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Starbucks Drinks: Everything You Need To Know Before Ordering

If you’ve never been in a Starbucks before, first of all congratulations on the amazing feat.

Over the past 20 years, Starbucks has made it to nearly every Main Street in America of a certain size, and, it often seems, to every other corner in big cities.

Not that we’ve got a problem with Starbucks sweeping the nation.

We personally love Starbucks. It’s saved our caffeine-deprived butts many a time on a road trip, popping up every hundred miles or so like oases on cross-country drives.

Second, we know your first trip to Starbucks can be intimidating.

Hell, your 108th trip to Starbucks can be intimidating.

Starbucks has a BIG menu and much of that menu isn’t on display at its stores.

Instead, you have to be slightly in the know or read between the lines to get a true picture of all the possible offerings on their menu.

This has led to what is known as the Starbucks Secret Menu, which is a bit of a misnomer really.

There’s no actual “menu” about it.

It’s simply a means of ordering that includes adding ingredients to existing drinks in order to alter their flavor.

As far as Starbucks’ standard offerings, even without a clandestine menu, they still have an impressive array of options.

If you want to get the entire 4-1-1 on Starbucks’ drink options, we suggest heading straight to the Starbucks website. (We find that when you want to learn about a company’s offerings the best information comes from the company itself.)

But if you’re looking for a basic breakdown of what Starbucks has to offer, and the many ways you can alter and enhance those offerings, this article is for you.

Starbucks Hot Drinks

First up, the basics.

The standard hot drinks served at Starbucks are:

  • Brewed Coffee
  • Espresso Drinks (cappuccinos, lattes, etc.)
  • Hot Tea
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Steamers (steamed milk with flavor)
  • Steamed juice

PRO TIP: Any handcrafted hot drink (espresso drinks, hot chocolate, steamers, steamed juice) at Starbucks can also be steamed “Extra Hot,” which some people simply prefer, but is also useful if you need to get somewhere (like work) before you drink.

Starbucks Warm Drinks

Starbucks warm drinks are really just Starbucks hot drinks in disguise.

Basically, any of the hot drinks at Starbucks can also be steamed “warm.”

If you typically find hot drinks too hot, a warm steam might be right for you.

This is a standard customization that can make your hot drink drinkable faster.

Starbucks Cold Drinks

The standard cold drinks served at Starbucks are:

  • Iced Coffee
  • Cold Brew Coffee
  • Iced Espresso Drinks (lattes, extended espressos, etc.)
  • Iced Tea
  • Frappuccinos (coffee or cream-based blended drinks)
  • Refreshers (juice or coconut milk-based)

Starbucks Drinks Category #1 – Coffee & Espresso

starbucks coffee drinks

The backbone of Starbucks is its espresso and coffee.

That’s what the company was built on, and remains its staple ingredient.

Standard drinks Starbucks serves in this category are:

  • Brewed Coffee (Dark Roast, Medium Roast, Blonde Roast, Decaf)
  • Caffe Misto (One part coffee, one part steamed milk)
  • Espresso (0.75 oz shot)
  • Espresso Macchiato (espresso shot topped with steamed milk and foam)
  • Espresso Con Panna (0.75 oz shot topped with whipped cream)
  • Caffe Americano (espresso shot extended with hot water)
  • Cappuccino (espresso extended with milk foam)
  • Flat White (a shorter espresso shot extended with steamed milk)
  • Caffe Latte (espresso extended with steamed milk and milk foam)
  • Macchiato (steamed milk with a splash of espresso)
  • Caffe Mocha (espresso mixed with steamed milk and mocha)
  • Iced Coffee (brewed coffee over ice)
  • Iced Espresso (espresso over ice)
  • Iced Shaken Espresso (espresso extended with water and milk)
  • Iced Caffe Americano (caffe Americano over ice)
  • Cold Brew Coffee (coffee steeped in cold water for a smoother taste)
  • Nitro Cold Brew (cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen for a sweeter taste)
  • Iced Flat White (flat white over ice)
  • Iced Latte (latte over ice)
  • Iced Macchiato (macchiato over ice)
  • Iced Caffe Mocha (mocha over ice)

Keep in mind, these are only the basic drinks served at Starbucks.

This list doesn’t include any of the individual flavored drinks on a Starbucks menu.

For more on Starbucks’ flavored drinks, see “Starbucks Flavors” and “Starbucks Seasonal Drinks” below.

Starbucks Drinks Category #2 – Hot & Iced Tea

The backbone of Starbucks may be its espresso and coffee, but that doesn’t mean Starbucks neglects its other caffeinated staple.

