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Former Starbucks barista shares 11 of the best things to order, from secret drinks to desserts

Monica MacDonald   

Former Starbucks barista shares 11 of the best things to order, from secret drinks to desserts
Many Starbucks drinks can be customized.Shutterstock
  • After working at Starbucks for two years, I've learned a lot of great drink recipes and hacks.
  • Two of my favorites are strawberry-shortcake Frappuccinos and mint chocolate chip Frappuccinos.

I really enjoyed working as a Starbucks barista for two years — and the best perk, by far, was getting to taste so many menu items.

I really enjoyed working as a Starbucks barista for two years — and the best perk, by far, was getting to taste so many menu items.
Writer not pictured.      Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

I really enjoyed working as a Starbucks barista and trying so many menu items.

Eventually, I even started to deviate from the standard offerings and customize drinks and desserts, resulting in some new favorites. Because of this, I have plenty of recommendations for anyone looking to change up their go-to order.

Here are some of my favorite things to get at Starbucks, plus how to order them.

With the right recipe, you can order a snickerdoodle hot chocolate (or latte) any time of year.

With the right recipe, you can order a snickerdoodle hot chocolate (or latte) any time of year.
You can order this hot chocolate with whipped cream.      Erin McDowell/Business Insider

Grande snickerdoodle hot chocolate

  • Order grande white hot chocolate.
  • Add two pumps of cinnamon dolce syrup.
  • Ask for cinnamon-sugar on top, if it's available.
  • If you want to make it a latte, add two shots of espresso.

This drink is popular during the winter when the chain's many hot-chocolate options are put back on the menu for the season.

Fortunately, most of these seasonal hot chocolates are made with syrups that Starbucks carries all year round, making that wait for the holiday season a little shorter.

For a unique drink, try this recipe for a "watermelon" cold-foam Refresher.

For a unique drink, try this recipe for a "watermelon" cold-foam Refresher.
This drink starts with a strawberry Refresher sans inclusions.      Shutterstock

Grande 'watermelon' cold-foam Refresher

  • Order a grande strawberry Refresher with no strawberry inclusions.
  • Ask to have it made with cold foam and two scoops of matcha.

There's not actually watermelon in this — the name comes from the red and green colors of the final drink.

It was created by some of my fellow baristas from my old store after we realized cold foam, a type of frothed milk, can really elevate a range of drinks.



This mint chocolate-chip Frappuccino is refreshing and sweet.

This mint chocolate-chip Frappuccino is refreshing and sweet.
The base of this drink is a double chocolate chip Frappuccino.      Shutterstock

Grande mint-chocolate-chip Frappuccino

  • Order a double chocolate-chip Frappuccino with no mocha syrup.
  • Add 3 scoops of matcha.
  • Add 3 pumps of peppermint syrup.
  • Add mocha drizzle.

From what I remember, something similar to this mint-chocolate-chip Frappuccino was once part of a Starbucks promotion inspired by popular flavors of ice cream.

This one was so tasty that I never forgot the basics of the recipe, and will still sometimes order it.

Next time you order the brownie, asked for whipped cream and a drizzle of mocha syrup.

Next time you order the brownie, asked for whipped cream and a drizzle of mocha syrup.
You can also order your Starbucks brownie warmed.      Shutterstock

Brownie with whipped cream and mocha

  • Order the double chocolate chunk brownie toasted.
  • Add whipped cream.
  • Add mocha drizzle.

After being toasted in the oven, the chain's brownie is delicious on its own. It's rich and chocolaty, plus its chocolate chunks make it extra decadent.

Whipped cream and mocha drizzle turn it into a restaurant-quality dessert.

If possible, I recommend you order this on a plate since it can get quite messy in a to-go bag.

Although it's no longer on some menus, the mango black tea is still a great choice.

Although it
The mango black tea can be made with a few substitutions.      Prachana Thong-on/Shutterstock

Grande knockoff mango black tea

  • Order a grande black-tea lemonade.
  • Substitute lemonade with mango refresher.
  • If you want a mango black-tea lemonade just say "add" instead of "substitute" for the mango refresher.

Although the mango black tea isn't always available to order, Starbucks has since released the mango dragon-fruit Refresher, which is essentially a mango Refresher with dragon-fruit pieces.

