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8 Most Delicious Coffee Drinks at Starbucks, According to Baristas

After all, nobody knows the Starbucks drink menu quite like the people pouring the espresso.
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When it comes to coffee options, Starbucks is king. The coffee giant is known for its wide array of menu options, seemingly endless drink customizations, and seasonal favorites. It's also the largest coffee chain worldwide, bringing in an annual revenue of over $35 billion in 2023.

That means the baristas who work there know a thing or two about coffee. But it can be intimidating to ask a barista for a drink recommendation—especially when that person is clearly busy making 10 drinks at once.

Luckily, I spoke to a few current Starbucks employees during their off hours, and they were more than happy to tell me about the best coffee drinks at Starbucks. Read on to see which nine drinks were among their favorites and why!

Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

iced shaken espresso brown sugar oatmilk
Nutrition (Per 16 oz. Serving):
Calories: 120
Fat: 3 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 115 mg
Carbs: 22 g (Sugar: 12 g)
Protein: 2 g

Let's cut to the chase: this drink was the favorite of multiple Starbucks baristas I interviewed. This is a relatively new iced drink that hit the menu in 2021. "I love how it automatically gets an extra shot of espresso, plus the cinnamon powder that comes in it blends wonderfully with the brown sugar flavor," says Dylan, who has worked at the chain for one year now. "It's a perfect balance of the bitterness of espresso and the sweetness of the sugar." The best part? "It comes with oat milk automatically, so you don't need to pay extra for a non-dairy option."

Otto, who has worked at Starbucks for three years, says much the same. "Honestly, I think it's the best thing on the menu," he says. "It's not overly sweet and has a great coffee-forward flavor, complemented by cinnamon and brown sugar. The drink is super refreshing and great for a spring or summer day."

Three-year employee Laney agrees. "I love the brown sugar shaken espresso. It's popular for all the right reasons! It's definitely more coffee-forward and not-too-sweet, but the oat milk and brown sugar make the extra espresso a lot more palatable."

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Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew

starbucks nitro sweet cream cold brew in a glass on a green background.
Nutrition (Per 16 oz. Serving):
Calories: 70
Fat: 5 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 20 mg
Carbs: 4 g (Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 1 g

Audrey H. is a Starbucks veteran, with eight years under her belt. She's partial to the Nitro Sweet Cream Cold Brew, which hit menus in 2016. "While Starbucks didn't invent nitro cold brew, it was the first to mass market it," she says. "The innovation of infusing black coffee with nitrogen to change the taste versus just adding ingredients during the preparation of the drink was a really smart move by the company and the proof is in the taste."

She continued, "It's smooth, it's rich, it's less bitter than your typical iced coffee. And the genius of it is really its exclusivity. People can make their own coffee at home, but a lot of the time they don't want to, or they want the high-grade consistency and customizability at Starbucks. But now, there are options you simply cannot make at home, like nitro cold brew."

Audrey says her favorite way to drink this is with a little extra sweet cream and topped with cinnamon: "It tastes like coffee ice cream—but it's less than 75 calories. I would drink two a day if I could afford it!" She also likes the plain black Nitro Cold Brew.

Fellow barista Lee agrees: "My favorite drink right now is the Vanilla Cream Nitro Cold Brew. I just like how simple it is and easy to drink. It's just sweet enough for me to enjoy without feeling like it's gonna be instant diabetes, unlike the rest of our drinks." But for all this praise, Lee says it's not very popular at his store, and customers rarely order it.

Oleato Golden Foam Iced Shaken Espresso with Toffeenut

Starbuck's "Oleato" line of Partanna olive oil-infused coffees.
Nutrition (Per 16 oz. Serving):
Calories: 360
Fat: 28 g (Saturated Fat: 11 g)
Sodium: 110 mg
Carbs: 27 g (Sugar: 22 g)
Protein:3 g

When Starbucks soft-launched its line of "Oleato" extra virgin olive oil drinks back in February 2023, it kind of broke the internet. Many people weighed in on the seemingly strange idea of putting olive oil into a coffee-based drink.

But Starbucks barista Adella actually counts one of these drinks among her favorites. "The best drink so far is the Golden Foam and toffee nut shaken espresso," she says of the new drink, which joined menu boards nationwide this past January. "I really like it because the olive oil flavor is really brought out by the vanilla and toffee nut and the oat milk and coffee gives it that bit of bitterness," she says.

Even though the olive oil line was dragged online, one Redditor says they were pleasantly surprised by it. "I thought it was good! What am I missing?" they said. "The best way I can describe it is that it tasted nuttier or more toasted."

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Iced Pistachio Latte

starbucks pistachio latte
Nutrition (Per 16 oz. Serving):
Calories: 260
Fat: 6 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 260 mg
Carbs: 42 g (Sugar: 40 g)
Protein: 3 g

A Starbucks barista for nearly four years, Reddit user James0fAnarchy told me the best coffee-based Starbucks drink is the Iced Pistachio Latte—with a few customizations for good measure.

