Review: Fizzio Golden Ginger Ale (Starbucks)

Jun 24

A tall Golden Ginger Ale.

A tall Golden Ginger Ale.

Along with the highly anticipated Spiced Root Beer, Starbucks’s new lineup of “handcrafted sodas” includes the Golden Ginger Ale.

I was pretty excited by this, because ginger ale is one of my favorite drinks. Not only does it help calm upset stomachs, it’s a nice flavorful drink option that’s reliably caffeine-free and pretty widely available. So I got one the first day the sodas became available to check it out.

I was not disappointed. The Golden Ginger Ale is very gingery, and while it’s sweet it’s not overwhelmingly sweet for a soda. I’d put it a little lower on the sweetness level than the root beer. It has a clean, crisp taste with no extra nonsense and a good level of carbonation. To be honest, it’s one of the better ginger ales I’ve had. Definitely worth getting if you want a nice refreshing soda (or pop, depending on your dialect).

Like the other sodas, the Ginger Ale is pretty reasonable calorie-wise (80 calories in a tall, 100 in a grande) and made without high fructose corn syrup. It’s made from concentrate and freshly carbonated while you wait. Or while you fidget impatiently, if you’re me.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Fizzio Golden Ginger Ale
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: Just the size
  • Verdict: An excellent, refreshing ginger ale.

Check out all three Fizzio sodas:

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Review: Fizzio Spiced Root Beer (Starbucks)

Jun 24

After all the speculation, the day is finally here — the summer drinks have arrived at Starbucks, and that means the fancy new carbonation machines have been fired up and the “handcrafted sodas” are available. I hit up my local Starbucks to taste all three of them. What can I say, I’m a giver.

A tall Spiced Root Beer.

A tall Spiced Root Beer.

The soda that caused the most anticipation among my friends is the Spiced Root Beer. So naturally, that’s the soda I tackled first. Made from concentrate and carbonated in the new machine, this drink is served nice and cold, and as bubbly as a regular fountain soda.

This is no regular fountain soda, though. It’s one of the sweetest root beers I’ve tasted in my long years of beverage addiction, and the “spiced” part definitely adds to the flavor. Aside from the usual spices in root beer, this one has what tastes like cloves and maybe some cinnamon or cardamom. It’s not as heavily spiced as the chai or Vanilla Spice Latte, but it’s definitely different from a regular root beer.

These sodas are made without high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors, and calorie-wise they’re not too bad. You can get them from a tall (80 calories) to a trenta (210 calories) and since they’re being heavily promoted right now you can probably find coupons or “happy hours” to get them pretty cheaply. Depending on your taste in root beer, this one might be a little overly sweet for you, but it’s a great addition to the menu for people who’re not in the mood for coffee or tea.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Fizzio Spiced Root Beer
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: Just the size
  • Verdict: A sweet, moderately spiced root beer that really hits the spot.

Check out all three Fizzio sodas:

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Review: Blackberry Mojito (Starbucks)

Jun 20

This is the second of the two shaken tea drinks coming up at Starbucks this year. And if you’re anything like me, or the baristas I got the drink from, you’re looking at the name and thinking “Mojito? Is this alcoholic or something?” No, it’s not alcoholic. Nobody seems to know why it’s named like that. I learned ages ago when I was a barista never to try to figure out the logic in the Starbucks marketing department. As a shaken iced tea, it can only be ordered “on the rocks”, in sizes from 12 ounce Tall to 30 ounce Trenta.

A tall Blackberry Mojito.

A tall Blackberry Mojito.

Like the Peach Green Tea Lemonade, this drink surprised me. Knowing Starbucks’s tendency toward sweet drinks, I expected the Blackberry Mojito to be similar to the Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher or the Passion Tea Lemonade.

But this drink isn’t actually very sweet — instead, it’s basically an iced tea with an understated hint of berry in it. It’s much more tea than berry. You could probably order it with some Classic syrup if you wanted a sweeter iced tea experience, but I think it’s best without it, so you can enjoy the uncharacteristically downplayed flavors.

I’m usually not a fan of iced tea overall, but if you are, and you want a drink that’s more “tea with a hint of flavor” rather than Starbucks’s usual “flavorings with a hint of tea”, give this drink a shot.

Edit: Now that Starbucks has info on this drink up on their website, I see that it can be ordered with lemonade. That would make it somewhat sweeter. It also mentions that the tea used is a blackberry green tea from Teavana, so I’ve corrected a sentence that referred to it as a black tea. Also worth noting is the tea in question is apparently called “Blackberry Mojito Green”, hence the name of the drink.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What:¬†Blackberry Mojito shaken iced tea
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: Just the size
  • Verdict: A surprisingly understated berry flavor for iced tea lovers.
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Review: Peach Green Tea Lemonade (Starbucks)

Jun 20

I’ve written a few posts speculating about the upcoming carbonated offerings at Starbucks, but there’s two other drinks coming up on the summer menu that don’t involve the mysterious carbonation machine — both shaken teas springing from the recent Teavana acquisition.

A tall Peach Green Tea Lemonade. The blur is optional.

A tall Peach Green Tea Lemonade. The blur is optional.

This review covers the Peach Green Tea Lemonade. It’s a shaken iced tea with lemonade added, like the Passion Tea Lemonade (one of my favorite drinks on the rare occasions that I want something cold). It can only be ordered iced, but can be ordered in any size from Tall up through the 30-ounce Trenta.