Standard tea drinks Starbucks serves are:

  • Black Hot Tea (Royal English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Chai)
  • Green Hot Tea (Emperor’s Cloud & Mist, Jade Citrus Mint)
  • Herbal Hot Tea (Mint Majesty, Peach Tranquility)
  • Hot Tea Latte (Chai, Royal English Breakfast, London Fog [Earl Grey], Matcha)
  • Hot Honey Citrus Mint Tea (Citrus Mint green tea, Peach Tranquility herbal tea, steamed lemonade and honey)
  • Iced Black Tea
  • Iced Green Tea
  • Iced Herbal Tea
  • Iced Tea Latte (Chai, Royal English Breakfast, London Fog [Earl Grey], Matcha)

Starbucks Drinks Category #3 – Frappuccinos


If there’s anything that has given Starbucks a greater claim to fame than their seasonal lattes, it’s their Frappuccinos.

Frappuccinos are blended drinks available in two main varieties – Coffee or Creme.

Coffee Frappuccinos

Coffee Frappuccinos are frap blends made with coffee, milk, and ice.

They come in many flavors, and, like other Starbucks drinks, can be highly customized.

Standard coffee-based Frappuccinos include:

  • Coffee (the basic blend of coffee, milk, and ice)
  • Espresso (a coffee frap with a shot of espresso)
  • Mocha (a coffee frap with mocha sauce)
  • Flavors (vanilla, caramel, seasonal flavors)

Creme Frappuccinos

Crème Frappuccinos are frap blends made with milk and ice.

They also come in many flavors, and, like other Starbucks drinks, can be highly customized.

Standard cream-based Frappuccino flavors include:

  • Vanilla Bean
  • Caramel
  • Seasonal (pumpkin spice, apple crisp)
  • Tea (chai or matcha)

Starbucks Drinks Category #4 – Starbucks Refreshers

starbucks refreshers

While they may not be as beloved as the Frappuccino, Starbucks Refreshers certainly have their fan-base (especially during those warmest summer months).

Refreshers are mixed drinks available in two main varieties – Juice/Lemonade-Based and Coconut Milk-Based.

Juice/Lemonade-Based Refreshers

Juice/lemonade-based Starbucks Refreshers are a blend of juice and lemonade with ice and fruit pieces.

Standard juice-based refreshers include:

  • Kiwi Starfruit
  • Kiwi Starfruit Lemonade
  • Mango Dragonfruit
  • Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade
  • Strawberry Acai
  • Strawberry Acai Lemonade
  • Very Berry Hibiscus
  • Very Berry Hibiscus Lemonade

Coconut Milk-Based Refreshers

Coconut milk-based Starbucks refreshers are a blend of coconut milk and juice with ice and fruit pieces.

Standard coconut milk-based refreshers include:

  • Star Drink (starfruit and kiwi with coconut milk)
  • Dragon Drink (dragonfruit and mango with coconut milk)
  • Pink Drink (strawberry and acai with coconut milk)
  • Violet Drink (berry and hibiscus with coconut milk)

(Note: Starbucks refreshers contain green coffee extract, so while these drinks may seem like the safest thing to order if you’re avoiding caffeine, they are not caffeine-free.)

Starbucks Drinks Category #5 – Hot Chocolate & Steamers

Starbucks’ coffee, espresso, tea, Frappuccinos, and refreshers are the mainframe of their business, but with all of the ingredients at their baristas’ fingertips it’s not surprising they can offer a few more handcrafted beverages.

Starbucks additional hot beverages come in two main varieties – Hot Chocolate and Steamers.

Starbucks Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate Starbucks

Starbucks’ hot chocolate is just that, traditional hot chocolate, which is simply hot milk blended with chocolate.

At Starbucks, baristas make the hot chocolate with flavors on hand and the hot chocolate comes in two standard flavors – hot chocolate and white hot chocolate.

The hot chocolate at Starbucks is made by combining steamed milk with their mocha sauce.

The white hot chocolate is made by combining steamed milk with their white chocolate sauce.

Along with their standards, Starbucks also sells additional, rotating hot chocolate flavors throughout the year using seasonal ingredients.

Starbucks Steamers

Starbucks steamers are much like Starbucks hot chocolate, minus the chocolate part.

They are simply hot milk blended with the sauces or syrups on hand.

So, while some flavors, like vanilla crème and cinnamon dolce, are available all year, others, like pumpkin spice, rotate with the seasons.

(For the record, you can also get plain steamed milk at Starbucks, no flavor added, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Starbucks Steamed Juices

Lastly, and not really deserving of its own category, but still good to know, Starbucks can steam any of the juices they have or in-store.

You can order steamed apple juice right off the menu. (Or a Caramel Apple Spice, which is steamed apple juice decked out with cinnamon, caramel, and whipped cream.)

But you can also order their peach juice blend steamed or even their lemonade.

Basically, if Starbucks sells it, you can most likely get it steamed to warm or hot.