Once my fellow baristas and I tried swapping out the lemonade in the black-tea lemonade for this mango refresher, it created a great copycat recipe for the mango black tea.

Blonde Americanos are smooth and packed with caffeine.

Blonde Americanos are smooth and packed with caffeine.
You can also add milk and sugar to customize your blonde Americano.      Shutterstock

Grande Blonde Americano

  • No recipe needed – just order a blonde Americano.
  • If you like milk and sugar in your coffee, make sure to ask for extra room in the cup when you order.

This is already on the chain's usual menu, and I think it's a great choice for anyone who enjoys smooth, caffeinated drinks.

The blonde Americano consists of blonde shots of espresso in hot water (or cold water if you get this iced).

Keep in mind that some Starbucks locations only serve blonde-roast coffee until around 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. After that, the blonde roast is sometimes offered as a pour-over, which takes a bit longer to prepare and may be inconvenient if you're in a hurry.

Try a Double Shot on Ice paired with 2% milk and your favorite syrup.

Try a Double Shot on Ice paired with 2% milk and your favorite syrup.
This drink is sort of like a fun spin on a latte.      Shutterstock

Grande Double Shot on Ice with a twist

  • Order grande Double Shot on Ice.
  • Add 2% milk (or the dairy substitute of your choice).
  • Add 4 pumps of your favorite syrup or only 2 pumps for thicker syrups such as mocha, white-chocolate mocha, or pumpkin spice. If you aren't sure if the syrup you want is thicker, ask your barista.

If you're bored with a classic latte, try the Double Shot, which consists of espresso shaken and put on ice.

I think it pairs nicely with milk and flavored syrups. My favorite syrup to use is pumpkin spice since it complements the bitter flavor of the espresso nicely.

Most baristas should know how to make a London fog, which is perfect for tea drinkers.

Most baristas should know how to make a London fog, which is perfect for tea drinkers.
A London Fog is a type of tea latte.      Jung U/Shutterstock

Grande London Fog

This drink is actually a recipe all baristas should know and you can order it as-is at the register.

The London Fog is also a tea-based latte, but it instead uses Earl Grey and vanilla. You can even order it iced if you want something extra refreshing.

You can't go wrong with a shot of espresso with whipped cream and a flavored drizzle.

You can
You can add a mocha drizzle if you'd like.      Shutterstock

Espresso con panna with drizzle

  • Order Espresso con panna.
  • Ask for a drizzle of flavored syrup — I suggest caramel.

Espresso with whipped cream is called an espresso con panna, which is technically on the menu. The addition of flavored syrup elevates it and makes it even sweeter.

This is a great Starbucks order if you want a caffeine boost but don't want to commit to a whole cup of coffee.

An iced green-tea apple juice is sweet and refreshing.

An iced green-tea apple juice is sweet and refreshing.
This drink can be made with many substitutions and customizations, too.      Shutterstock

Grande iced green-tea apple juice

  • Order a grande green-tea lemonade.
  • Substitute the lemonade with apple juice.

One of my favorite ways to change up Starbucks' popular green-tea lemonades is to swap out the lemonade with apple juice.

The apple juice pairs well with green tea and the chain keeps it stocked year-round.

And the resulting drink is a light, sweet choice for those who don't love lemonade but enjoy iced tea.

This strawberry-shortcake-style Frappuccino is one of my favorites.

This strawberry-shortcake-style Frappuccino is one of my favorites.
The drink's base is a vanilla-bean Frappuccino.      Shutterstock

Grande strawberry-shortcake-style Frappuccino

  • Order grande vanilla-bean Frappuccino.
  • Add 3 pumps of toffee-nut syrup.
  • Add strawberry inclusions (two scoops).
  • Ask for strawberry purée on the bottom of the cup.

This drink is one of my all-time favorites. The strawberry inclusions give this a great flavor and texture, and the final drink tastes like an actual strawberry shortcake.

This recipe is a great substitute for Starbucks' limited-edition strawberry-shortcake Frappuccino that was on the menu in 2015.

This story was originally published on July 16, 2020, and most recently updated on January 10, 2024.

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