Usually when we hear “secret menu” we think of In’N’Out. It’s a smallish burger and shake chain, based primarily in California, Arizona, and Nevada - yet it seems to be known across the country. On first glance, the menu seems pretty straightforward: burgers, double burgers, fries, soda, and milkshakes. With menus that small, you can expect the kitchen to make the BEST of those few things. And most who have been to an In’N’Out have our own secret codes that we use: animal style, fried onions, a 4x4 or a 6x2 (for how many patties and cheese slices you want).
With nearly 23,000 stores around the world, Starbucks is far from anything secret. But did you know that Starbucks has its own secret menu? Really - the entire store is based on hacking traditional drinks to make you exactly what you want. You probably have already been hacking the menu without even realizing it.
We all have that friend who orders like a true professional at Starbucks, using phrases like these in rapid fire. Luckily the excellent baristas can understand this madness.
• A quad shot (four shots of espresso!)
• No whip
• Soy milk
• No foam
Starbucks practically invented the idea of completely personalizing a product for every single customer, so asking our barista to add a flavor or hold the whip is no big deal. But if we take it one step further, we can ask them to make an entirely new drink! See below for some ideas on what to do next.
Starbucks started as a coffee-only spot, so let’s start there.
If you need some added caffeine to your regular coffee, start with the Monsters:
Order the Red Monster for 1 shot of espresso
Order the Black Eye for 2 shots
Order the Green Eye for 3 (!) shots
Want the most caffeine probably ever? Order the Liquid Cocaine:
4 shots of espresso
White Chocolate syrup (4 pumps)
Ice to fill
Finish with milk
We all know that person who gets so excited in the fall. Before the leaves turn, before it even cools off, we’re hearing about Pumpkin Spice lattes. (Hey, it’s okay if you’re that person - it’s delicious.) Well, Starbucks secretly offers a whole slew of these specialty drinks and they’re never on the menu. But ask politely, and you shall receive!
Start with this flavorful, more traditional latte hack (with a cute name), The Fuzzy Rabbit:
Add White Mocha Syrup (2 pumps for a tall, 3 for a grande, 4 for a venti)
Add Hazelnut Syrup (1 pump for a tall, 1.5 for a grande, 2 for a venti)
For the Pumpkin Spice lover, the Pumpkin Spice Choco-Chai is a slight twist:
Chai Tea Latte
Add extra Chai
Add Pumpkin Spice Syrup (1 pump for tall, 2 for grande, 3 for venti)
Add Mocha Syrup (1 pump for tall, 2 for grande, 3 for venti)
Top with whipped cream and pumpkin spice powder
Some combine traditional coffee ingredients, but once you get hooked on these, you may graduate into trying the more experimental flavors:
For the ultimate coffee dessert experience, there’s always the Frappuccino. If you weren’t a big coffee drinker or familiar with Starbucks, these unique concoctions may be what brought you in. Not totally coffee, but definitely dessert, Starbucks made an early-morning sweet tooth totally acceptable when they debuted this drink in 1995. Here are several ways you can go all-out and have your coffee and chocolate, and drink both too:
A Valentine’s treat year round, try the Chocolate-covered Raspberry Frap:
Vanilla Bean Frappuccino (creme based)
Add java chips
Add raspberry syrup (2 pumps tall, 3 pumps grande and venti)
Line the inside of the cup with mocha sauce
Top with raspberry whip and mocha drizzle
For a little holiday cheery and flavor, go with a Christmas Taste Frappuccino:
Vanilla Bean or Green Tea Frappuccino
Add peppermint syrup (1.5 pumps tall, 2 pumps grande, 2.5 pumps venti)
Add raspberry syrup (1/2 pump tall, 1 pump grande, 1.5 pumps venti)
Optional: Blend in caramel drizzle
Top with whipped cream and cookie crumble
If you want to get something kid-friendly or that just takes you back to childhood, try the Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino:
Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino
Add Vanilla Syrup (2 pumps tall, 2.5 pumps grande, 3 pumps venti)
Add Raspberry Syrup (1/2 pump tall, 1 pump grande, 1.5 pumps venti)
Add Classic Syrup (1/2 pump tall, 1 pump grande, 1.5 pumps venti)
Optional: Orange mango juice for extra fruitiness
The Frappuccinos are where you can get really creative. What’s your favorite candy or chocolate? Want a drink based around Nutella? Or Teddy Grahams? Get experimenting!
