Summer is upon us, which means it’s time for me to scatter mousetraps in the grass and encourage neighborhood children to run barefoot through my lawn. But it also means it’s time for Dunkin’ Donuts’ annual annoying commercials touting their cool, refreshing products, because seasonal slumps are bad and we all associate donuts and coffee with winter, and also AA meetings. But mostly winter.
Now, I’ve liked plenty of DD’s warm weather offerings (Vanilla Bean Coolattas are my crack), and you can’t fault them for wanting to keep profits up during the time of year when you’re statistically least likely to crave hot coffee and a Boston Kreme. But do their ads have to be so damn lame? On the list of things I never thought I’d be nostalgic for, John Goodman’s voice is pretty close to the top, right under “swimming until I feel like puking.”
Seriously, I’d rather they shoot a spot featuring the desiccated corpse of the “Time to make the donuts!” guy than keep up with their current crop. And does this failure to connect with me as a consumer have any correlation with their repeated inability to comprehend the phrase “small iced coffee, skim milk and sugar”? So many questions.
But we’re not here to answer them, we’re here to talk about DD’s latest offering, Frozen Hot Chocolate, and also probably to kill some time at work. (No one is judging. You’re worth more than what they pay you anyway. Bastards.) On the surface it sounds completely incongruous — the appeal of hot chocolate is that it’s, well, hot, or at least warm enough to melt those tiny marshmallows — but it wouldn’t be the first pair of opposites that somehow manage to make it work. Right, Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat? Right.
That being said, I’m not going to lie — I went in with some skepticism. Your mileage may vary, but to me part of the inherent comfort factor of hot chocolate is tied to its visual appearance. A truly great hot chocolate must be served in a mug, ideally one you grew up with or that was given to you by family or friends, with marshmallows dotting the surface and visible steam rising from the top. Ideally you should still be able to see the wet gloves you used to make an anatomically correct snowman in your neighbor’s backyard while he was shoveling his driveway.
With that in mind, I’m afraid the standard clear DD cup that my frozen hot chocolate came in was a poor substitute, but in the interest of reviewer integrity, I made a point not to knock down the score simply because of its subpar visual appearance. Although I still blew on the top a few times before taking a drink. Force of habit.
My first impression of the taste was that it was pleasant, but also distinctly familiar. Obviously it’s sweet, very much so, with a relatively creamy milk chocolate flavor that gets a little darker in some parts of the drink than in others, likely due to it not having been mixed thoroughly. The texture is deceptively thin – appearances to the contrary, you’re definitely drinking a full-on beverage, not a Frosty or milkshake. I highly recommend getting it with the whipped cream if you’re willing to stomach the calories, if only to maintain the illusion that you are drinking something vaguely hot chocolate-y.
Oh, as for that familiar taste I mentioned? I didn’t figure it out until I was almost finished, at which point it became both obvious and impossible to ignore, like when you first realize C-3PO is gay. The big revelation is that the frozen hot chocolate tastes almost exactly like not-completely-mixed chocolate milk. For all I know maybe regular hot chocolate would taste the same way if you iced it, but I wasn’t expecting that and it surprised me.
It’s worth pointing out that DD’s Frozen Hot Chocolate isn’t bad, just a bit underwhelming. I can’t quite shake the suspicion that when they take the empty cup behind that vaguely sinister-looking equipment lining the counter, they’re just dumping a few cups of Nestle Quik and some milk in it, spraying on some Reddi Whip and calling it a day. (You laugh, but sub-contracting out of things is a proud American tradition.) Still, as long as you’re willing to pay three bucks plus for some very cold, very creamy chocolate milk with whipped cream, you can’t go wrong.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 small cup – 430 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 95 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 77 grams of sugars, 7 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 25% calcium, and 8% iron)
Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Frozen Hot Chocolate
Size: 16 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: “Time to make the donuts!” guy. Wasting time at work. Anatomically correct snowmen. Creamy chocolate. Plentiful whipped cream (if requested). Nestle Quik.
Cons: Current DD commercials. Not as visually appealing as regular hot chocolate. Doesn’t taste fully mixed. You can make and freeze your own chocolate milk for a lot less money. The continued absence of MC Skat Kat on today’s music scene.