Is the Starbucks Irish Cream Cold Brew the holiday classic we’ve been searching for?

Photo: Aimee Levitt

It seems counterintuitive for Starbucks to be shilling a new cold brew drink in December, at least in the northern hemisphere where we’re all supposed to be dreaming of a white Christmas like the ones we used to know. And yet here we are, adjusting to a harsh new reality where there is no Gingerbread Latte but instead an Irish Cream Cold Brew.

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I am currently sitting at my desk with one of those Irish Cream Cold Brews, listening to Handel’s Messiah to build up my holiday spirit. And I admit, both these things and also the red lettering on the plastic cup are making me feel a little more festive. (Last night I heard “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in the grocery store—the original Judy Garland “we’ll have to muddle through somehow” version—and nearly burst into tears in the pasta aisle.) So does the creamy topping and cocoa sprinkle, which leave a little Santa-like mustache on my upper lip.

The topping, alas, is the most flavorful part of the whole drink. The coffee itself is bland and watered down, with only the slightest tinge of Irish cream syrup, which, sans alcohol, makes the regular cream taste marginally richer and eggier. I feel like someone at Starbucks truly wanted an Irish coffee but the whiskey part proved too much of a logistical problem. Like all compromises, it probably didn’t make anyone entirely happy, and Starbucks’ claims that the drink will become a new holiday classic are based more in hope than in actual potential, at least in its pure, non-spiked form. (Especially since there is nothing especially Christmas-y about Irish cream.) This is a “muddle through somehow” kind of drink, not a “Hallelujah! the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

So, sorry, Starbucks, December 2019 will still be remembered as the Season of Baby Yoda. The best that can be said about the Irish Cream Cold Brew is that it contains a lot less sugar than some of Starbucks’ other seasonal offerings—maybe something worth remembering if you’re planning out your cookie consumption.

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.