When it comes to fast food holiday rollouts, it's safe to say that sampling new holiday menu items can feel risky. The chances that you'll either love or hate an item are high, and wasting money, especially around the holidays, can get downright depressing.
Because of this, we thought it might be fun to recount some of the best and worst holiday releases throughout the years while also highlighting a few of the most recent festive grabs. From icy cold drinks to savory eats, we've uncovered the gamut of interesting holiday items found splashed across fast food holiday menus throughout the years -- and boy, was it interesting!
As for how we came to these conclusions, well, who better to ask than the customers themselves? We've looked over all of the scathing reviews and glowing accolades to give you an honest assessment of which holiday menu items were actually worth your dime. Not only this, but we've tried a few of these ourselves (hello, PSL, and polar bear cookies) and can offer our own vantage point on how these stack up as well. All right, enough of the chatter. Let's get on to unveiling our list of 6 best and 6 worst fast food holiday releases throughout the years.
Worst: Starbucks Polar Bear Cookie, 2010
Before we go any further, we want to clarify one thing: The polar bear cookie sold at Starbucks was actually delicious. With that said, this satisfying iced treat caught some heat for a reason we find quite odd -- and we're certain you will, too.
Here's the scoop. In 2010, Starbucks released a polar bear cookie for the public to enjoy. This rendition of the cute and cuddly animal served as part of the holiday lineup, and man, was it tasty. Having said that, controversy struck in 2015, as the internet exploded with claims that Starbucks was featuring a polar bear with a "slashed" throat to kick off the holiday -– oh, how the sparks flew!
The thing is, Starbucks discontinued its polar bear cookie in 2010, the same year it was released. Oddly, these complaints didn't surface until five years later. Just goes to show how silly the internet can be, especially when it comes to conspiracies. Thus, we're at least happy we can still relish that white chocolate over shortbread holiday vibe through an equally cute Starbucks replacement: a jolly-looking snowman with a blissful blue scarf –- and, thankfully, no blood in sight.
Best: Starbucks Apple Croissant, 2023
Starbucks' apple croissant is a tasty treat added to the chain's holiday menu in 2023, but you'll really only get the full picture of how tasty it is if you're able to get your hands on one. Seriously, guys, these things sell out fast, and, as of yet, we still haven't been able to sample this tasty morsel due to its popularity. Sadly, the "Sorry, we're all sold out" refrain is something we've gotten very accustomed to hearing.
For those fortunate enough to have gotten their hands on this treat earlier in the season, we can at least glean a few things about it that lets us know it's well worth your bite. Customers and baristas alike say it's worthy of the hype, as these apple-stuffed grabs are truly delectable. And though we hear the croissant could definitely use a bit more of the tantalizing filling, what's already provided is apparently more than enough to make people lose their minds. It's really that good.
Well, we suppose we'll get our hands on it one day, but there's no doubt about it: This will be one of the most popular and sought-after holiday offerings from Starbucks in 2023. If you're able to find one, you're lucky -– eat two for us.
Worst: Dunkin' Upgraded Pumpkin Spice Latte, 2020
Okay, we might get a little flak for this one, but according to some customers, the Dunkin' pumpkin spice latte tastes a little different in recent years -- and not in a good way.
Though the company has been dishing up this copycat pumpkin-flavored drink in an attempt to outsell competitor giant, Starbucks, Dunkin' also released its own upgraded version of the product in 2020. The problem is that comments are surfacing on Reddit that seem to indicate that this drink, though once hailed, now tastes oddly different –- almost in a chemical sort of way. One person claims they thought cleaning products somehow slipped in the drink, while another states that they'll be reverting back to Starbucks soon if Dunkin' doesn't clean up its act.
Sigh. When it comes to drinks we all love, we really do wish fast food joints would learn to leave well enough alone. With that said, if you choose to sample a pumpkin-flavored coffee of any kind from Dunkin' soon, you may not want to go into it with high hopes; apparently, the drink has taken a nosedive, and some fans are a little less than pleased.
Best: Chick-Fil-A Peppermint Chip Milkshake, 2008
We've seen this peppermint chip milkshake make a variety of "worst" fast food holiday pick lists, and we must admit, we were puzzled people felt this way. Apparently, most sources are basing their facts on the milkshake's nutrition information, (670 calories, 23 grams of fat, and 94 grams of sugar), and indeed, if you're looking for something light and healthy, a Chick-fil-A peppermint chip milkshake isn't likely to be the best option for you.
