10 Panera Bread Drinks, Ranked Worst To Best

Panera Bread locations are not hard to come across in the United States, and the cafe-bakery chain has roughly 2,600 domestic restaurants as of 2023, according to Scrape Hero. The company is usually labeled with the term "fast casual," an all encompassing term used to describe eateries with a level of service between fast food and sit-down restaurants, per Toast.

But Panera Bread is a little different. Other fast-casual chains like Chipotle or Sweetgreen serve up customized bowls from their build-your-own assembly lines. Panera, on the other hand, has an extensive menu of food that is seemingly made-to-order for each customer. Diners can fill up on salads, soups, sandwiches, pizza, and pasta. These dishes aren't as freshly made — or as healthy — as they seem, but they've gained a set of loyal fans over the years. Additionally, Panera's beverage menu has also received people's attention.

The Panera drink menu is made up of espresso drinks, smoothies, frozen drinks, teas, lemonades, soft drinks, caffeinated lemonades, and more (via the company). Beverages don't tend to be as predictable as the items you'll find at Starbucks or Dunkin', and it's not always a good thing. Panera's espresso drinks are usually not expertly crafted, however, the chain does offer free refills — which is why you should order small drinks — as well as a coffee subscription, perfect for people who want multiple cups of coffee. To discover our ranking of some of the most popular drinks at Panera, including the viral Charged Lemonade read on.

10. Iced Chai Tea Latte

Panera's Iced Chai Tea Latte consists of black tea and foamed milk poured over ice. Since it's a chai, this drink has notes of vanilla, honey, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. A traditional chai would use fresh ingredients to infuse each tea with those herbal notes, however, since Panera is a chain, it uses a chai concentrate to create its latte. 

Per Insider, Panera's chai latte formula is not the very best. The outlet preferred the Starbucks version over the one served at Panera. They were not the only one to have a lukewarm attitude towards this Panera drink. "Not sure why I thought Panera's iced chai tea latte would be anything other than trash," tweeted a dissatisfied customer (via Twitter). It's not that the beverage is the worst in the world, but there isn't much that this chain is doing to make their version of the drink excel.

Still, Panera's Iced Chai Tea Latte had enough supporters for us to highlight it as one of the very best Panera drinks. On Review Stream, one customer complimented the strong and traditional flavor of chai spices that you can taste in the drink. "Love iced chai tea latte," added another person on Tripadvisor. "Panera has the best iced chai tea latte," chimed in another on Twitter. If you like an iced chai with a more intensely-spiced flavor, you'll probably like this drink. But those that don't might be disappointed by this beverage.

9. Hazelnut Coffee

At every Panera, there is a refillable beverage section. The station includes carafes of hot coffees, and this is where you'll find containers of dark roast coffee, light roast coffee, decaf hot coffee, and hazelnut coffee – a fan favorite drink. The company describes this drip coffee as being sweet and smooth, with hints of buttery hazelnut. It is made from 100% Arabica beans, and something about this flavored hot coffee has Panera customers coming back for more.

On Reddit, customers proclaimed their love of Panera's hazelnut coffee. "I love the smell of the hazelnut," said one person. A Panera worker said, "I mean people at my store really like the hazelnut since it goes fast." Finally, another fan described the drink as "bomb" on Twitter.

Even for all its fans, the hazelnut coffee has had its share of detractors. "I accidentally got hazelnut coffee at Panera. Gross," tweeted a dissatisfied customer (via Twitter). "Bringing a lawsuit against Panera for damages and so they'll put a 'Caution: Gross' warning sign on their hazelnut coffee," added another person (via Twitter). But with every drink, this is going to be the case. Our main reason for ranking Panera's Hazelnut Coffee near the bottom is that it's unexciting. The recipe is one ingredient and it takes hardly any steps to prepare. Customers are simply pouring it from a pump into their cups. But with so little room for failure, there is little room for success. We think other Panera drinks are more successful and unique.

8. Madagascar Vanilla Cream Cold Brew

The Madagascar Vanilla Cream Cold Brew is a Panera drink with half and half, Madagascar vanilla syrup, and the chain's dark roast cold brew. Since Panera is a fast food chain, those elements describe only a few components of it — not the entire recipe. But most Panera fans don't have a problem with the number of artificial things put into this drink. As a result, most people enjoy this vanilla-flavored coffee.