I’ll be honest, peach is not one of my favorite flavors, especially fake peach. So I was expecting to be kind of “meh” on this one. However, I was pleasantly surprised: the peach flavor is not overwhelming, and doesn’t hit you over the head with fakeness. Instead, it blends quite nicely with the green tea. The lemonade is also not overwhelming, just adding an overall citrus-ness to the drink. Unlike a lot of sweetened Starbucks drinks, you can actually taste the tea.

Overall it’s a nice balance of fruity, citrusy flavors and crisp green tea. I recommend it if you want a nice cool drink that’s not as sugary as a Frappuccino.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Peach Green Tea Lemonade¬†shaken iced tea
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: Just the size
  • Verdict: A sweet, fruity, citrusy drink that manages not to completely bury the green tea.
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Review: Valencia Orange Refresher (Starbucks)

Jun 06

Now that the weather’s getting warmer, the cold drinks are returning to a prominant spot on Starbucks’s menu, like swallows returning to Capistrano. The most popular cold drinks are always the Frappuccinos, but what if you want something a little less overwhelmingly sugary? Fraps are often pointed out by diet websites as a terrible vortex of calories, even after the Lite versions came out. And it’s true — if you’re watching your intake of sugar or calories, the Frappuccino is often a less-than-ideal choice.

As part of their branching out into fruitier drinks, Starbucks released the Refreshers line. Originally it was just the Very Berry Hibiscus and Cool Lime Refreshers, but a year ago they brought out a third flavor — Valencia Orange.

Because I, like many people in their thirties, am trying to shed a few pounds I’ve gained from unhealthy eating, I picked up an orange Refresher to check it out. Note that the Refreshers are available in an instant VIA powder as well as a barista-forged drink; this review is of the drink as made at Starbucks itself, not the powder (which comes out similarly and is pretty decent too).

This drink is very, very orange-flavored. It’s not quite as strong as real orange juice but resides somewhere on the orangier side of the spectrum from OJ to Tang. The Starbucks website describes it as having flavors of jasmine, apricot, and cardamom. To be honest, none of these really stood out to me. The impression I mostly got was “pretty orange, plus something extra”. It’s quite good, in my opinion, but if you pick this up hoping it’s going to be as cardamom-y as, say, the Vanilla Spice Latte was, you’re going to be disappointed.

If you’re on a calorie budget, your best bet is always plain coffee or tea. If you’re thirsty, your best bet is water. But sometimes you really want something sweeter, and at 90 calories for a grande plus a buunch of vitamin C, the Valencia Orange Refresher isn’t a bad compromise. Despite looking like juice, this drink does have caffeine in it, from an extract of unroasted coffee beans. If you’re looking for a good wake-me-up drink that’s good news, but if you’re looking for something to sip in the evening you might want to get an iced passion tea or passion tea lemonade (ask for less sweetener to bring down the sugar).

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Valencia Orange Refresher
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: None that I know of, other than size
  • Verdict: A tasty, fruity drink if you’re looking for something cold and less “heavy” than a Frappuccino
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Review: Hazelnut Macchiato (Starbucks)

May 30

Last week I talked about the caramel macchiato’s younger sibling, the vanilla macchiato. Today the drink in the spotlight is another younger sibling in Starbucks’s macchiato family — the Hazelnut Macchiato.

Like the vanilla macch and the caramel macch, this drink starts with vanilla syrup, steamed milk, foam, and espresso shots, in that order. What makes this one different is the sauce on top: not caramel, not vanilla, but hazelnut sauce. Which is apparently a thing now?

A grande Hazelnut Macchiato

A grande Hazelnut Macchiato

The result of replacing the caramel sauce with hazelnut sauce is a sweet, hazelnutty, delicious drink. What makes it different from a regular old hazelnut latte? Not only does the sauce give it a richer, slightly darker hazelnut flavor than the regular hazelnut syrup usually does, but the additional vanilla syrup bumps up the sweetness a notch and tones down the nuttiness a little. As with the caramel version of this drink, I recommend giving it a good stir before drinking, to make sure the hazelnut syrup has dissolved in the milk.

It’s a regular espresso drink, so the usual options apply — hot/iced, regular/decaf, choice of milk. It can also be ordered “upside-down”, meaning the sauce and the espresso go in the cup first instead of last so everything mixes together better.

Little personal anecdote here — when I first saw this drink appear on the menu, I thought it was an officialization of one of my favorite custom drinks. For several years now, I’ve frequently ordered a caramel macchiato with hazelnut syrup instead of vanilla. I spotted it on a “your barista recommends” board at some point, gave it a shot, and have been hooked ever since. In fact, the hazelnut macchiato is kind of the reverse of mine; instead of swapping out the vanilla for hazelnut and leaving the caramel, it swaps out the caramel and leaves the vanilla. Personally, I think hazelnut + caramel is a more interesting combo than hazelnut + vanilla. If you find yourself between ordering a caramel macchiato and a hazelnut macchiato, try this version instead and you’ll basically have both!

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Hazelnut Macchiato
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: hot or iced, decaf or regular, your choice of milk
  • Verdict: A sweeter take on the hazelnut latte, or possibly a hazelnuttier take on the caramel macchiato
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