Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

TikTok Influencers and Starbucks Competing for Drink Combos

From left to right, a Berry Caramel Frappuccino and The TikTok Drink, just two of the supposed 170,000 drink combos available at Starbucks.
From left to right, a Berry Caramel Frappuccino and The TikTok Drink, just two of the supposed 170,000 drink combos available at Starbucks. TikTok

TikTok — and Starbucks — have forged drink combos that have lines growing at the coffee chain and baristas annoyed at having to make such complex drinks, according to several news reports. Thing is, Starbucks helped to create the issue itself. 

The chain that turned regular drip coffee into $5 Caramel Snickerdoodle Macchiatos is now caught up in an arms race with TikTok users to make the most complicated drinks and its coffee producers behind the counter are the ones suffering. While coffee makers labor to produce dozens of bizarre concoctions dreamed up by TikTok influencers, Starbucks is just as guilty as social media for making this mess. 

In its marketing, Starbucks stated that, in addition to the beverage options on menu boards, there are 170,000-plus ways baristas can customize beverages. This week, the ubiquitous chain announced its latest seasonal drinks, which include the Caramel Brulee Latte, Chestnut Praline Latte, and Toasted White Chocolate Mocha. While these might not be as distinct or as dense as say, the Berry Caramel Frappuccino (via TikTok user “coffeefanatics”), which is a “Strawberry Açaí Lemonade with apple juice, strawberry purée and double scoops of mango dragonfruit and strawberries, double-blended with a caramel drizzle on top” — they’re still light years away from a simple cup of coffee or tea. 

(It should be noted that the user, Ryan Gawlik, is a barista himself. There seems to be a schism between these übermensch coffee stars and people who prefer to perform their regularly assigned duties instead of transcending that traditional role into more and more ludicrously complex duties.)

The Wall Street Journal quoted Roger Huang, a Buffalo, New York Starbucks barista as saying that he takes pride in his skill at assembling TikTok drinks, but that the constant variations can be exhausting.  

Related Guides

It has become a social media challenge to find different ways to customize the 10 different options Starbucks lists on its cups. Although these increasingly complex drinks can be a headache to minimum-wage workers, the “Starbucks Secret Menu” (#starbuckssecretmenu) has more than 210 million hits. 

Anna Faber, another barista and a college student under TikTok handle “Annalovescoffee,” posts concoctions to her 107,900 followers. In July, however, she responded to questions, via signs and sentences, that they were so irritating to put together that she was quitting her job.

“are frappucinos (sic) annoying to make?”

“very”

“are you quitting soon?”

“yes in August”

Anna may have quit her job, but she was still posting new mixes as of Oct. 22. The lesson: Social media can be hard competition to abandon. Especially if the combinations are seemingly endless.

Starbucks can be a great caffeinated choice for a number of reasons. Its menu has plenty of options and franchises usually include locally made snack options. Maybe it’s time to give overworked service workers and other customers waiting in line a break and stick to the already extensive menu.

Read More: Forget Starbucks — Brew Coffee With This Keurig

Matthew Denis
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
This new bourbon is finished in rum barrels for a tropical fruit flavor
Old Forester's latest expression in the 117 Series is its Rum Finish
Whiskey

A new release from Kentucky brand Old Forester brings together two delicious spirits, bourbon and rum, into one bottle. The latest release of the brand's 117 series, which is a set of limited expressions which debuted in 2021, is a Rum Finish which makes use of rum barrels like those which have historically been found all along the Ohio River due to the commercial trade there.

The new expression is the brand's classic bourbon that has gone through an unusual final step before being released to the public: it has been finished in rum barrels. These barrels have held rum for at least four years, so they impact a distinct flavor to the bourbon and add notes of tropical fruits, coconut, and custard. The result is a 95-proof bourbon with enhanced fruity flavors and a long, dry spiced finish.

Read more
A limited release rye whiskey finished in toasted oak barrels
Penelope Bourbon's second annual release of its Toasted Rye Whiskey
penelope bourbon toasted rye bottle shot jpg

An award-winning rye whiskey series is coming back, with a new release by Indiana-based brand Penelope Bourbon. The brand is known for its series of straight bourbon whiskies, and its previous release in the Toasted series, Penelope Toasted Rye Whiskey, was a top scorer at spirits competitions. The release won double gold at the 2024 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, scoring highly with the judges there.

“After what we achieved with last year’s release, we are really excited for our second installment,” said Michael Paladini, founder of Penelope Bourbon. “Our first Toasted Rye scored 99 points at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and we’re confident this release will be equally well received.”

Read more
Visiting Maker’s Mark: The distillery where history and innovation blend seamlessly
Get an inside look at Maker's Mark
Maker's Mark bottle wax dipping the seal

The sun beams down gloriously on the beautiful grounds of the Star Hill Farm, the primary distillery for world-renowned and flavorful whiskeys under the Maker's Mark brand. Unless you've been living in a cave, you'll certainly recognize the brilliant red wax seal synonymous with the brand's bottles.

You'll catch a glimpse of the grounds and the farm at the beginning of our latest interview with Beth Buckner, the Innovation Manager and taste guru at Maker's Mark. Dan Gaul had the privilege and treat of touring the distillery and talking with Beth about the brand's history and its latest release, version 2.0 of the Wood Finishing series.

Read more