REVIEW: Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

I thought it was a late stage April Fool’s Day joke, like the Rainbow Drink or possibly a foreign exclusive since only they get the cool, wacky Starbucks drinks. Take a moment to Google “American Cherry Pie Frappuccino” that is available only in Japan, (sigh) of course.

Once the Unicorn Frappuccino finally became official, though, my mind started racing. Would it be made with the tears of unicorns? Has Starbucks finally figured out how to manufacture eternal euphoria? So many questions, but one thing was clear – I absolutely needed this in my life.

The drink is marketed to play up its mythical nature rather than provide too many specifics on its actual composition. I’m glad they didn’t go low budget, though, when sourcing their rainbows as the in-store menu informed me it’s made with only the finest ones. I’ve had cheap rainbows before and they were not very good (very dull in color and lacking intense flavor).

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino 2

The drink’s actual contents are a crème Frappuccino with mango syrup, a sour-flavored interior drizzle and sour-dusted whipped cream. I couldn’t taste an iota of mango flavor, but I did get intense vanilla and sour notes. It’s as if little extremities of sour patch kids had invaded my vanilla milkshake.

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino 3

I do applaud Starbucks for thinking outside the box with its creative claims that it changes color and flavor when you stir, although, execution wise, the color transition was very, very subtle and there didn’t seem to be enough of the blue sauce in my drink for it to completely change flavors.

The nutrition facts are frightening since a Venti supposedly contains 76 grams of sugar and 500 calories, but as only a rare treat, they are somewhat understandable. I was very concerned this meant it would be a sugar bomb that was so overly sweet and heavy it would be rendered nearly undrinkable. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it was instead both creamy and pretty delicious.

Overall, though, while this was a gimmicky drink through and through, Starbucks hit it out of the park on creativity and marketing. Seeing the hysteria ensue makes me wonder if it will be destined for a yearly reemergence. I just hope they push the envelope even further, like with a special iridescent straw that would glisten majestically like a horn, which I WOULD CAMP OUT FOR THE DEBUT OF.

Oh and your move, Starbucks Japan.

(Nutrition Facts – Venti – 500 calories, 18 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 79 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 76 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.45
Size: Venti
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: A domestic Starbucks drink that for once can make international outposts jealous. Not a revolting sugar bomb. Flavor that’s like the offspring of a vanilla milkshake and a sour patch kid. Destined for McRib-like limited edition runs.
Cons: Low budget rainbow sourcing. Nutrition facts that I wish were mythical. No glistening iridescent straw. So-so execution of flavor/color changing nature.

REVIEW: Starbucks Pink Drink

Starbucks Pink Drink

You know what’s awesome?

Secret menu items.

You know what’s not awesome?

Ordering a secret menu item and the employee not knowing what you are talking about.

However, when a secret menu item is then elevated to the main menu it’s like the best of both worlds. A special, kind of exclusive treat that you don’t have to worry about acquiring. That’s exactly what has happened with Starbucks’ new Pink Drink. It contains their strawberry acai refresher mixed with coconut milk and strawberries and is now officially available.

Since its moniker is simply a color, I was very hesitant to see the drink in person as I didn’t want to be let down if it wasn’t enough pink enough. I was definitely hoping for execution more like the fantastic colored ketchup of yesteryear and less like the recent underwhelming naturally colored Froot Loops. The color didn’t disappoint, though, as it was a lovely pastel pink with nice pops of red from the strawberries.

Starbucks Pink Drink 2

The strawberries get a passing grade, probably a C or so if I was a grade school teacher. They are freeze-dried so make sure you let them soak a bit in the drink. Otherwise, they are crunchy and dry which means the flavor is a bit subdued. They are much better with some moisture in them as they provide a nice blast of tartness.

Even though it is advertised to be acai flavored with accents of passion fruit the only flavor I could taste is that of the main one, strawberry, and it comes through very nicely. The drink isn’t a sugar bomb either. It has a creamy nature but is still incredibly refreshing. It’s again the best of both worlds!

It reminded me of a light strawberry milk or even better yet Yoo-hoo’s strawberry drink in a fancier, lighter, and fresher version. I’m not usually a straight coconut milk fan but here it made for the perfect base for the refresher without being too overpowering.

With this drink being promoted to the official menu and being pretty darn good, I wonder if any other of the colored drinks that blew up Instagram last year will make the jump as well. Since it’s my favorite color and there has been an immense void in this segment for years (R.I.P. Pepsi Blue), fingers crossed for the blue one!

