Photo by Laura Poythress
The term “Starbucks secret menu” has been brewing among Starbucks baristas and customers for the last three years, fueled by websites like Pinterest and Buzzfeed. The “pink Starburst Frappuccino,” “Harry Potter’s Butterbeer,” the “oreo Frappuccino” and the “Ande’s mint latte” are a small sample of the many secrets revealed on these websites. The most important secret these websites share with readers is that Starbucks actually has no secret menu.
But no thanks to the explosion of the Web listing more than 100 different “secret recipes,” people have little reason to believe it. After all, it’s on the internet, right? In a world where people can look for inspiring quotations online and get results like “give me liberty or give me death” attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, it’s time to question the validity of everything posted online.
Starbucks baristas are trained to make approximately 12 different base drinks. These drinks include lattes, cappuccinos, Frappuccinos, brewed teas, sodas and coffees. Off top, more than 25 recipes that actually are on the menu are memorized by new baristas. The last thing a barista wants to memorize is a recipe called “grasshopper” that is created one way by one website and a completely different way by another.
Baristas in Starbucks everywhere find themselves caught between a rock and hard place with regard to this supposed menu. Customers, some innocent and some not-so-innocent, are made aware of this “secret menu” that includes recipes calling for ingredients that Starbucks does not even have, such as almond syrup or peanut butter.
Starbucks does have more than 10 different flavored syrups used to make their drinks. What customers do not commonly know is that these flavors can be mixed together in any combination upon request. The baristas can put fewer or more pumps of syrup in every single drink. There is a significant amount of autonomy in the world of beverages. Baristas are happy to make drinks to any order whatsoever, but what they will not do is adopt the name for your “Captain Crunch” Frappuccino.
If a customer walks in and asks for a drink by its Pinterest-listed secret menu name, the barista, most of the time, will stare blankly, ask the customer for the recipe or tell the customer “we don’t have that.” Add in a long line of teenage girls with these orders during rush-hour and it’s pure misery for the baristas.
An anonymous barista shared the story of the time she caught on to what customers wanted when ordering a “cotton candy” Frappuccino. “It’s just a vanilla bean Frappuccino with raspberry syrup added,” she says. “Because Starbucks is always breathing down our neck, telling us to speed up drive-thru service, when a customer came through and ordered a cotton candy Frappuccino, I just accepted the order without asking for a recipe or informing the customer of the technical way to order what they wanted. The drink was made, the customer drove off happy.” Later, this barista got a phone call from the corporate office explaining that she created a problem. “Apparently, the customer went to another Starbucks and ordered the drink by the same name and the barista did not know the recipe. This caused the customer to get angry and accuse the other barista of not knowing their menu, when, in fact, that was not even a menu item,” she said.
Hundreds of recipes are floating around the internet. The names “penguin latte,” “black and white latte,” and “tuxedo latte” sound like they could each belong to different beverages. In fact, these are three separate “secret menu” names for the same drink that Starbucks calls a “mocha with white mocha syrup.”
If customers insist on living in this matrix where each barista has a notebook full of clandestine concoctions, they are silly and uninformed.