The Best Fall Drinks in Phoenix That Are Better than a "PSL"

The Best Fall Drinks in Phoenix That Are Better than a "PSL"

I did the hard work for you: I tested a multitude of seasonal drinks from various coffee shops in Phoenix, and narrowed down the best fall drinks (7, to be exact) found locally.

Many complain greater Phoenix is lacking in the “cool, local coffee shop” category. Coming from the PNW myself, I sort of agree. However, I’ve recently discovered they exist. They’re just overshadowed by the big brands.

Which leads me to my next point…

If you yelled “blasphemy!” in reaction to my “better than a PSL” statement, I’m here to tell you I’m not sorry, and I’m not taking it back.

Admittedly, Starbucks is never my first choice.

Is it convenient? Absolutely. Is it a monopoly that usually refuses to support certain (i.e. Christian) organizations or causes? Also absolutely.

Now, if I was to go about boycotting every company that disagreed with my viewpoints, there wouldn’t be many left. Obviously, I’m not gonna do that.

Bottom line, more often than not my taste buds and wallet are left disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, strong roast. However, Starbucks coffee is just too bitter for me. Reason being, they really do “burn” their coffee beans to give it that so-called rich flavor. I just happen to want to keep my taste buds alive to try other fantastic things.

Anyway, whenever the brand launched their Pumpkin Spice Latte years ago, I was one of many who applauded the fall flavor. That is, until this year. I don’t know if the recipe changed or if I did. Like everything else, I of course expect a PSL to be made with artificial flavors. But still, it tasted SO fake–like straight-up guzzling chemicals!

(Side note: The very large, delicious exception to my claim above is Starbucks’ Pumpkin Foam Cold Brew. IDK what it is, but there’s definitely an addictive substance in that foam and I’m still okay with it, in moderation.)

My negative experience with the recent PSL led to my hunt around town. I compared it to other local versions and preferred every single one over the original!

Without further ado, and in honor of National Coffee Day on September 29, here are the best fall drinks to be found in Phoenix!

Driftwood Coffee Co. – Cookie Butter Latte

Located in Old Town Peoria just off Grand Ave, Driftwood is a quaint and quirky coffee joint with an equally one-of-a-kind seasonal menu.

What’s super neat about this local café is that if you order a hot “for here” beverage, they serve it to you in a handmade pottery mug. But if you prefer not to step inside, there’s also a walk-up window!

With drinks (both caffeinated and not) made with locally sourced ingredients and handmade art by local artists displayed for sale, Driftwood is the town’s best-kept secret. Until now, that is.

Just the name Cookie Butter should give you all sorts of feel-good feels. Like fresh baked sugar cookies from grandma’s oven, this fall drink will wrap its warmth around your belly and have you tipping the cup for every last drop.

However, if you’re looking to avoid coffee for some reason (no judgment), check out their Apple Cider to get your fall drink fill!

Elevate Coffee Company – Maple Dirty Chai

I try to support local businesses every chance I get, especially during this pandemic.

Elevate is a family-friendly, Christian-based café that just so happens to be a few exits away from me at Norterra. Whether you’re passing through on the I-17 or live nearby, stopping in for a quick drink is super convenient.

Not only is the atmosphere friendly and the baristas super knowledgeable (as well as creative), the menu offers a wide selection of drinks and eats, including gluten free crepes!

Elevate also hosts a variety of local musicians like up-and-coming Sophia Humbert on the weekends.

If you sign up for their free rewards program now, head there during the first week of October (1st-7th) for 50% off all drinks to celebrate their 10th anniversary!

list of barista faves from Elevate Coffee
Creative coffee flavors at Elevate Coffee
Black Rock Coffee Bar – Pumpkin Blondie or Pumpkin Latte

For those who need their coffee, like, NOW, Black Rock Coffee – hailed from Oregon like all other great coffee startups – is one of the newest drive-thru coffee shops to the Phoenix area. Most do have indoor dining as well, if you do have the time to kick back.

While they only advertise their Pumpkin Blondie for their seasonal fall drinks, I can’t vouch for it personally as I haven’t tried it yet. Hands down, though, their simple Pumpkin Latte is one of the best fall drinks I have ever tasted!

Maybe it’s because I ordered mine with oat milk, which often enhances most warm-spiced flavors, but my-oh-my is it good. Not too sweet, and whether it’s made with the real deal or not, it at least tastes real.

Black Rock Coffee also offers a rewards program via text. So far the deals are impressive and you don’t need to download yet another app!

Cabin Coffee Cafe – The Cabin Breakfast

Decorated as a cabin should be, with a fireplace, year-round Christmas trees, and rustic, outdoorsy signs on every wall, this coffee shop at 67th Ave and Happy Valley Rd transports you to the mountains the minute you step inside.

Maybe it’s my Oregon roots, but I love that cozy café vibe. I love hole-in-the-wall coffee shops run and frequented by striving college kids. 

As much as I am on the go, I don’t like rushing my coffee experience. I don’t mind chatting with the baristas, watching them craft my drink with care, while quiet conversations from comfortable couches drift around me.