"This coffee tastes exactly like one I used to drink in high school and haven't had for years," a Reddit commentator said in part. "Absolutely love it and want to start making my own." However, other people said the drink was unexpectedly bitter. "I hated it," declared another on Reddit. "It was completely bitter and I was expecting something similar to Starbucks' vanilla cream cold brew and it just wasn't it."

Panera's Madagascar Vanilla Cream Cold Brew is popular, and we know that due to the multiple requests made for recipes for how to make it at home. But this beverage is not without fault. The inconsistency of its sweetness coupled with the drink's inability to be more universally well-liked leads us to rank it closer to the bottom. On top of that, the Madagascar Vanilla Cream Cold Brew is not very unique. To have a higher placement, this beverage would need to be more well-executed or more original in our minds.

7. Cinnamon Crunch Latte

The Cinnamon Crunch Latte is a Panera drink made from espresso and foamed milk, with cinnamon syrup mixed into the base to give it a sweet, spiced flavor. Additionally, the latte is coated with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top, allowing for the same flavors to be balanced throughout. 

People who liked this drink compared it to the breakfast cereal hinted at in this beverage's name. "It honestly tastes just like the milk after a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch," said one person on Reddit. Since the drink is clearly named after cereal, we think that comparisons like this are a good thing.

With good reviews for both the flavor and concept of this drink, we think this Panera menu item is a step above the previous mentioned beverages. However, although well-executed, it's not original enough to earn a higher spot in the ranking. There are several cereal-inspired Frappuccinos on the Starbucks secret menu, including things like the Honey Nut Cheerios Frappuccino. Before being discontinued, there were drinks inspired by Froot Loops and Lucky Charms on the Burger King menu. Not only do these similar drinks make Panera's Cinnamon Crunch Latte seem less original, but they also make it seem more outdated. We think the phase of '90s breakfast cereal-inspired fast food items is kind of over — or, at least, we hope it is.

6. Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea

The Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea is an iced tea sold by Panera, and its flavors come from ingredients such as apple, hibiscus, ginger, licorice, and plum. Since this beverage is completely caffeine-free, it's versatile enough to be enjoyed by many people. Its lack of caffeine also means it could be consumed at different times of the day, including closer to nightfall when some people may be starting to limit their caffeine intake.

Panera customers appreciate the Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea's complex blend of flavors. The blog We Got Coffee reviewed it, complimenting its fruity taste. The website also praised the fact that the beverages ginger component was not overpowering. This reviewer is one of many fans of the drink. On Twitter, one Panera customer said, "Panera girl gave me a free plum ginger hibiscus tea. I am deeply in love." Another person wrote in their tweet, "Tried the Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea at Panera yesterday. As expected, it was amazing! And not too sweet."

The several outstanding reviews for this drink put the Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea on our good side. Its recipe is also somewhat interesting to us, in its blend of fruity flavors. However, the Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea is still a non-caffeinated herbal tea, and these drinks have had a place in fast-food and fast-casual restaurants for a long time. They are useful, but not revolutionary. Our higher-ranked drinks show a little more innovation on part of Panera.

5. Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade

This drink, one of the chain's new "Charged Lemonades," got the internet's attention after one customer realized the drink's high caffeine content. Viral videos discussed the fact that a large size contains nearly 400 milligrams of caffeine and 100 grams of sugar. This is more caffeine and sugar than in a can of Monster. Per Walmart, the original version of Monster Energy contains 160 milligrams of caffeine and 54 grams of sugar in one 16 ounce can. 

Per Mayo Clinic, 400 milligrams is the absolute maximum amount of caffeine one should have in a day. However, for some people, this will be far too much. As for sugar, adults shouldn't have more than around 30 milligrams per day, according to the American Heart Association. It's fair to say that this is not a healthy drink. It's not that surprising of a discovery, considering the Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade is sold by a fast-casual chain like Panera. But the amount of caffeine in this drink is extremely high as well as unexpected. This causes us to rank this beverage a little lower down our list.

But the drink has many fans. Per Panera, the beverage gets its flavoring from mango, yuzu, and citrus. Its energizing components come from caffeine, coffee extract, and Guaraná, while the sweetness comes from Panera's signature craft agave lemonade. This recipe has attracted its share of devotees. "I'm desperate for a recipe for this drink. I'm obsessed," said one person on Reddit.

