Customization is a big-time draw for the popular coffee chain Starbucks. Rumor has it that there are billions of ways to make a latte your own. The numerous syrup options are one of the reasons why.
Like food items, the Starbucks syrup offerings included mainstays (vanilla and classic) and seasonal, like the Chestnut praline available as of November 2 (bless Starbucks for waiting until Mariah to defrost before entering the holiday chat).
Perhaps you're ready to get into the holiday spirit. Or, maybe you're looking to shake up your current drink. Choosing a new favorite syrup can be a good way to go. But which should you choose?
We asked former baristas for advice, and let's say there's a science to Starbucks syrups. From a recently discontinued flavor that totally deserved it to classic ones that must never leave us, consider this Starbucks syrup flavors ranking your guide to hacking your drink order.
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3 Things You Might Not Know About Starbucks Syrups
1. Pump it up (or don't)
Brunch hotspots offer bottomless mimosas. Starbucks will do you one better: The sky is the limit on the number of syrup pumps you can ask for in a drink.
"You can add as many pumps of syrup as possible to any drink of your choice," says AnnMarie Motley, a former barista trainer turned public relations professional with Rocket Launch Marketing & PR. "You like a white mocha latte? Spice it up by adding a pump of a new holiday flavor."
2. Syrups are not sauces
When customizing an order online, there's a place to select sauce and syrup. Confused? Don't be.
"There is a difference between sauces and syrups," Motley explains. "Sauces are thicker in consistency and syrups are made more liquid-y. The sauces include white mocha, mocha and pumpkin."
3. You don't have to leave home
Pulling up a cozy chair at your local Starbucks is cool and all, but you can savor your go-to syrup even on snow days and sick days. "A lot of people don’t know that you can purchase Starbucks syrups at the store or on Amazon and use the syrups for making custom drinks at home," Motley says.
16 Starbucks Syrup Flavors, Ranked Worst to Best
Some TikTokers mourned the end of the raspberry syrup when Starbucks announced it was sunsetting the flavor in March. Motley was not surprised."The only time people would add raspberry would be when ordering a refresher, which even then was only added to drinks every so often," she said. Another former barista, Lindsay Babcock, who worked for Starbucks for three years and went on to create Om Proofreading, also said the syrup was one of the least popular. "Better options overshadowed [it]," she said.
"A lot of people don’t know that peppermint syrup is offered throughout the whole year, not just during the Christmas season," Motley says. "Even during the Christmas season, peppermint isn’t ordered as often as the other holiday drinks."
Babcock agreed that peppermint was one of the least popular syrups on the menu during her Starbucks tenure.
14. Anything sugar-free
Sugar-free wasn't the way to be for most customers when Motley was behind the counter.
"I think this might be because if people are going to get a drink, they’d prefer doing less pumps of their favorite syrup rather than more pumps of a sugar-free syrup that, in their opinion, might not be as flavorful," Motley says.
13. Cinnamon Dolce
Cinnamon Dolce's notes of spice and brown sugar were designed to warm the soul on a cold day (even if the beverage was iced). However, Motley says it's a big underperformer. Why?
"No reason," Motley says. "A lot of people just don’t choose it by default and or know it exists as a latte."
12. Toasted Vanilla
Not to be confused with regular vanilla (read on), Redditors have compared this syrup to Pediasure and children's medicine, candles, plastic pool floaties and candy cigarettes—as you might imagine, none of these were compliments.
Starbucks discontinued its Gingerbread Latte in 2019. Was the syrup to blame? The taste was divisive. The chain's 2023 winter menu includes a "reformulated" version to better pair with a new Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Tea Latte.
"It’s a love letter to gingerbread and ginger,” said Matt Thornton, senior beverage developer at Starbucks, in a news release. “The gingerbread flavor amplifies the spice of the chai.”.
Some Redditors don't taste the difference, with others calling it "lackluster." The jury is still out, though.
