Starbucks fall drinks—are they worth it?

Reagan Stanchfield, copy editor

As summer comes to an end and the leaves change color, Starbucks once again releases its famous Pumpkin Spice Latte. People emerge on both sides of the argument, either loving the PSL or deeming it as “basic.” However, despite the controversy surrounding the PSL, Starbucks continues to release it in conjunction with other fall drinks every year.

This year, Starbucks released their fall drink collection on Aug. 25, about a month before the autumn equinox. I tried each of the fall drinks, and here are my thoughts:

Pumpkin Spice Latte

The PSL is the most well-known Starbucks drink, and it lives up to its classic flavor year after year. Although some criticize it for being overly sweet, I would describe it as moderately sweet without overpowering the flavor of coffee. This latte comes either hot or iced, and while I definitely prefer the hot version because of its fall vibe, the iced option is satisfying on warmer days at the end of August and the beginning of September. You can also order the Pumpkin Spice Crème, which contains steamed milk and the pumpkin spice flavoring, and although I didn’t try it, it is a good option for those who want a PSL but don’t drink coffee.

Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino

The Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino is a cold, blended drink topped with whipped cream. When people talk about the sickly sweet PSL, this is exactly what they are talking about. This Frappuccino has a very strong artificial pumpkin flavor that completely overpowers any flavor from the coffee. This is by far the sweetest drink in the collection, so if you have an extreme sweet tooth, this drink could be for you. But in my opinion, this is the worst fall drink. You can also order the Pumpkin Spice Crème Frappuccino which does not have coffee.

Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew

The Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew is a standard cold brew topped with pumpkin-flavored cold cream and pumpkin spice topping. Of the pumpkin drinks, this is the least sweet and most coffee-flavored drink. This would be an excellent option for people who dislike super sweet drinks but still enjoy the pumpkin flavor. I wish this strong pumpkin drink also came in a hot version as we move into the colder fall season, but it is still my favorite pumpkin drink in the collection. For the best drinking experience, I recommend stirring the cold foam into the cold brew to get a more consistent taste throughout the drink.

Salted Caramel Mocha

To all the PSL haters, the Salted Caramel Mocha could be the perfect fall drink for you. This drink comes both hot and iced, and like the PSL, I prefer the hot but appreciate the addition of the iced drink. The drink features steamed milk, espresso, chocolate, and toffee nut syrup, making it a more bold and sophisticated fall drink. However, the drink’s name is misleading because the only salted caramel appears drizzled on top of the drink rather than as a core flavor. You can also order a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate as a coffee-free version of this drink.

Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino

If you want to get a frappuccino, this is definitely the one to get. This has the same bold, sophisticated flavor of the Salted Caramel Mocha—as well as the misleading name—but it is just a touch sweeter. This is my favorite drink in the collection because of its unique take on a fall drink and perfect balance of sweet and bitter. The one drawback to this drink is that if you get a few too many flakes of the salt topping, it is very overpowering and gross—please drink with caution. You can also order the Salted Mocha Crème Frappuccino for a coffee-free version.


Overall, I think that if you are interested in trying one of Starbucks’ fall drinks, the biggest thing to consider is your preference for sweetness. If you use my sweetness ranking to make an educated decision on which drink would be the best for you, I definitely think the fall Starbucks drinks are worth it.

Fall Drink Sweetness Ranking