"It's an Iced Pistachio Latte with blonde espresso, oat milk, and chestnut praline cold foam as modifications," he says. "It's definitely a bit of a mouthful when ordering, so let's break it down a bit. The pistachio latte is sweet, with a full-bodied mouthfeel that will satisfy anyone who prefers sweeter flavors. It's also nutty in a subtle way that compliments the espresso without making you feel as though you drank from a squirrel's winter stash. Plus, the salted brown butter topping it comes with is exquisite."

He continues, "The blonde espresso has a lighter flavor that removes the sharp coffee taste and, paradoxically, provides more caffeine than signature espresso. As for the oat milk, most baristas I know prefer oat milk because it allows the espresso and syrup flavors to take the spotlight."

And finally, arguably the star of this latte: the chestnut praline cold foam poured on top. "Chestnut praline is personally my favorite holiday flavor," he says. "It has an aroma similar to buttered popcorn.

Launched in Winter 2021, the pistachio latte is a seasonal drink that features pistachio sauce pumps and salted brown-butter sprinkles. But act quick on this one! "Sadly, chestnut praline and the other holiday syrups won't be offered after next week's spring launch, so a good substitution would be the salted caramel cold foam," James says.

Caffé Misto

starbucks caffe misto
Nutrition (Per 16 oz. Serving):
Calories: 110
Fat: 4 g (Saturated Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 100 mg
Carbs: 10 g (Sugar: 10 g)
Protein: 7 g

Ethan is about to celebrate his five-year work anniversary at Starbucks, and when it comes to coffee-based drinks, he keeps it simple. "Honestly, the Caffé Misto is one of the most underrated drinks you can get," he says. "It's highly customizable, plus it's half drip coffee and half steamed milk, so the caffeine content isn't too bad while you still get plenty of flavor."

Ethan's go-to customizations for his signature Caffè Misto includes blonde drip, choosing almond milk, and adding a drizzle of caramel syrup. However, it's not a popular drink. "I get one order every few months, or maybe even once a year," he says.

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Iced Starbucks Blonde Vanilla Latte

starbucks blonde vanilla latte in a glass on a plain background.
Nutrition (Per 16 oz. Serving):
Calories: 190
Fat: 4 g (Saturated Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 100 mg
Carbs: 30 g (Sugar: 28 g)
Protein: 7 g

Naomi has been a Starbucks partner for six years. In her opinion, the best coffee drink on the menu is this smooth and simple one. "I just love a good iced blonde vanilla latte with soy milk," she says. "I don't like things too sweet, but blonde shots are sweeter than regular shots and it adds just the right amount of sweetness for me without having to add extra sugar." Naomi says she swaps in soy milk instead of regular milk because it has less fat.

Flat White

hands holding a mug of starbucks flat white on a green background.
Nutrition (Per 16 oz. Serving):
Calories: 220
Fat: 11 g (Saturated Fat: 7 g)
Sodium: 150 mg
Carbs: 18 g (Sugar: 17 g)
Protein: 12 g

Texas-based barista Chris has been working at Starbucks for nearly 20 years now. "My favorite drink used to be the caramel cloud macchiato," he says. "But since that was discontinued, I drink almost exclusively flat whites—either the plain, or the honey almond milk flat white when I am feeling feisty."

"I love the simplicity of just espresso and milk, but the complexity of flavors a ristretto shot brings to the drink that makes it different from a latte." (For the uninitiated, a "ristretto" shot is just a short shot of espresso. The barista pulls only the start of a full-length espresso shot. Fun fact: ristretto means "restricted" in Italian.)

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Blonde Vanilla Latte (Customized)

a mug of starbucks blonde vanilla latte on a plain background with a yellow garnish.
Short Blonde Vanilla Latte With 2 Shots, Oat Milk & Honey (Per 8 oz Serving)
Calories: 130
Fat: 3.5 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 80 mg
Carbs: 18 g (Sugar: 17 g)
Protein: 6 g

For Starbucks fans who are not afraid to experiment with tons of customizations, Laney has a drink for you: "This is very specific, down to the size, but my current favorite is a short Blonde Latte, made with oat milk, an extra shot of espresso, for a total of 2, a half-scoop of vanilla bean powder, and a packet of honey." (At Starbucks, a "short" cup size refers to a small drink of just eight ounces.)

"I'm obsessed," she says. "I'm not much of an espresso drinker, but this latte helps me down two shots without being either bitter or ridiculously sweet. I'm partial to oat milk in this one because I think it pairs nicely with the honey and blonde espresso, but I think the latte would work just fine with any other milk."

Emily Latimer
Emily Latimer is a freelance journalist with a passion for food and restaurants. Read more about Emily