Peppermint Mocha Taste Test: Can Anything Beat Starbucks' Classic Red Cup Recipe?

While the pumpkin spice latte rules the school during fall, it's the peppermint mocha who's king during the holidays. But with so many peppermint mochas out there, which is the best? I certainly don't want to waste my time or yours with flavorless or too flavor-full peppermint mochas — which is why a peppermint mocha taste test was in order. I needed answers, fast, so I did what had to be done. I decided to put my sociology degree to use, sample them all, and report back with my findings. This is field work at its finest.

They (my mom) said it couldn't be done. "You'll get sick," she said. "Or at least have too much espresso and I just can't deal with a hyper Corinne right now," she claimed. But the holiday spirit prevailed as it always does, and off I went, carrying the burden of this challenge with me.

The beautiful thing about peppermint mochas is that you can't really go wrong, no matter where you go to get your fix — they're always going to be delicious. I hit up a Dunkin' Donuts drive through, an indie coffee shop called Starbucks, tried a K-cup, and a homemade peppermint mocha. Then I ranked them according to flavor, peppermint/mocha balance, and presentation, resulting in an overall score out of 10.

Let's get started!

Dunkin' Donuts

I sampled this first one while I was home for Thanksgiving. My mother insisted on taking a photo of me while sipping it and, well, here we are. Does this look candid and natural? Because it's not.

Flavor: The first word that came to mind when I sampled Dunkin' Donuts' peppermint mocha latte was "thin." I am also unclear as to what that means, but I feel like Dunkin' definitely used skim milk without telling me. Peppermint mochas need that rich stuff to be delicious!

Peppermint/Mocha Balance: It was kind of like drinking peppermint perfume with a few faint notes of chocolate. Not great, Bob.

Presentation: Three words: No whipped cream! They didn't even ask if I wanted any. A huge disappointment for a sugar addict like me.

Overall: 5/10 I'll stick with my go-to DD drink, the caramel latte.

Starbucks

My mother was with me for this sample too. After she tried it, her only comment was "I don't understand why she has fish hands." She was talking about Starbucks' logo, not, as I had assumed, about the flavor of the drink. This drink does not taste like fish hands.

Flavor: Perfect. This rating could be skewed having just tried Dunkin' Donuts version, but I don't think so. Starbucks is good at the holiday drinks and they know it. Their peppermint mocha might be my new winter staple.

Peppermint/Mocha Balance: Amazing. It was a perfect balance of refreshing mint and warm chocolate. I could have sipped for days.

Presentation: A+ but as we discovered with the Chesnut Praline Latte, you have to drink it ASAP otherwise the whipped cream and toppings will disappear and you lose some of the magic.

Overall: 9/10, would sip again

K-Cup

Why I chose this boring white mug over any of the fun ones to the left, I'll never know.

Flavor: This K-cup has been sitting in my apartment for a very long time. I was saving it for the winter months, and finally decided it was time to use it. The flavor wasn't my favorite, but oh my god, it smelled so good. I left it out so its chocolaty minty scent could waft through the apartment and it would smell like Christmas. My roommate came home and didn't notice, breaking my heart.

Peppermint/Mocha Balance: Fine, I guess. This was flavored coffee, not a latte, and I think that screws up the flavor chemistry. While it did taste just like a real peppermint mocha, there was something a little off about it.

Presentation: Since I was in charge of the presentation for this one, I give myself a 10 out of 10. Great job, Corinne. 

Overall: 4/10

Homemade By A Boyfriend

Well obviously when your boyfriend makes you a peppermint mocha and puts it in an I Love You mug, it's going to taste pretty damn good. And it did. This was a good one. He followed this recipe by Don't Waste The Crumbs.

Flavor: "Oh my god did you really make this yourself?" is what you'll be asking him followed by a "How dare you keep this talent hidden from me! Make me 10 more immediately!"

Peppermint Mocha Balance: It may have been a little too chocolaty for my taste, bordering on a hot chocolate. But again, it was pretty damn good.

Presentation: Awwwwwww. Well done.

Overall: 9/10

And the winner is:

Please start pounding on your desk to simulate a drumroll ...

Starbucks! Are you shocked?

While a homemade PM is excellent, it's not something I'm going to do everyday, let's be real. I have a feeling an indie coffee shop's concoction would have also been amazing, but the small shops in Bushwick — or at least by me — are way too cool for peppermint mochas. I was too intimidated to even ask. To Starbucks I go!

Image: Sonya Cheney/Flickr

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