10. Sugar Cookie
Sweet tooths adore this holiday treat, hence its spot in our top 10. However, those who aren't fans of liquid desserts are pretty sour on the option. One consistent tip from Reddit users is to choose milk wisely, "It pairs well with oat milk and chai," said one person.
9. Toffee Nut
Another more subtle flavored syrup, toffee nut pairs with various drinks, thanks to its gently sweet, nutty flavor profile. Still, even this syrup has pretty mixed reviews. While some swear by it, particularly in Frappacinos, others say the toffee nut syrup tastes artificial and burnt.
8. Chestnut Praline
Though one might think peppermint steals the show come the holiday season, fans crave the return of chestnut praline during cooler months. The buttery-tasting, subtly nutty syrup is slightly sweet without going overboard, making it an easy sipper for any time of day.
7. Apple Brown Sugar
Pumpkin may steal a lot of the oxygen when Starbucks releases its fall menu, but the apple brown sugar syrup is not to be passed over. Redditors say this year's version nixed the "waxy" flavor that had this syrup downvoted in previous years. Instead, people tasted more apple notes and loved the fragrant, so-fall aroma. Pro tip: "Try apple brown sugar with matcha and oat milk—it tastes like cereal milk," suggests a fan.
Fans were concerned when hazelnut syrup was in short supply in 2021 due to pandemic-related supply chain issues. Those challenges have since been resolved, much to the delight of Starbucks-goers who say that this nutty syrup complements a drink without overpowering it.
Macadamia was the secret sauce—well, syrup—in a new favorite drink Starbucks introduced this summer: The White Chocolate Macadamia Cream Cold Brew. Fans were sad when Starbucks ran out of the seasonal beverage, with one crediting the "so-good" syrup for making the smooth, creamy drink with tropical notes an instant classic
Sometimes, basic is best. Motley says this simple syrup was a popular pick. "Classic syrup is also regularly ordered as it pairs well with iced coffees and refreshers," she says. Don't be fooled by the name, though. While it may not have a moniker like "sugar cookie," the syrup is liquid sugar. If you're trying it for the first time and not in the mood for a very sweet beverage, start with a pump or two and work your way up.
3. Brown Sugar
Starbucks debuted an Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso to nearly universal positive reviews in 2021, with users calling it a just-sweet-enough delight.
Motley says the brown sugar syrup has benefited from the hype. "I’d say that brown sugar is third on the list of popularity because of the infamous brown sugar shaken espresso that everyone loves," she says
The syrup is subtle enough to blend into any beverage without taking it over. However, the caramelized notes courtesy of the brown sugar formulation, as opposed to so-sweet white, give it enough character to make a beverage feel warm and special.
Babcock said familiarity made caramel one of the most popular syrup choices of customers. People knew what to expect, ordered accordingly and lodged very few complaints.
That said, caramel macchiato sippers may be surprised to learn this fun fact. "When you order a caramel macchiato, it’s made with vanilla syrup, not caramel syrup. But it comes with caramel sauce drizzled on top," Babcock says.
Which brings us to...
Vanilla may be code for "boring" in other aspects of life, but it's simply delicious when added to a Starbucks beverage in syrup form. "Vanilla, chocolate and caramel have always been popular ice cream flavors, and it’s no different with Starbucks syrups," says Babcock.
Motley agrees. "Vanilla is a flavor that can be added to any drink to enhance the flavor. It is also the default syrup that comes with the vanilla sweet cream foam, which is extremely popular," Motley says.
In fact, if you need any more coffee tips, you can probably find her somewhere sipping a Starbucks beverage with vanilla syrup.
"In my opinion, even though you can customize insane drinks and have fun with your Starbucks order, sometimes simple is better," Motley says. "I’m also a Virgo and love simplicity. My go-to drink is a doppio espresso over ice in a Grande cup with two pumps of vanilla, oat milk and extra cinnamon powder."