As for the rest of us, let's just say that the holidays aren't exactly the time when we like to sit around counting calories. Unhealthy or not, the ChIck-fil-A peppermint chip milkshake, first introduced in 2008, is downright delicious, most folks are saying. According to reviews, this is one of the best peppermint shakes in the fast food world. It's the perfect balance between minty and sweet without being so overpowering that it becomes unpleasant. The little chocolate pieces in it really seal the deal, as one customer describes the flavor as similar to peppermint bark, which we agree, sounds very enjoyable.
Look, we know it's sugary, and no, it probably isn't something you'll want to down daily, but if you're looking for Christmas in a cup, the peppermint chip milkshake is where you'll find it. You're welcome.
Worst: Pizza Hut Hog Roast Pizza, 2021
A Christmas pizza? What on earth? Yep, leave it to Pizza Hut to come up with something weirdly creative before dishing up these distinct and peculiar slices to fans. In 2021, Pizza Hut in the U.K. hit customers with a new offering just in time for the holidays -– the hog roast.
Upon seeing pictures of this festive treat, we at first thought the eclectic option looked delicious. Chock full of toppings and a thick crust, we thought it might be quite difficult to mess this up. That is until we heard what's actually on it.
Apparently, this pizza is stacked with pulled pork, sage stuffing, and apple sauce drizzle. Umm, we know apples tend to lend themselves well to pork and all, but apple sauce drizzle and stuffing on a pizza? That's just over the top. Reviewers agree this pizza didn't quite perform on taste buds as most thought it would. And while these ingredients certainly taste well enough on their own, placing them atop cheese and calling it "pizza" just isn't a good setup. Thus, we're deeming the hog roast pizza from Pizza Hut one of the worst holiday fast food rollouts to date -– it just doesn't work, y'all.
Best: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, 2003
We're still avid Starbucks pumpkin spice latte fans around here, but that isn't necessarily why we've deemed this one of the best holiday releases throughout the years. Actually, as of late, some people claim to have issues with the way the PSL tastes, and statistics show that sales for the chain's popular drink have been down as of 2023.
So, why exactly are we including this drink on our list of best holiday releases? While some customers may be disgruntled with the way the pumpkin spice latte tastes now, the fact of the matter is that this pumpkin-flavored beverage sparked nothing short of a frenzy when Starbucks introduced it in 2003. Despite how much you may hate it, you have to admit that nothing quite screams fall these days like the mention of pumpkin spice. Because of this, we must assert that this iconic drink is nothing short of genius and still has a very strong cult following, despite its drop in sales.
We also can't help but notice how other fast food restaurants have tried to mimic the success of this ever-popular drink. From Dunkin' to McDonald's, everyone seems to be trying to get in on the pumpkin spice action -- and it all started with Starbucks.
Worst: Starbucks Chocolate Pistachio Swirl, 2022
We hate when something on a holiday menu looks and sounds scrumptious only to end up making our naughty list in the end. Sadly, when it comes to the Starbucks chocolate pistachio swirl pastry, we woefully report that it doesn't quite hit the way we'd expect it to, and fans aren't happy about it.
As some may recall, Starbucks had a once-loved almond croissant that, according to a thread on Reddit, many customers went ga-ga for. It was then discontinued before the rolling out of the new chocolate pistachio swirl, which has since been affectionately labeled the "disappointment roll" due to its less-than-appealing savor.
So, what exactly is wrong with this holiday grab? Originally released in 2022, the chocolate pistachio swirl is accused of lacking flavor, especially when it comes to the chocolate. In addition, some people lament the fact that it takes on a doughy texture, which, when combined with the mundane taste, amounts virtually to nothing enjoyable about this new and festive treat. As promising as they sound, these little swirls of chocolate and pistachio apparently aren't worth the buy -– what a shame!
Best: Starbucks Chestnut Praline Latte, 2014
The chestnut praline latte from Starbucks might not be as popular as the infamous PSL, but by golly, it sure has garnered a lot of attention. Around since 2014, this underdog of a drink rarely gets dismissed by anyone who tries it; in fact, there are many customers who hail the drink as the best on the chain's holiday drink menu.
Topped with whipped cream and wrapped in warm, decadent flavor, the chestnut praline holiday drink comes in a variety of options. Choose to enjoy it as an iced drink, as a Frappuccino, or, of course, as a warm latte. Many people liken the flavor to something sweet and buttery, yet that pleasant, sugary taste is by no means over the top. It pairs beautifully with the already sweetened whipped cream without it feeling too "extra" in terms of sweetness.
