snickerdoodle Hot Cocoa? It gives you a winter taste that isn't completely chock full of chocolate. Ask the barista for a white chocolate mocha. Then request cinnamon dolce syrup, which gives it its warm Snickerdoodle cookie flavor. And to top it off, add whipped cream on the top with dolce cinnamon sprinkles.

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