Rather than waiting for customers to come up with their own rainbow-hued Frappuccino, Starbucks one-upped the internet and created a brand new Unicorn Frappuccino. But what is it? “Like its mythical namesake, the Unicorn Frappuccino blended crème comes with a bit of magic, starting as a purple beverage with swirls of blue and a first taste that is sweet and fruity,” according to a press release from the Seattle-based coffee company. “But give it a stir and its color changes to pink, and the flavor evolves to tangy and tart. The more swirl, the more the beverage’s color and flavors transform.”
That description, though evocative of glitter and rainbows, doesn’t really give you many clues as to the actual flavor of the drink. It kind of sounds like a science experiment, what with the swirling and the transformations. I guess it’s sweet and fruity, but also tangy and tart? What does a “purple beverage” taste like? And how, exactly, does the whole taste-shifting magic work?
So I went to my neighborhood Starbucks to taste the new, internet-inspired drink and answer the question, once and for all: What does Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino taste like IRL?
I have to start this review by giving props to the staff at my local Starbucks who were not fazed by my order of a venti Unicorn Frappuccino at 7:05 a.m. whatsoever. And honestly, they deserve all of the credit. Starbucks baristas have been at the frontline of this trend toward Instagram-worthy drinks, forced to deal with customers coming in and demanding kind of outrageous drinks from the Starbucks secret menu that’ll look good in photos. The latest iteration of this was also arguably the most disastrous. Many baristas refused to create the ombré rainbow drink because they were too complicated to make correctly or efficiently; the Instagrammer who created the ombré drink trend has even admitted that he’s “gotten threats from baristas of putting arsenic in my drinks, spitting in my drinks and even death threats” because of his innovation.
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So it was kind of endearing to see the staff at my local Starbucks get stoked on making a Unicorn Frappuccino. One staff member even asked if she could take a picture of my drink, since it seems like this might’ve been the first time anyone had ordered it. “It’s cute!” she exclaimed.
And the drink is definitely aesthetically pleasing, in a psychedelic, OMG-WTF-am-I-about-to-drink kind of way. The blue drizzle on the inside of the cup adds a nice contrast to the pink-purple Frappuccino itself.
Even the pink and blue powder sprinkled on top of the whipped cream was worthy of an Instagram post.
But the taste? Woof. The purple drink itself is kind of sweet, reminding me of blackberries and raspberries and something slightly floral like rose or cleaning solution. The blue syrup and powder, however, are super sour. We’re talking citric acid to the face, like you just ate all of the sugar from the bottom of a bag of Sour Patch Kids. The flavor does change with every sip, as is promised by the press release, but it’s different intensities of the same basic tastes. Some sips, I got more blue powder, which made my mouth pucker. Others were more floral, which I kind of dug.
But the overwhelming flavor was sweet, like a blue raspberry candy, even as the whipped cream melted into the drink and the flavors became more evenly dispersed. And every once in a while, I’d get a sip of sour that shot through the straw like a lightening bolt to my taste buds. It wasn’t always pleasant, but it wasn’t actively bad.
I should be clear that there’s no actual coffee in this Frappuccino. It’s milk and sugar and ice and pink powder and blue syrup, which is basically food dye with more sugar. According to Starbucks nutrition facts, the drink I ordered—a venti Unicorn Frappuccino with whole milk—had 500 calories and 76 grams of sugar.
So the Unicorn Frappuccino is a garbage option if you’re looking to caffeinate in the morning. It’s better for a mid-afternoon or evening treat, since it’s basically a sweet and sour blue raspberry milkshake. And if you’re looking for a fire Instagram post, you really could do worse. But as far as flavor goes? Well, let’s just say that I’d take the Pink Drink—or, you know, a black coffee—over the Unicorn Frappuccino any day.
For better or worse, the Unicorn Frappuccino is available at participating stores in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, until April 23, so experience the magic today, I guess.