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Taste Test: Starbucks' New Nitro Cold Brew & Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

Starbucks is launching two new iced coffee menu items on May 31, just in time for summer to come on full force. The launch includes a Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, which will be available across the US and Canada...

Starbucks nitro cold brew
Courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks is launching two new iced coffee menu items on May 31, just in time for summer to come on full force. The launch includes a Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, which will be available across the US and Canada. The other is a Nitro Cold Brew, poured from taps behind the counter. Both will be rolled out to select cities starting May 31.

The new items are a little more focused on the actual coffee and not the crazy sugar bonanza of a s'mores Frappuccino or that weird Strawberry Shortcake Frappuccino that was definitely not on any summer diet plans. Whatever. Live every day like it's The Rock's Cheat Day.

Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

Vanilla sweet cream, made in-house daily, poured over a Starbucks cold brew coffee.

The Verdict:
This drink falls on this side of coffee from the very sweet Starbucks mochas, and that's what's refreshing about it: It's a coffee-forward sweet drink. It remains more of a dessert than an entree, but it manages to retain its coffee flavor while providing a little something different and not overwhelming the coffee with one kind of syrup or another.

It also offers a bit of a visual treat as the cream floats over the cold brew, running white fingers down to the bottom. If you get a drink of it before stirring it up, it's a tasty, layered flavor that gives a different experience from what Starbucks normally offers.

Nitro Cold Brew

Much like a nitrogenated stout at your favorite hipster pub, this is a cold brew from a tap with a nitro boost. 

The Verdict:
With that slight tingle of almost-carbonation, Starbucks' nitrogenated cold brew is pretty damn good. It's dark and smooth, almost taking on the consistency of coffee with cream, except without the cream. It's a rich coffee flavor with a nice "head" of crema on top. It's more a step toward a local coffee house's focus on delivering the flavor of good beans rather than the caramel, chocolate, vanilla sweetness of a lot of Starbucks best drinks (not unlike when they made the flat white a permanent menu item). 

Like the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew,  it's also a visually appealing pour. Keep in mind, however, it only starts a roll out in Seattle and Portland for now, and will slowly move into stores in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. By the end of the summer, Starbucks anticipates the Nitro Cold Brew to be in more than 500 stores, making the coffee giant the largest purveyor of Nitro cold brews in the world.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Writer on the news team at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.
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