The story of the eggnog latte – A Starbucks tradition since October 1986

by Melody on October 13, 2011

Did you know that Starbucks has offered the eggnog latte every year since October 1986?  I found a short story inside some  in-store training materials (dated 2005)  about the initial launch of the eggnog latte, and I thought it would be fun to share that here.  One thing we learn is that the very first Starbucks to offer the eggnog latte was the Columbia Tower Starbucks, which is located inside Seattle’s tallest building, the Columbia Tower (and which was once called the Bank of America Tower).  The entrance to the Columbia Tower Starbucks is on the corner of Fourth and Cherry, and it’s between the streets Columbia and Cherry in downtown Seattle.  Without further delay, here’s the eggnog latte story:

Starbucks very own Dave Olsen is the one to ask all questions regarding the Eggnog Latte, because he is the drink’s inventor.  Here’s how he did it, in his own words:

It was October 1986, and Howard Schultz asked a few of us (there were only a few partners at the time to ask!) to create a special beverage for Christmas for Il Giornale.  Having thought of it previously but never having actually tried it, and being a fan of eggnog personally, I brought some in to the office at 2121 First Avenue.  We had a small bar set up, so I did a little R & D and served Eggnog Lattes at a meeting.  My experiment was a hit!  I established right away that straight steamed eggnog was too rich even for my indulgent palate, so I cut it with milk, and away we went!  Caught up in the excitement, we forgot to register the name – by the end of that season most of the coffee bars in town were serving it!  Howard and I even got a letter from a guy who founded a Seattle café, thanking us for doing the innovation so that all he had to do was watch and copy.  So, Columbia Center was the first to serve Eggnog Lattes, and it grew from there.  In that first year, I had probably had more of that drink than in all the years since, combined.  But I still keep to my tradition – every year during the holidays, I order and enjoy an Eggnog Latte.

By the way, if you like Starbucks history lessons, there are a few more of them here.

(For those of you who do not know who Dave Olsen is, you can read quite a bit about him in Pour Your Heart Into It.  He came to Starbucks at a time when it was a tiny business in the early 1980s, and he brought with him great espresso expertise from a coffeehouse called Café Allegro, which  is Seattle’s oldest coffeehouse, dating back to 1975.  Dave Olsen is also credited with blending and perfecting Starbucks’ Espresso Roast, which is still used today at every Starbucks.  Pour Your Heart Into It also covered that history of Howard Schultz starting his coffee company called Il Giornale, which ultimately was merged into Starbucks when he bought Starbucks in 1987.  I guess technically, the eggnog latte is a Starbucks tradition since 1987, but I’m fine with calling it 1986, since Il Giornale merged into Starbucks.)

I think it is interesting that the eggnog latte was originally offered in October, but now it is a drink that usually launches in November of each year.  (I think anyways!) We’re just a few weeks away from eggnog lattes!

Feel free to comment about this or anything festive and holiday-related at Starbucks. :)

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

eric October 13, 2011 at 4:27 am

Thanks for sharing — the Eggnog Latte is one of my favorites (even though many of my friends turn up their noses at the concept).

purple1 October 13, 2011 at 4:48 am

I am not an eggnog fan but the history lesson is wonderful. Re comments about holidays at SB. I can tell you that my local store needs some new signs. Already what they have looks tired and old. Would love to see some holiday decorations, but for once not confined to only Xmas decorations. Why oh why do stores always limit themselves to Xmas? Can’t the desgin be festive and generic?

kara86ster October 13, 2011 at 5:15 am

Another great history post! At least now we know about the drink, Dave Olson and the famous Espresso Roast a little bit more. Not to mention several early companies too. Great job… =)

Hayley October 13, 2011 at 6:51 am

That was a great post! That was pretty interesting to learn…I wonder about the pumpkin spice latte (that’s my favorite!). I wonder if the story behind that is as good. I guess of the other creations are now being constantly thought up and tested, but this story had a romance to it. Very cool! :)

Becky E October 13, 2011 at 7:37 am

This is so interesting. One of my daughters loves the eggnog latte and will appreciate the history. I totally agree about the decorations. Where are they? The stores around here have one window cling of fall leaves. Boring and drab. No Halloween or even a special fall mug this year. :(

Cd October 13, 2011 at 8:08 am

Great story.

