Starbucks' New Gingerbread Drink Tastes Like Deception

The new Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte is lacking a key ingredient.

With the Halloween ghosts tucked away and the Pumpkin Spice Latte taking a backseat, out come the 2023 holiday menus. Starbucks has just debuted this year's winter lineup, and it seems the brand might be resting on its laurels just a bit.

Starbucks has introduced just one new drink to its nationwide menu this year: the Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte. At Starbucks locations where olive-oil-infused Oleato drinks are sold, customers can also try the Oleato Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte. The rest of the holiday menu is a parade of returning favorites, including the Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte, Chestnut Praline Latte, and Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte.

Although the cheery-sounding Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte is all alone in its novelty, there was a lot of anticipation surrounding its debut—and now, potentially, some controversy.

Why people are excited for Starbucks’ Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte

Starbucks has had a hot Gingerbread Latte on its holiday menu in past years, but the chain chose to discontinue the drink in the U.S. after 2018. Upon its cancellation, Starbucks also stopped offering gingerbread syrup in U.S. stores. This meant customers couldn't customize other drinks with the flavor.

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With the announcement of the new Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte—which Starbucks describes as having "Warm gingerbread notes, a cozy blend of chai spices and creamy oatmilk"—many fans were excited at the prospect of the Gingerbread flavor making a comeback. Many shared their excitement online, with hundreds of reviews already making their way to TikTok just one day after the drink's release.

"Can't believe we're like 14 hours away from Starbucks having gingerbread again for the first time in years," wrote one X user. "Wish I could tailgate it." Another user wrote ahead of the debut, "Just a reminder that gingerbread syrup returns to Starbucks tomorrow." But this excitement might be for naught, because the new latte lacks the one ingredient everyone is looking for.

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How Starbucks’ new holiday drink tastes

The Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte is actually available hot or iced, but since Starbucks is specifically promoting the iced version as the newcomer to the menu, I felt it was my journalistic duty to get my bare fingers on that cold beverage. This is where things get interesting for the gingerbread fans out there.

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I noticed something odd as soon as I took a few sips. The "warm gingerbread notes" Starbucks highlights in the menu were nowhere to be found. The chain has disappointed me before with a lack of promised seasonal flavor, but here, the gingerbread flavor was nonexistent. So, I checked the Starbucks website, and, lo and behold, the standard drink is shown to include oatmilk, Pumpkin Spice Topping, four pumps of chai tea flavoring, and ice. The gingerbread syrup is available to add as a customization to the drink, but it is not part of its standard makeup.

On the other hand, the hot version of the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai contains, in addition to the ingredients listed above, four pumps of gingerbread syrup. What gives?

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Technically, there is a trace of gingerbread to be found in the iced version. A TikTok video of a Starbucks barista making the new drink shows that some gingerbread syrup is blended into the froth on top of the iced drink. However, my taste test yielded nothing from that froth, and the menu didn't list it as a component. When asked about the makeup of the iced drink, a Starbucks barista noted that the gingerbread syrup was added to the froth, but not the coffee.

A representative for Starbucks tells The Takeout that the Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai contains gingerbread syrup within both the drink portion and the oatmilk froth. As of this publication, neither the Starbucks app nor the Starbucks website description of the drink currently reflects that.

"Warm chai spices, creamy oatmilk and ice, topped with frothy oatmilk infused with gingerbread-flavored syrup and a spice topping to create a unique and festive feel-good moment," the copy reads, seemingly implying the presence of the gingerbread syrup only in the topping portion of the drink.

Overall the drink was tasty, but not for the reasons it should have been, and I feel like I was duped. The lack of gingerbread flavor is an obvious flaw in execution, and the gingerbread fans paying a premium for the beverage might feel equally misled once they taste this drink for themselves. Customers who order a gingerbread holiday drink shouldn't have to pay an upcharge to add in a detectable amount of gingerbread flavor.

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Although this new drink is a flop, Starbucks's holiday menu is filled with familiar festive options, and I'll be sticking to those if I order anything the rest of the season. The chain is not kicking off the holidays on the cheeriest of notes.

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