Starbucks vs. Dunkin: Which Holiday Menu Does it Better?

The holiday season is rich with tradition, and a favorite for many is definitely coffee shop holiday menus. Most establishments get in on the action and release their menus to anxiously awaiting customers in October. These menus are filled with all different varieties of fancy drinks ladled with peppermint, gingerbread, white mocha, and more. Starbucks and Dunkin’ specifically, are the two with the highest popularity. Both are beloved by many, and each has its own set of diehard fans, but which holiday menu is better? I will compare the three most popular holiday drinks from each location and see which one rises to the top.

First up is the holiday staple, the Peppermint Mocha. Starbucks describes the drink as “steamed milk, mocha sauce, and peppermint-flavored syrup, topped with whipped cream and dark chocolate curls.” This well-loved drink has been a favorite since 2002 in the iconic Starbucks holiday cup, giving the drink the festive feel that it’s known for. It’s packed full of peppermint and chocolate flavor while still staying true to its coffee roots. It’s a fan favorite for a reason! For me, the only critique I could give is the sugar level. Super sweet is not something I enjoy and this drink definitely packs in the sugar. Dunkin’s version was served up in their classic (not holiday) cup and was larger. Their take on this holiday classic is described as a “decadent mocha balanced with cooling peppermint, topped with whipped cream, mocha drizzle, and a dusting of hot chocolate powder.” While it definitely tasted as described, it almost had an artificial, pre-made flavor about it, while Starbucks tasted more authentic. My rating for Starbucks is a 4/5, and Dunkin’ is a 3/5.

Next up is the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha. Starbucks describes this brew as “festive flavors of caramelized white chocolate mocha sauce meet espresso and steamed milk.” It came again in the holiday cup and was topped with tons of whipped cream and a generous dusting of red sugar sprinkles. After trying it, I felt like it really tasted just as it was described and truly felt like the perfect winter drink. My one critique of this delicious drink is that it was a little too heavy on the whipped cream side. Dunkin’ describes its version as “creamy-rich white chocolate flavor in a signature latte topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and cinnamon sugar.” Again, it was delivered in a classic Dunkin’ cup, which takes away from the holiday feel, but like the previously mentioned peppermint mocha, the cup size was a lot bigger than the Starbucks, and it was slightly cheaper. Compared to Starbucks, the recipe was a lot sweeter, and I could barely taste the coffee. For some people, that is a good component, but for me, it isn’t. Without the coffee taste, it’s basically a fancy drink of milk and sugar. My rating for Starbucks is a 4/5, and Dunkin’ is a 2/5.

Last up is each coffee shop’s cookie-inspired flavors. Starbucks take is an Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte. Introduced in 2021, this is a newer item that combines sugar cookie syrup, Starbucks Blonde Espresso, ice, and almond milk and is topped with festive red and green sprinkles. Because this is an iced drink, it didn’t come in the classic holiday cup, but the colored sprinkles added to the beverage’s festive feel. While the flavor wasn’t super strong on the sugar cookie side, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t taste amazing. It was flavorful but also had a true coffee taste, which is not common for these sweet holiday drinks. Overall it is my favorite drink on the holiday menu at Starbucks, giving only a slight critique because I didn’t really taste the sugar cookie. Dunkin’s version, the Cookie Butter Cold Brew, is made with their signature cold brew mixed with cookie butter-flavored syrup and topped with cookie butter cold foam and cookie crumbs. This drink has been popular among many this season, but it actually made me sick. The cookie butter flavor was too strong, and overall it was way too sweet. I’m not even convinced they even put coffee in the drink. Overall, it was my least favorite drink that I tried between both Dunkin’ and Starbucks. My rating for Starbucks is 4.5/5, and Dunkin’ is 1/5.

Overall, Starbucks wins the holiday brew battle. The combination of holiday flavor and presentation creates a perfect festive feeling. While the Starbucks Iced Sugar Cookie latte was by far my favorite, I enjoyed them all and recommend all three. Starbucks is pricier than Dunkin, but Dunkin’s holiday game is a lot weaker. Their drinks felt very manufactured, were far too sweet and syrupy with little to no coffee flavor, and were not presented with the holiday cheer that Starbucks has. They tasted good for a few sips but then started to get sickening. Dunkin’s offering is perfect for the person who doesn’t like coffee and just wants a sweet drink for the holidays. Comparing these two coffee powerhouses, Starbucks’ sophisticated flavor and high-end feel edged out Dunkin’ fast food-tasting coffee. Personally, the holiday energy that Starbucks displays with its delicious recipes takes the easy win!