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Review: We Tried Starbucks Notorious Unicorn Frappuccino®

By Kristy Puchko | Food Porn | April 21, 2017 |

By Kristy Puchko | Food Porn | April 21, 2017 |

It’s the drink making a splash across social media. The Unicorn Frappuccino® is brightly colored but reportedly disgusting, spurring many who shelled out $5+ for the limited time Starbucks offering to chuck it moments after its putrid purple blend hit their lips. It’s the drink that’s quickly become a bane to baristas, one going so far as to publicly beg in a passionate video testimonialthat customers not order it. So naturally, we had to try it.

Available April 18th through April 23rd, the Unicorn Frappuccino® Blended Crème is described thusly on Starbucks’ website:

Here for a few days only: The flavor-changing, color-changing, totally not-made-up Unicorn Frappuccino. Magical flavors start off sweet and fruity transforming to pleasantly sour. Swirl it to reveal a color-changing spectacle of purple and pink. It’s finished with whipped cream-sprinkled pink and blue fairy powders.

According to the breakdown that follows, its chief ingredients are ice, milk, and Crème Frappuccino Syrup, with whipped cream, mango syrup, “blue drizzle,” “pink powder” and “sour blue powder.”

And it looks like this:

Unicorn Frappicino. Do we dare @erockradio @geekstuffog?

A post shared by Kristy Puchko (@kristypuchko) on

When this Lisa Frank nightmare hit the web, I was immediately intrigued. Not because I thought something the color of a bad LSD trip would taste good, but just because how was this even a thing? What is a unicorn meant to taste like? How did this chilly concoction arise as a Frappucino without boasting absolutely any Starbucks coffee? I have a sweet tooth and a modest disdain for my own health. So…

I picked up three Unicorn Frappuccinos® on the way to record this week’s episode of It’s Erik Nagel, and as the show went on, I scribbled notes about my thoughts on this color-changing, flavor-changing monstrosity. It was—to put it lightly—an experience.

The first sip tasted like a strawberry smoothie, thick with milk, spiked with Pixie Stix. It was so sweet I literally recoiled, and instantly understood what caused Instagrammers across the nation to sip and chuck. There’s no way any self-respecting not completely self-loathing adult could barrel through a beverage this unrelentingly sweet. For a moment, I imagined dramatically hurling the crushable plastic cup of vivid bile at the glass window of the recording studio. I imagined the radioactive purple splatter it would create, an explosion of sweet and repulsion and sticky acting out on the world as it did on my poor defenseless tastebuds. Then I imagined having to mop the mess off the windows as my co-hosts looked on in shock and befuddlement, and resigned myself to another sip.

“Mix it up,” Erik suggested. “It changes flavors, right?” He had not touched his. It sat before him, its whipped cream wilting under the weight of the pink and blue powders that the Starbucks barista had thrown on with relish.

I recalled the looks I got as I ordered these drinks. As the mysterious ingredients were blended before me, I looked on with a brewing sense of dread. This in no way looked like food. And I laid down a fiver for the privilege of consuming it anyway. The baristas seemed amused. Despite the jovial chalkboard sign promoting the drink, I’m fairly convinced mine was the first one they’d been asked to make, considering the mix of curiosity and confusion with which they regarded me and its creation.

So, I stirred. I stirred in the “blue drizzle” that is actually a White Chocolate Mocha Sauce mixed with ungodly blue dye. I stirred in the whipped cream which was four inches thick. I stirred in the powders, but first, I stuck a reluctant finger into the whip and powder to try it on its own. A mistake. The blue powder was devotedly sour, and combined with the cream, I gagged in shock. Back to mixing.

🦄The Unicorn Frappuccino. A journey. (Look for my review on 🦄

A post shared by Kristy Puchko (@kristypuchko) on

Once the stirring was completed, the angry purple had become the duller, greyer purple of a healing bruise, a friendlier purple that seemed less likely to assault my tongue. And behold! Mixed together the Unicorn Frappuccino® isn’t outright disgusting! It’s sweet with a hint of sour, and much much too much whipped cream. I’ve never cared for Starbucks whipped cream to be honest. A friend assured me the recipe is a sincere cream whipped with a splash of vanilla syrup. But to me it always tastes chemical, leaving a plastic sheen on my tongue that makes me shiver. I am devotedly no whip on my fraps, but when in Rome you drink the goddamn magical drink as it’s intended.

Over the course of the show’s two-hour record, I made short work of the drink. Stealing sips, and realizing I liked it best when the blended ice melted to mellow the flavors even more. The whipped cream—now an unsettling pink—rose to the top, allowing me to dodge it with my straw, slurping the brighter, cleaner purple sludge at the cup’s bottom. It tasted like a Bartles & Jaymes that had gone flat, and then sat out in the sun for weeks until its seltzer had mellowed and evaporated to leave a “dare you to drink this” concentrate. It tasted like a good-natured but dumb dare. It reminded me of eating candy that wasn’t even good, just sweet.

Childhood memories of Fun Dip flooded back to me. Licking the candy “dipper” so the colorful sugar in the portable sack would stick. Good godtopus. Did our parents even love us to let us eat naked sugar on a candy stick? Did I truly love myself if I not only tried the Unicorn Frappuccino® but made it to these murky depths. I stared down at what was left of this bizarre beverage made to lure in the damned youths with their love of social media shares, confrontational colors, and unicorns, and their apparent hatred of actual coffee. I thought back on the side-eye and sneers I got walking down Broadway with the freakish dessert drinks in hand. I felt the shame of their scorn. ‘This is not a drink for grown-ups,’ their narrowed eyes seemed to hiss. ‘You’re old now. ACT LIKE IT.’ I looked into the sticky magenta sludge of whipped cream, the last frontier of the Unicorn Frappuccino®, and saw my own mortality staring back at me.

A dull pang hit me in the gut. This had been preceded by a sugar high that spurred me to be way too excited when defining what the word “gamer” meant and whether I qualified as one. I felt the sugar sugar sugar light up my neurons as if I’d been struck by lightning. And now came the pain, because my body is not as young as it once was and cannot stomach the Fun Dips and Unicorn Frappuccinos® of this Brave New World. A buzzing headache crept up across the base of my brain stem. My stomach flipped in growing nausea. We wrapped up the recording, and my mouth broiled with barely suppressed belches. My body no longer my own.

I got home and felt ill and uneasy. My body willed me to the fridge to find food. REAL FOOD. I scavenged a forgotten salad, its radicchio wilted and and brown. I greedily poured it into a big bowl, plucked out the most offensive bits of rot, and poured myself a big, adult glass of water. I would hydrate and eat greens. I would adult and apologize to my body for reckless trespass of the Unicorn Frappuccino® Blended Crème. I would fall asleep on my couch, exhausted by that damned headache. I would wake with my teeth so coated in sugar I’d think they knitted a sweater of blue and pink fairy powders. I would feel tired, sick, and old. I would know that the magic of unicorn-inspired novelty drinks are a younger woman’s game. And I would promise my anxious gut, fragile brain, and shellshocked tongue that the only crazy concoctions I’d hit them with in the future would also contain booze.

Because I’m an adult, goddammit.

Kristy Puchko regrets every life choice that led her to the Unicorn Frappuccino® Blended Crème.