The caramel macchiato has long been a popular drink on Starbucks’s menu. It’s sweet, it’s caramelly, it’s foamy, it’s hard to pronounce. Most people don’t make any changes to it other than ordering it “upside-down”. So it’s a little surprising that it took so long for them to create some new drinks along the same line. All right, so I’m several months behind the curve on reviewing these, but the caramel macch was an only child for over a decade.

Today I’m talking about the Vanilla Macchiato, the younger sibling of the CM. In many ways, this drink is identical to its older sibling — it has vanilla flavoring syrup, steamed milk, foam, and espresso shots dropped through the foam near the end instead of going in the cup first (this is what makes it a “macchiato”). The key difference is that instead of caramel sauce drizzled on top of the foam, the Vanilla Macchiato has vanilla sauce.

So if it’s basically espresso, milk, and vanilla, what makes this different from a plain ol’ vanilla latte? The secret’s in the sauce. It gives the drink a deeper, sweeter, “realler” vanilla taste that’s a little more complex than the basic vanilla flavoring syrup. According to the Starbucks website, there’s brown sugar and butter in the sauce — and you can taste this difference. It’s definitely a bigger and more interesting flavor. And unlike the Vanilla Spice Latte, nothing distracts from the basic vanilla essence.

A tall vanilla macch.

A tall vanilla macch.

This drink is pretty sweet, especially if (as I advise with the caramel macchiato) you give it a good stir before drinking it to mix the sauce into the milk. As an espresso beverage, it can be ordered hot or iced, decaf or regular, with extra shots if you need more caffeine, and with any kind of milk. I’ll give one caveat here though, if the vanilla sauce does have butter in it that means this cannot be made dairy-free. You’ll need to stick to soy vanilla lattes if you have concerns about dairy products.

You can also, like with the CM, order this drink “upside-down”. What that means is that the vanilla sauce and the espresso go in first instead of last. This helps the ingredients mix better as the drink is made, especially if you’re ordering it iced.

Overall, it’s a tasty drink that I hope has gained a permanent spot on the Starbucks menu. If you normally drink vanilla lattes or vanilla frappuccinos, give the Vanilla Macchiato a try.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Vanilla Macchiato
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: hot or iced, decaf or regular, your choice of milk
  • Verdict: A sweeter and more vanilla-y alternative to the vanilla latte