If you’re a coffee purist, you may know that a macchiato is originally an Italian drink, essentially an espresso with a little bit of foamed milk added on the top. When Starbucks introduced their macchiato, it really spiced up the original. The basic macchiato is a layered drink, starting with steamed milk, then a heavy, creamy foam, and then espresso poured over the foam. Their most famous one is caramel-flavored, so add some caramel drizzle and maybe a pump or too of syrup.
Here are some unique twists to get your macchiato inspiration flowing:
The Roasted Chestnut:
Add Toffee Nut syrup (1 pump tall, 1.5 pumps grande, 2 pumps venti)
Add extra Hazelnut syrup (1 pump tall, 1.5 pumps grande, 2 pumps venti)
Add White Chocolate Mocha syrup (1/2 pump tall and grande, 1 pump venti)
Top with spiced whipped cream and hazelnut drizzle
The Honey Nut Macchiato, good hot or cold:
Use Chestnut Praline syrup instead of Vanilla syrup
Top with one or two packets of honey
If coffee and its caffeine are too much for you, there’s always tea - the most popular drink in the world. (Yeah, we know, coffee is everywhere. But in places like India and China, tea is the historic king.) It can give you a small boost of caffeine, if you want it.
Black tea is the strongest with about a quarter the caffeine in a regular cup of joe. Green tea is mild on caffeine, but the antioxidants mark it as one of the healthiest drinks. Herbal tea (technically not a tea because it doesn’t use tea leaves) combines flavors from dried herbs, spices, flowers, and fruits. Consider some of these, and remember you can order any tea hot or cold!
The original tea hack is an Arnold Palmer or a half-and-half - the classic combination of half sweet black tea, and half lemonade. Starbucks can do that with their eyes closed, of course, but here a couple ones you probably hadn’t imagined yet:
For a cozy upgrade to your Early Grey, order The London Fog:
Earl Grey tea semi-dry misto
Optional: Caramel syrup
Brew tea brew for one minute, then remove tea bag.
Need some added caffeine to the classic chai? Go for the Dirty Chai:
Add an extra shot of espresso (or more!)
Feeling a cold coming on? Stop in and ask for a Coldbuster:
Use 1 teabag of each: Jade Citrus Mint and Peach Tranquility
Fill cup half with hot water and half with steamed lemonade
Add honey for its antimicrobial, healing effects (and taste!)
Optional: Peppermint syrup
Starbucks’ most recent development in the world of caffeinated drinks is the Refresher. Using some innovation, Starbucks has removed the caffeine from the coffee bean before it's harvested, and extracting what they call “green coffee extract”. The caffeine is low, so they pitch it as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. In store, they’ll blend these with fresh fruit or simple syrups. You wouldn’t be wrong to consider some of these virgin cocktails, either:
Cool Lime Refresher (hold the lime wheels until after blending)
Classic syrup (1 pump tall, 1.5 grande, 2 venti)
Peppermint syrup (½ pump tall, 1 grande, 1.5 venti)
*Can blend for the ultimate Jimmy Buffett feeling
For a raspberry lemonade feel, order the Purple Rain Refresher:
Cool Lime Refresher to the first line
Lemonade to the second line
Slowly add the raspberry syrup on top (3 pumps tall, 4 grande, 6 venti)
Top with a lime and enjoy!
Bonus: Secret Size
We know the Starbucks sizes by heart, they’re so unique: tall, grande, and venti. Last year the company rolled out an even larger drink, the trenti, at a whopping 30 ounces. But what if you want something even smaller? They can do that - simply order any drink and ask for the short. It’s always available, it’s just not on the menu - those who know can save a little cash if they want.
Remember: experimenting is encouraged! Starbucks is used to weird requests, so they won’t judge you - and the baristas may even have an idea to make your flavor idea really pop!
Take what you learned here, and go forth, you special, secret drinker, you.