I Tried Starbucks’ New Cinnamon Shortbread Latte and Here’s How It Went

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Elisabeth Sherman)

Christmas might be over, but most of the country is still in the throes of winter. To presumably help us get through it, and carry a little holiday magic into the new year, Starbucks has introduced yet another flavored coffee drink to its lineup: the Cinnamon Shortbread Latte (#CSL). Starbucks may hope that its new drink becomes just as popular as the iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte, but when I tried it for myself, I had my doubts.

First, let’s talk about what this limited-edition drink promises: With notes of brown butter and vanilla, and topped with cinnamon and nutmeg, the Cinnamon Shortbread Latte is supposed to taste like “cookie butter in a cup.” Maybe my barista was just having an off day, but mine seemed to fall short.

Like the Juniper Latte before it, the flavors in this drink are more subtle than you might expect from Starbucks. A cookie-flavored latte could have easily been too sugary to actually enjoy, but to Starbucks’ credit, the sweet flavors are dialed down. I certainly did pick up on a slight hint of vanilla, and like a shortbread cookie, there is just a whisper of a buttery, almost savory flavor at play here. But before I could process any of those flavors, the espresso barged in and overwhelmed everything. After a couple of sips, the Cinnamon Shortbread Latte just tastes like a regular latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

I had high hopes for a drink that boasts “notes of brown butter,” and while it’s admirable that Starbucks tried to create something slightly more complex and understated than its usual fare, the gentle shortbread flavors can’t compete with the strength of the espresso. One way to get around that problem might be to order the CSL with Starbucks’ much smoother blonde espresso, which is less bitter than the regular variety. Adding a little hot water helped to tone down the sharpness of the espresso, too.

I love the idea behind this latte, but Starbucks didn’t quite pull it off this time. If you’re looking for a Starbucks drink to remind you of Christmas vacation, you’re better off adding peppermint syrup to your regular latte.