All in all, though you may not hear as much about the chestnut praline latte as you would your typical pumpkin spice latte, know that it's certainly a force to be reckoned with and, in some cases, may be the favorite drink of all for many Starbucks fans.
Worst: Wendy's Peppermint Frosty, 2022
Blech. There are some things that are best left alone, and Wendy's Frosty is one of them. Of course, we're sure that at some point, Wendy's has successfully pumped out a variation on its original chocolate Frosty that was actually tasty, but when it comes to some of the most recent releases, Wendy's fails to deliver.
Where the Wendy's Peppermint Frosty is concerned, you can expect the peppermint flavor to be mild -- too mild. Reviewers claim that despite its rosy pink appearance and promising peppermint moniker, what they taste are mostly notes of vanilla against an artificial backdrop of peppermint that isn't the least bit pleasing. Some people even liken it to the taste of Pepto-Bismol -– yeah, it's that kind of mint flavor.
Hey, we know that Wendy's is at least trying, and honestly, if you aren't a huge fan of peppermint, this one may appeal to you. If, however, it's the delightfully chilly blast of traditional peppermint you're after, we're sorry to inform you that you'll need to look elsewhere to get your fix.
Best: McDonald's Holiday Pie, 1999
We hadn't quite heard of this one until recently, and to be honest, when we first saw it, we thought it'd make our "worst" list for sure. In pictures, the pie seems unappetizingly pale with its studded kiddish-colored rainbow sprinkles and yellow-colored goop coming from the center. This obviously isn't quite the dessert we had in mind for the holiday.
Having said that, to our surprise, those who have (bravely) tasted the pie declare it to be tasty. Originally introduced in 1999 before making a resurgence in recent times, McDonald's holiday pie has been gleefully described on social media as "heaven on earth." That yellow-tinted goop on the inside is actually a delicious custard enveloped in a tender pastry and has many fans swooning and frantically searching for where they can grab their next bite. And while it may not be stuffed with traditional apple filling or decked out in red and green sprinkles, it certainly holds its own in the world of awesome holiday menu offerings, which we find rather interesting. Sadly, which McDonald's location you may be able to find the holiday pies can be hit or miss, and thus far, we aren't sure if they'll be returning to stores for us to sample in the future.
Worst: Wendy's Pumpkin Spice Frosty, 2023
Another swing and miss from Wendy's, the Pumpkin Spice Frosty is a little too strong on fall flavor. Now, don't get us wrong here; we're not of the camp that's totally anti-anything pumpkin (as seems to be the trend nowadays). Even so, members of our own staff bemoan the artificial flavor that emotes from the ever-so-promising fall fail promoted by Wendy's this season.
So, what exactly is the problem? As mentioned, the flavoring on this one is way too much. Some liken it to the flavor of a fall-time Yankee Candle, and this, folks, isn't a compliment. What's interesting is that despite the mostly negative reactions to this offering, we have run across a few people who seem to think this drink is actually worth the purchase. To some, it seems to have a Southern Comfort eggnog vibe to it, which we think is quite odd since that's vastly different from the Yankee Candle association. Sounds like it's a matter of palate preference when it comes to this one. But one thing's for certain, and that is that the majority seems to really dislike this one. And that's too bad -– a pumpkin-infused Frosty sounded like an awesome match to us!
Best: Culver's Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer, 2022
Culver's outdid itself for the holidays with its Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer. Unleashed in 2022, this offering has taken fans by a storm and literally has most of them constantly returning for more. In fact, some customers admit to making a run to Culver's more than once a week just to sample this splendid treat. It's no wonder, as this Culver's blend is a chilly take on hot chocolate, combining vanilla-based frozen custard with cocoa before finishing the job with light and fluffy whipped cream.
And while the Culver's Frozen Cocoa Concrete Mixer is scrumptious as is, avid fans insist that you must add marshmallow creme to the mix to get the full effect. The result is a chocolate-drenched creamy vanilla base layered with marshmallow creme, all to create a simply irresistible holiday sip. Pair it with a side of salty fries and a delectable ButterBurger, and you've got a meal worth keeping.
Yep, this one definitely deserves a spot on our list as one of Santa's best fast food holiday releases to date. We can only hope to get our paws on it this year -– yum!
Read the original article on Mashed.