I also liked the, would you call it a Freudian slip, when you wrote:

which ultimately was merged into Howard Schultz when he bought Starbucks in 1987

Kind of funny given Howard is saying he started Starbucks. Is Howard Starbucks? ;-p

Cd October 13, 2011 at 8:10 am

@hayley – great comment about the romance. I agree less is from the gut these days.

baristaxena October 13, 2011 at 9:11 am

Great post! It’s nice to learn about the creation of some of our seasonal traditions. The Eggnog Latte is not one of my favorites but I do have one or two during the season. My favorite holiday beverage was the Maple Macchiato. I think the last time my store offered it was the holiday season of 2006. I have tried to recreate it with little success, I just can’t get the taste right. Maybe one day we’ll offer it again.

Thanks again Melody for all the hard work you do with the blog and website!

Linda

Dave Wakeman October 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I love the Egg Nog Latte. Its definitely my favorite beverage all year.

As for the Columbia Tower location, one of my favorite Seattle experiences was being on the top floor getting buzzed by the Blue Angels when they were prepping for the All Star Game in 2001. But that’s not holiday related nor is it really Starbucks related.

kitenarie October 13, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Ahhhhh Egg Nog. (Time for a very “odd” partner rec – A Dirty Egg Nog Chai Tea Latte (2 shots in a Grande Chai Tea Latte made with Egg Nog – YUM).

This is a really neat story! I had no idea that Starbucks was the originator of this. I was actually just telling one of our newer partners about this drink (she made a face when we all got excited). I told her that I don’t even like egg nog without espresso in it. I’m looking forward to this drink and the caramel brulee!

SophieT October 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Wow, that is really neat! I love sampling egg nog lattes, they always go so fast! I always find that egg nog has a tendency to screech when you steam it haha…

This post brings back memories of busy, cold holiday nights when I was on bar and making egg nog lattes (or chegg nogs). And how about making those huge cubes of reg nog and RF nog?

Melody October 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I have a ton of replies to catch up on. Im on my ph, sorry so sloppy. @cd. I fixed that huge, but funny, freudian slip typo. Sadly, Im often writing blog posts late at night, and it shows!

I was just telling a partner that Starbucks has had the egg nog latte since ’86, and he said, “that’s 25 yrs!! Maybe we should have 25 cent eggnog lattes one day!”

I love all the comments in this thread!

camspi October 13, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Awesome info!

Melody October 13, 2011 at 9:27 pm

@Camspi -and baristaxena I love this kind of info too!
@Hayley – You’re right about that. One thing this story shows is how nimble, and just roll with gut intuition Starbucks could be way back when. If Starbucks wanted to launch the eggnog latte in the year 2011, it would have involved at least a year of testing, and possibly some focus groups with partners or customers, and then very well-thought out marketing. I have huge enthusiasm for some of the new Starbucks innovation (for example I totally love Refreshers) but none of it has the romance of this story. I think it’s possible a company can be too left-brain about new ideas. Sometimes, they just have to run with, ‘this is going to work and/or be great for our brand image.’

BCav October 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Oh Melody, thank you for that lovely insight on the eggnog latte! I must admit, I’ve never been a fan of eggnog, but last year I discovered that a Double Tall Breve (with a little more than a “splash” of eggnog) Cinnamon Dolce Latte was the best drink in the ENTIRE world! Omnomnom.

Melody October 31, 2011 at 10:09 pm

@BCav – Thanks! I think eggnog is pretty rich so I don’t drink too much of it, but I do like it now and then. I like the idea of a ‘splash’ of it in another drink. It sounds like it would be good with the cinnamon dulce syrup!

FleetSCM December 5, 2011 at 4:33 am

absolutely love this story, is definitely one that isn’t told enough! loving every single blog post that comes up here:D soooo much time for each and every one of your posts! keep it going:)

Steve December 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm

MERRY CHRISTMAS FOLKS AND EVERYONE ELSE FLOATING AROUND IN CYBER SPACE!! Now is that festive enough for you?

Melody November 1, 2012 at 6:57 am

I thought I would give the thread a little bump – The Eggnog Latte returns to Starbucks today, November 1st! Welcome back to Starbucks for the 26th year in a row! Here’s the story of the Eggnog Latte! Are you going to have one today? ;)

hayley November 1, 2012 at 9:41 am

No Eggnog Latte for me…but I suspect that also mean Red Cups?!?!!?! :O

Faith Gray October 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I love the eggnog latte…it is such a treat during the holidays. Thanks also for the history of its beginning.

Ciaran October 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I like eggnog lattes but eggnog frappacinos are heaven !

MisTeaKnight October 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I thought eggnog lattes were a thing of the past. Glad to hear they are not. My favorite holiday beverage :) I am reading-pour your heart into it, I absolutely love it!

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