4. Frozen Caramel Cold Brew

Panera's Frozen Caramel Cold Brew seems to be one of the most popular beverages sold by the fast-casual chain. The Frappuccino-like drink is praised all over the internet for its dessert-like flavor. On Twitter, one person shared a picture of their caramel-covered beverage, writing, "Panera's frozen caramel cold brew is the bomb. Just trust me." In a TikTok review, another person described the beverage as "literally phenomenal." On Reddit, another Panera fan wrote, "The frozen caramel cold brew is good." People simply can't get enough of this sweet drink.

Per the online menu, the Frozen Caramel Cold Brew drink consists of a frozen cold brew coffee, caramel sauce, whipped cream, and caramel syrup. Essentially every element is sweet and creamy on its own, creating a drink that is richly sugary in its final product. There are around 150 milligrams of caffeine contained in each Frozen Caramel Cold Brew.

While this appears to satisfy many fans' cravings for sweets, the Frozen Caramel Cold Brew seems to be a rip-off of Starbucks' Frappuccinos. As a result, this doesn't encourage us to rank Panera's frozen cold brews among the top spots of our list. Additionally, there is so much sweetness in the caramel version of this drink that the chocolate version is superior. There is more of a needed balance coming from this other frozen cold brew option, thanks to the chocolate.

3. Frozen Chocolate Cold Brew

Panera's Frozen Chocolate Cold Brew is a slight step up from the Frozen Caramel Cold Brew, because while both drinks have similar levels of popularity and ingenuity, the balance of flavors is a little better in the chocolate version. In this drink, the chocolate syrup stands in more direct contrast to the rest of the beverage. We admit that chocolate is one of the more basic dessert flavors out there, but, at this point, vanilla and caramel have been ruling the fast food drink game for far too long. It's time for chocolate to shine again. Plus, the classic combination of chocolate and coffee is too good to pass up. You have to try the Frozen Chocolate Cold Brew at Panera. 

Fans of this beverage praise its sweetness. "The frozen chocolate cold brew from Panera bread quelled my sweet tooth," wrote one person on Twitter. Another user chimed in saying, "Half a frozen hot chocolate with half a frozen cold brew is basically heaven." Their statements show that this drink is sweet, satisfying, and craveable. It does all of those things on its own, without requiring another menu item to make the drink complete.

Per Panera, the Frozen Chocolate Cold Brew is made with "an icy cold brew coffee blend," chocolate drizzle, bittersweet chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. It contains around 150 milligrams of caffeine, just like the caramel version.

2. Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Smoothies are the crown jewel of Panera's drink menu, even if it may seem surprising at first since the chain is known for coffee promotions like the "Unlimited Sip Club." But upon closer inspection, Panera's smoothie hype makes sense. For one, competitors like Starbucks have phased out their smoothies. You won't find any offered on their menu, and smoothies aren't on the Dunkin' menu either, at the time of publication. For this reason alone, the smoothies offered at Panera have our respect. But on top of that, these beverages are beloved by customers. This makes sense to us because Panera customers are the type to want more wholesome ingredients in their food, compared to fast food fans. It makes sense then, that these diners would want to order a nutritious drink like Panera's Strawberry Banana Smoothie.

On Reddit, several people recommend the Strawberry Banana Smoothie as a pick-me-up when feeling ill. "Banana strawberry is the best for when you're under the weather. Good for getting you some good vitamins and potassium," wrote one fan. "I feel like Panera's strawberry banana smoothie is unmatched, it's the best one I've ever had," said another excited customer. The outlet Insider even said that Panera's smoothies were better than the ones sold by Jamba Juice or Planet Smoothie, which is a massive vote of confidence. Per Panera, this drink is made from juice concentrate, some real banana, greek yogurt, and ice.

1. Green Passion Smoothie

Simply put, the Green Passion Smoothie is top-notch. It has everything that the Strawberry Banana Smoothie has — uniqueness, taste, and tons of outstanding reviews — but with added benefits. Most importantly, the Green Passion Smoothie is made with fresh spinach. This wholesome ingredient adds tons of nutrients to the beverage, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, and Calcium (via Healthline). On top of that, the spinach changes the appearance of the drink to a vibrant green. This adds a fun pop of color to what could've been an ordinary beverage. Even more exciting are the additional fruit components in the drink, including the juices of mangos, peaches, and passionfruit. All of these ingredients combine to create an exciting and well-made beverage.

In our opinion, the Green Passion Smoothie is the very best one at Panera. Not everyone else may think so, but the drink sure has many passionate supporters. One person on Tripadvisor called it an "amazing smoothie." Another fan on Twitter chimed in saying, "Panera's green passion smoothie has no business being that good." This standout drink should be the first on your list when visiting Panera.