Starbucks Flavors

Ah. Finally, we’ve made it through Starbucks’ extensive selection of drinks, and that still doesn’t begin to cover it.

Starbucks sprawling menu spreads infinitely further once you mix in all of their available ingredients.

With these ingredients, Starbucks creates numerous flavored beverages, some of them store standards, others seasonal drinks only available at certain times of year.

But you can add flavors to any Starbucks drink in any combination all year long.

Some of their flavors, like caramel, vanilla, Irish cream, hazelnut, cinnamon and mocha, are always in stores, while others, like pumpkin spice and peppermint, swap out as the seasonal drink menu changes.

Generally speaking, there are around 15-20 different flavors (syrups/sauces) available at a Starbucks at any given time, providing for thousands of combinations.

Starbucks Toppings

starbucks topping

Along with the many syrups and sauces available at a Starbucks, you can also get a number of toppings.

Starbucks stores keep nearly as many toppings in-store for customizing drinks as they do flavors.

Also like flavors, toppings at Starbucks swap out along with each seasonal drink menu, making different combinations available throughout the year.

But there are a few staples toppings that are always available.

Some of these include:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Caramel drizzle
  • Mocha drizzle
  • Whipped cream

Starbucks Sweeteners, Add-Ins, and Substitutions

While flavors and toppings do plenty to customize a Starbucks drink (and are the basis for the company’s popular seasonal concoctions), they are far from the only customizations available.

Starbucks also carries a variety of staple sweeteners – syrup, cane sugar, or honey blend – that can be added to any of their drinks. (This is an ideal way to sweeten more basic offerings, like a caffe latte or cappuccino.)

Lemonade is another Starbucks’ staple ingredient that can be added to any tea. (Hell, you can even add it to your coffee, espresso, or Frappuccino if you’re ordering in-store and feeling frisky.)

Chai tea can be added to any espresso drink, espresso can be added to any brewed coffee, and flavored powders can be added to almost anything. (Staple flavored powders at Starbucks are vanilla bean & chocolate malt.)

All in, there are so many possible combinations of bases (coffee, espresso, tea), syrups/sauces (mocha, vanilla, caramel), toppings (cocoa, cinnamon, caramel), and add-ins (sweeteners, powders, teas) at Starbucks you could have a different drink with each meal every day of your life from the day you’re born and you still won’t try them all.

And you’re not done customizing.

Customizing Drinks at Starbucks

Beyond adding flavors, toppings, sweeteners, or powders to your Starbucks drinks, there are a handful of other customizations you can make.

Starbucks offers multiple milk options, for instance, and you can choose any one of these for your handcrafted drink.

You can also choose a temperature for your steamed milk and the texture of your milk foam.

You can make your drink blonde by opting for the blonde blend or get it decaf (or 1/3, 1/2, or 2/3 decaf).

You can add (or subtract) espresso shots or change the espresso shots themselves by ordering them ristretto (a shorter, sweeter shot) or long (a longer shot with a slightly more bitter taste).

You can add or reduce flavor by choosing the number of pumps of sauce or syrup. (This is a great way to reduce sugar in a flavored drink.)

When it comes down to customizing a Starbucks drink, there are simply a lot of things you can control at each part in the process.

Not surprisingly, it’s this very ability to dictate so much of a drink’s design that makes custom ordering at Starbucks intimidating for many.

The important thing to keep in mind is that these things are all there to help you get exactly the drink you want.

You don’t have to use them.

If you don’t choose any customizations, you’ll still get your drink, you’ll just get it the default way.

The default espresso drink customizations at Starbucks are:

  • A set number of espresso shots (determined by drink size)
  • 2% milk (steamed hot)
  • Standard milk foam (if drink contains foam)
  • A set number of flavor pumps (determined by drink size)
  • Whipped cream (on most flavored drinks)

If you do want to start customizing, I highly recommend browsing Starbucks’ menu directly on their website.

To do this, click on any drink, click “Edit” in each “Customizations” section, and marvel at all you can do.

Here’s the standard Caffe Latte page to get you started: Starbucks Caffe Latte

starbucks store

What should I order first at Starbucks?

If you’re a complete Starbucks newbie, we recommend forgetting about customizations (unless you need something like decaf or nonfat milk for health reasons) and just stick with their on-menu fare.

To get an idea of how Starbucks’ coffee or espresso tastes, consider starting with a basic drink, like a brewed coffee, cappuccino, or plain latte.

If you want something a little different without straying too far off the basic path, you can also opt for a blonde roast coffee or espresso.

When you really want the full Starbucks, though, when you want to experience what made the company a household name, go for a flavored latte or Frappuccino.

As for flavors, opt for standard vanilla, caramel, mocha, or one of the seasonal flavors.

Any of these will give you the best introduction to Starbucks’ sweet offerings and an inkling as to how Starbucks has spread to so many streets across America and the world.

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