Starbucks’ Pistachio Latte excels as a midday diversion

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Photo: Allison Robicelli

It’s nice to get out of the house, isn’t it? This was something I used to take for granted when I was moaning about having to drive the kids to school or pick up gallon of milk. Now I realize that each time I step into the outside world is a chance for adventure. Leaving the house is a major event, and if I perchance get to interact with another human on one of these exhilarating missions to the perilous outside world, well, that’s the sort of white-knuckle action that gives me a high that can last for days.

Illustration for article titled Starbucks’ Pistachio Latte excels as a midday diversion
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Going to Starbucks used to be about getting coffee; now, it’s often the centerpiece of my antisocial schedule. I get to walk an entire mile alone, with no antsy, quibbling children in tow. I get to see the same baristas who were once part of my daily routine. As more of my walking destinations close their doors forever, Starbucks has become wholly responsible not satisfying not only my wanderlust, but my need for pampering. That’s where the Pistachio Latte comes in.

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Starbucks’ Pistachio Latte originally debuted at its Reserve Roastery locations in 2019, and while Chicago-based members of The Takeout staff have been fortunate enough to enjoy it, us pistachio lovers elsewhere in the country were left in the cold. It has just been released nationwide as part of the chain’s winter menu, and per a company spokesperson, features “sweet flavors of pistachio and salted brown buttery topping paired with Starbucks Signature Espresso and steamed milk for a cozy beverage crafted to offer comfort this season.” If Starbucks is now as sacred to me as church, a new menu is as jubilant an occasion as Ascension Thursday. I put on my cleanest jeans and swapped my slippers for Doc Martens. My mile-long walk included a few brief pauses for admiring my neighborhood’s 18th-century architecture. I went into Starbucks and ordered a slice of Red Velvet Loaf (also new!), and the biggest, prettiest Pistachio Latte. I enjoyed being inside as much as I could before rubbing my palms with hand sanitizer, grabbing my cup with a few parting words to the baristas, and stepping outside to drink my coffee alone.

I took a seat on a bench across from Camden Yards, where assassins once came for Lincoln on the eve of his inauguration and, later, where people used to gather to watch the Orioles lose. In silence I removed the lid and inhaled the scent of roasted pistachios and toasty brown butter topping. There was a time when I wouldn’t pause to do this; when the latte would have been half gone by the time I’d walked that single block. That doesn’t happen anymore. It can’t. Every moment of a latte needs to count.

I sipped my drink slowly, feeling the richness of its full-fat milk on my tongue, taking a pause before swallowing, giving the pistachio flavors time to emerge from behind the creaminess. I closed my eyes and was suddenly seven years old, standing in the lunchroom of P.S. 185, eating a sloppy pistachio Carvel Flying Saucer because it’s Danny S.’s birthday, Miss Benat telling me to eat my ice cream like a lady so I don’t get it on my clothes and make my mom mad. On my next sip I dribbled a bit of my latte on my formerly cleanest jeans and there was nobody there to scold me about it.

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The red velvet cake was not good—cloying and chemical-tasting. After two bites, I wrapped it up and stuffed it in my pocket to feed to my undiscerning children. It would not ruin my day. I took another sip of the pistachio latte, appreciating how its gentle sweetness surprisingly didn’t offend my black-coffee-loving palate. I realized I could use the cake to bribe motivate the children to do laundry. Another silver lining! Another smile, another sip.

I started walking with half a latte in my hand, stopping to appreciate the cobblestones and that house with the shutters that George Washington once slept in. Once home, I took off my jacket and shoes and left them by the door for the next adventure. Before I opened up my laptop and joined society once more, I finished my cup, wanting to remember every last drop of it, wanting to keep it from becoming background noise. My Pistachio Latte deserved that kind of finale. It was worth the two-mile walk.

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Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

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Tom Broadhead

Hi Allison,

It’s funny how things catch you but here I am reading a piece about Starbucks and almost tearing up. The way you describe that vital routine of getting out of the house and caring for yourself just hits me.

All the elements seem familiar - recollections about childhood, enjoying getting out and seeing the surroundings, encountering terrible cake and not letting it derail your moment, enjoying the simple pleasure of a drinking a good coffee on your own.

Thank you.