If you’re a Starbucks lover, the holidays can seriously be the best time of year. From peppermint mochas to caramel brulée lattes and even an entire secret menu with drinks like the Snowball Frappuccino and Christmas in a Cup — you can pretty much find any holiday flavor you’re looking for.
And that includes — new this year — your Christmas tree! OK, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Starbucks’ new Juniper Latte does, in fact, include a “pine-like” flavor.
I know what you’re thinking: “but…but…that’s not a flavor.” You’re right, people don’t usually eat pine. But, in a world where fall can mean pumpkin spice cough drops, adding some pine flavor to a holiday drink should surprise approximately no one (taste buds not included).
Of course, I had to try this new Juniper Latte out for myself — not because I’ve always dreamed of boiling down my Christmas tree and taking a sip, but because the holidays would now somehow feel incomplete if I didn’t find out what pine tasted like.
So off I went to sample the new drink, which includes espresso, steamed milk, velvety foam, pine-citrus sugar and, of course, juniper syrup — the thing that gives it the pine-like flavor. I’ll admit that I did not have the highest of hopes. As much as I love the smell of a fresh Christmas tree, I have never once thought about adding it to my holiday menu.
Starbucks is correct in their assessment that the pine-like flavor is subtle. Not light enough that you don’t notice it, but still light. I also did not taste the citrus mentioned in the description. Just that hint of pine, and perhaps a touch of — I don’t know — tree bark? Because the flavor was so light, I was not blown away or wowed — but I also didn’t feel compelled to keep drinking. As apprehensive as I was to try it, I actually found it to be lacking in flavor, and it smelled stronger than it tasted. It did make my car smell good, though!
If you’re into light, nature-like flavors, it’s definitely worth ordering at least once. Though if shrubs and trees aren’t on the list of things you’d like to try ingesting, get something else. If, however, you’re looking for more pine flavor, I’d suggest asking for an extra pump or two of juniper syrup.
Personally, I’ll be sticking to the peppermint mochas, but I have to say, with the exception of perhaps Santa being your barista, I’m pretty sure drinks don’t get more festive than this.
Apparently, I am not alone in my assessment, as a few Juniper Latte-drinkers have taken to Twitter to say pretty much the same thing. From one tweet that says it tastes like a pinecone (and not in a good way) to one who says a Starbucks barista told him it tastes like “grass and dirt,” this “outdoors” flavor seems to be what everyone else tastes, too. Of course, there are people who think it’s delicious, plus others who find humor in it and compare it to Pine-Sol (though I’m definitely going to disagree with that one).
— Derek Lewis (@dereklew) November 27, 2018
To be fair, Starbucks is not off their rocker with this new concoction and definitely not the first to come up with the idea of drinking juniper. In fact, the evergreen shrub is actually to gin what grapes are to wine — pretty darn important. If you’ve ever had a cocktail made with gin, you’ve had juniper. Most likely, however, it had other flavors that masked that Christmas tree vibe — unless you drank it straight.
If you’re actually loving the pine flavor this holiday season, you can order the Juniper Latte now for a limited time. Of course, you can also just pour yourself a glass of gin or even pluck some needles off your Christmas tree and make your own pine syrup (seriously — I’m not kidding). All you need are the needles, water, corn syrup and salt and you can make your own pine-flavored coffee or cocktails.
Will you be trying the new Starbucks Juniper Latte before it’s gone?