This locally-owned small business claims to always have something new on the menu. So, I tried their Cabin Breakfast latte (hot, half sweet, and with oat milk) fresh from their “Fall Into Autumn” sandwich board.

best fall drinks at Cabin Coffee
Cabin Coffee Cafe’s best fall drink menu

If you’re looking for the equivalent of what New England in October should taste like, consider Cabin Breakfast your adult pacifier. Like a cup of hot, homemade oatmeal, this smooth, aromatic beverage is the ultimate comfort drink.

Note, I opted for the half-sweet version and I’m glad I did, but you do you!

The baristas also raved about the Pumpkin Pie latte, claiming the Cubano shots add a spicy kick to balance out the sugary syrup. I’ll update this article as soon as I try it myself!

Scooter’s Coffee – Pumpkin Spice Latte

This is another coffee company located all across the valley. Honestly, I don’t visit Scooter’s too often. But for the sake of my research I tasted their version of the PSL and was pleasantly surprised.

I have to warn you, this one isn’t super pumpkin-y, nor syrupy sweet. So if those things are musts for you, try their Pumpkin Caramelicious instead. Scooter’s Pumpkin Spice is subtle, with smooth, robust undertones. I loved that it didn’t burn away my taste buds or leave me feeling like I’d swallowed 5 sugar cubes in liquid form.

The best part, though? My latte was at least a dollar cheaper than Starbucks. During this pandemic, every dollar counts!

Bully BrewApple Pie Chai (again, make it dirty!)

I generally order my coffee drinks hot (yes, even in triple digit Phoenix AKA Hades) and with dairy free milk. But this one’s a big exception!

One of the best fall drinks that might have ever been concocted, the dirty Apple Pie Chai is too unique not to try. And, it’s so akin to a literal, cinnamony slice of apple pie you will want to snuggle someone/some pup. I got mine iced with coconut milk, but I can almost guarantee it would be bomb no matter what temp or milk you choose.

I first discovered this local company earlier this year at the nearby farmer’s market. You’ll be happy to know they are also conveniently located off 51st Ave just south of Loop 101.

What I love most about this small business is their love for both coffee and canines! All of their drink names are inspired by dog breeds. Their site even declares, “we love to partner with local shelters & other noteworthy charities to aid in providing assistance for man’s furry friends & humankind.” If you’re a fellow dog lover, I think you can agree that’s a message you can stand behind!

Oh, and if you join the mailing list, you’ll get a BOGO offer delivered to your email. Wins all around!

Bully Brew coffee menu at the Farmer's Market
Bully Brew coffee menu at the Farmer’s Market
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – Winter Dream Tea Latte

Although Starbucks bought out the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf a while back, I still support them for a few reasons.

For one, I appreciate their initiative to donate to first responders. I also love the local fundraisers and events posted on their bulletin board. Plus, if you like earning points for freebies, I highly recommend their rewards app. Super user friendly and fairly fast to earn points!

Alright, I know this list is for the best fall drinks, but hear me out.

If you appreciate a zesty chai latte, the Winter Dream meets that standard, but doubles the zest and cranks the calories from cream! Rich and powerful, this tea latte will tingle your taste buds with every sip.

I fell for it so hard that I bought my own can of Winter Dream tea bags last year. I savored them to make them last until this season.

Oh, and if you’re lactose intolerant, the only downside to Coffee Bean’s flavored drinks is many are made with pre-mixed powders. This means it’s almost impossible to get a dairy-free option. But if you’re A-OK with cow milk, you’re golden!

Honorable Mentions

Although it didn’t quite make the cut for best fall drinks, The Human Bean is still a worthwhile stop! With drive-thru locations in every major area of Metro Phoenix, these local franchises offer a wide variety of drinks.

Every drink comes with a chocolate covered espresso bean! What’s not to love about that? I mostly order their Mexi Mocha, which could potentially pass for a fall drink, I suppose. They also make a mean lavender mocha, if you aren’t quite ready for fall yet.

Looking to escape the Phoenix heat to find real fall weather? If you find yourself in Pinetop in the next few months, stop by Cyclelogical Coffee for a delicious latte or two.

Decorated tastefully with boho furniture and a plethora of bicycle paraphernalia, this small town coffee shop ethically sources their beans from a micro-roastery in northern Arizona.

While their regular drink menu already boasts interesting flavors like cardamom and Mexican chile, their pumpkin fall drink special is incredible! Basically it’s their regular Honey Oat Latte with pumpkin flavor. They also offer their handcrafted bottled coffee brews so you can take the taste back to Phoenix with you!

Cyclelogical Coffee lounge area and cute chalkboard, located in Pinetop
Who wouldn’t want to sip their favorite fall drink in this lounge?
Closing thoughts

In case you’re wondering, all of the local coffee shops above are taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each cafe is implementing all required safety measures to protect themselves and their customers.

And just to clear any doubt, in no way is this post sponsored by any specific coffee brand or company.

Keep in mind, too, this is not an exhaustive list of local cafes. This is only a (highly opinionated) list of the best fall drinks in Phoenix.

There are so many more coffee shops not mentioned here. If you know of other Phoenix cafes with superb fall drinks on their seasonal menu, please leave a comment below!

Go forth and celebrate National Coffee Day!