(Nutrition Facts – Grande (16 oz) – 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.85
Size: Venti
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Creamy and refreshing strawberry flavor. Secret menu items getting a promotion. Fondly remembering childhood food.
Cons: Strawberries that are better suited for space travel. Unnoticeable passion fruit and acai flavors.

REVIEW: Starbucks Snickerdoodle Hot Cocoa

Starbucks Snickerdoodle Hot Cocoa

I used to call Starbucks’ Peppermint Mocha a holiday in a cup. Well, move over, Mocha, there’s a new drink in town and I’m obsessed. One sip of the Starbucks Snickerdoodle Hot Cocoa and I was instantly transported in front of a fire with holiday decorations surrounding me and an overwhelming feeling of coziness.

The first thing I love about this drink is the fact that even though it’s hot cocoa, you’re getting white chocolate. You guys, I love white chocolate but sometimes I forget it’s even a thing thanks to its more popular brother. The second thing I love is how smooth this goes down. It’s definitely a drink for sipping and not chugging due to the sweetness. But that’s okay, because I wanted it to last as long as possible.

The snickerdoodle flavor comes in the form of cinnamon dolce syrup plus the cinnamon sugar on top of the whipped cream (Pro tip: Do NOT skip the whipped cream.) One thing I noticed right away is that the cinnamon is apparent at first sip, hitting you right away with the flavor. And bonus: The flavor stayed throughout the whole drink. You know how sometimes it seems as though a syrup wasn’t mixed all the way through? And you only find it right on the top or all the way at the bottom? Yeah, not the case here. Full on snickerdoodle in every sip.

Starbucks Snickerdoodle Hot Cocoa 2

My one gripe was that the hot cocoa was warm, but not piping hot – a problem that could be easily solved by asking for the drink extra hot. (I also ordered the drink when it was -876 degrees outside. Okay, I’m exaggerating. It was 28. But regardless, that was my mistake not to order extra hot for extreme warmth.) It was hot enough to melt the whipped cream into the liquid as I drank, creating an almost eggnog-like color by the time I was almost done.

I’m really hoping Starbucks keeps this one well into the winter and not just the holidays, because it’s a slam dunk. If you don’t think it tastes like one of your Aunt Lisa’s snickerdoodles, the ones where you typically shove about five in your mouth because Mom’s not looking, then you need to come find me and we’ll have a chat.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 oz – 310 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 38 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.25
Size: 12 oz. (tall)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: All the white chocolate. Cinnamon is natural tasting and all-around awesome, making the drink true to its snickerdoodle name.
Cons: Whipped cream melted a little faster than I would have liked. But if that’s the only con I have, then we’re doing pretty well.

REVIEW: Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino

Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino

Starbucks putting out a Fruitcake Frappuccino is strange because the holiday baked good is not universally beloved.

To me, the fruitcake is not a horrible dessert. But it’s not something I jump at when I’m being bombarded every holiday season by more appealing treats. There’s red velvet cakes, chocolate cupcakes, sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and the list goes deliciously on and on. It’s like that email you’re not excited to reply to that gets pushed down your inbox. And by the time you get to it, its too late to do anything, so it ends up in the trash.

While there’s a good chance fruitcakes gifted to me will end up in the rubbish, I can’t say the same about Starbucks’ Fruitcake Frappuccino. It’s better tasting than any fruitcake I’ve ever had, but it’s also damn annoying to drink.

The blended beverage features a Hazelnut Frappuccino base with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and ice. Then it’s topped with whipped cream, caramel dots, and a matcha sprinkle.

Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino 3

The dried fruits are cranberries, golden raisins, zante currant raisins, and cherries. The fruit bits made the beverage look festive, but their flavors were hard to distinguish individually when drinking it. 

Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino 2

The cinnamon, caramel, and hazelnut base gave the beverage a brown sugar, pastry-like flavor. That, combined with the dried fruits, helped the beverage fit the fruitcake flavor profile. To be honest, it was a bit weird to be chewing on a beverage, but at the same time it was an appropriate texture. The matcha powder seemed odd, but I thought it added a sweet nuttiness, helping it come close to matcha-ing (I’m sorry) the flavor of fruitcake.

While the chewy dried fruits helped me imagine the taste and texture of fruitcake, they also made the coffee-less Frappuccino difficult to consume. On several occasions the dried fruit pieces that weren’t blended well ended up clogging the straw. So if your local Starbucks happens to be near a bubble tea shop, I recommend swiping one of those wider straws made to suck up tapioca balls.

As someone who’s somewhat indifferent about fruitcake, I’m a bit surprised I enjoyed Starbucks’ Fruitcake Frappuccino. If your feelings for the holiday dessert/paperweigh are the same as mine or lean towards the positive side, you might also enjoy it. But do it quick because, unfortunately, it’s available only for a few days.

(Nutrition Facts – grande with whole milk and whipped cream – 430 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 69 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 66 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.45
Size: Grande
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: It does remind me of a fruitcake. Better tasting than any fruitcake I’ve ever had. Cinnamon, caramel, and hazelnut base gave the beverage a brown sugar, pastry-like flavor. The dried fruit gives it some fiber.
Cons: Annoying to drink through a straw because of the dried fruit clogging it. A little weird to be chewing on a beverage. Available for a very limited time.

REVIEW: Starbucks Chile Mocha

Starbucks Chile Mocha

Some like it HOT and I am one of those humans.

No, I’m not talking about the 1950’s movie starring Marilyn Monroe, but the Scoville scale. Just in case you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about: the Scoville scale measures the heat of a pepper from 0 units (bell peppers) to 16MM units (pure capsaicin). I can realistically only handle up to a habanero (350K units) so I’ve been on a mission to increase my capsaicin tolerance.

Along comes Starbucks’ latest drink innovation, the Chile Mocha. I drink Starbucks religiously (who else spent way too much money on Starbucks for Life) and I like heat. Advertised with “ancho and chile spices” and “for those mornings that need an extra kick,” I expected the Chile Mocha to dazzle my taste buds.

In true Goldilocks-fashion, I had to try all three: the Frappuccino, the hot mocha, and the iced mocha. Unfortunately, the only thing consistent about the three was that they all came with too much whipped cream.

I started with the Frappuccino. Nothing about the Frappuccino tasted like chile or even mocha for that matter. It was so sickeningly sweet that it tasted toffee-like; maybe the barista used the toffee nut syrup instead of Chile Mocha powder. So, heat was nonexistent. I even tried the Spiced Mocha topping on top which looked like straight cayenne/paprika but actually also had sugar crystals mixed in.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 2

The powder fondly reminded me of a less concentrated version of Lucas Mexican Candy. However, cayenne is only 50,000 Scoville and paprika is, if you’re lucky, maybe 100 Scoville units. Instead of ordering the Chile Mocha Frappuccino, I might as well have just ordered a plain ol’ coffee frap for $1 less and 90 less calories.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 3

I moved onto the iced mocha next. I was immediately a little off-put by the powder sitting at the bottom of the drink. I tried mixing it but the powder at the bottom was just out of straw reach. After my first couple of sips, I felt a very slight warming/heat sensation in the back of my throat. FINALLY!

However, it was short-lived as it quickly neutralized. While the iced mocha was a little more coffee-forward, it still erred on the too-sweet side. Disappointed, I proceeded to eat the whipped cream with tasty wannabe Lucas Mexican Candy power and left the rest of the drink.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 4

Lastly, the hot mocha. At this point, my high expectations were demolished. But, the fact that my first sip actually tasted like a mocha was a great start. Unlike the iced mocha, the heat actually built up. At first, I thought it was way too subtle but as I drank more, I concluded that this level of heat probably works for people not trying to burn off their taste buds (unlike me). If it were any spicier, it would likely be too spicy for some folks. I also really enjoyed the temperature contrast of the cold whipped cream with the hot mocha.

Net-net, stick with the hot mocha. I know it’s still 90 degrees in certain parts of the country, but fall is right around the corner! For my fellow capsaicin enthusiasts, I’m dropping a Ghost Pepper Mocha suggestion in Starbucks’ inbox.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall 12 oz (Hot Chile Mocha with whipped cream) – 270 Calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 29 grams total sugars, 10 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: Varies
Size: Tall
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chile Mocha)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Iced Chile Mocha)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Chile Mocha Frappuccino)
Pros: Fondly reminiscent of Lucas Mexican Candy Power. Hot Chile Mocha.
Cons: Too much whipped cream. Frappuccino and Iced Mocha are sugar bombs. Minimal heat.