I don’t really get the whimsical food thing that’s been sweeping the food world: spaghetti donuts, rainbow grilled cheese, Cronuts–you can count me out. So, I might be the wrong audience for Starbucks’ brand new Unicorn Frappuccino, which entered participating stores on Wednesday, April 19th. But that didn’t stop me from throwing my hat in the ring and getting my hands dirty (well, sticky) by purchasing one of my very own.
As soon as the drink was introduced, the internet exploded. Social media blew up with posts concerning the limited edition flavor (search the hashtag #unicornfrappuccino on Instagram and you’ll find thousands of posts related to the trend!) There was even a snapchat filter dedicated to this thing.
After just about twenty-four hours on the menu, baristas took to the internet to post videos showing the overwhelming demand for the drink, and their own frustration with the madness. There were tweets and videos galore outlining Starbucks employees discontent and overwhelming stress that came in the wake of this sparkly cloud of unicorn doom.
A barista named Braden Burson posted a video rant, entreating viewers to abstain; “Please don’t get it! I have unicorn crap all in my hair and on my nose. I have never been so stressed out in my life…” he continued, ”FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD: DON’T GET THE UNICORN FRAPPUCCINO.”
The drink is made up of a big old mess of colors and flavors. It’s got vanilla syrup, mango syrup, white chocolate mocha sauce (turned into “blue drizzle”), and sour blue and pink powder. The whole thing is blended with ice and topped off with whipped cream. As if it weren’t gimmicky enough, the blue and pink drink also changes color when you mix it.
Starbucks barista Scott Pero told BTRtoday that he thinks the color-changing drink is actually quite tasty, but that the mania surrounding the beverage has taken the joy out of it all. He says, “I personally like the taste when it’s done right; the sweet and sour is unlike anything Starbucks has ever done before. But the hype and the people that order it have both killed it.”
The backlash from workers is what really piqued my interest in actually ordering one. No part of my being actually wanted to taste this monstrosity. But the idea that this fanciful frappe–masquerading as something mythical, magical, and benevolent–was, in fact, something far more sinister made the temptation to try it impossible to resist. The devil on my shoulder whispered, “Do the damn thing.” So, I did.
When I visited Starbucks, I was nervous. There seemed to be something naughty about the whole situation, and I was feeling inexplicably embarrassed and slightly cagey. When I got to the cashier I ordered an Earl Grey tea, then I lowered my voice and the brim of my hat to match as I said in a near whisper, “and a Unicorn Frappuccino.”
My wish was their command. Before I knew what hit me, my Frappuccino was sitting on the counter: ready for consumption. I snapped some pictures and asked the barista, Keli, if she liked making the drink or if she found the whole hoopla to be annoying. She said it was fun, and furthermore, it was her job, so who was she to complain.
Then, as I walked away, she gave me some advice: “It will only taste good if you believe.”
Like Tinkerbell before it, the Unicorn Frappuccino required faith in order to succeed. So I walked down the street back to the office and said in my head three times “I believe, I believe, I believe!”
Spoiler: it didn’t work. I took one sip and pursed my lips. The Unicorn Frappuccino is somehow both overly sour and overly sweet. You can taste the mango, but it’s more like what the fruit would taste like if it got overly ripe and just a little bit rotten. And on top of everything, just looking at the artificially colored drink is enough to make your stomach hurt.
Once I got back to work I passed it around to my coworkers and got some reactions from them. One said; “You know when you choke on pills. It reminds me of that.”
Another noted; “It wants to be a Strawberry Milkshake, but it tastes medicinal, and it looks like friggin’ Jupiter in there.”
The third mused; “It’s the opposite of a sweet and sour candy. At the front of your tongue, you think it’s alright. But at the back, it’s like ‘I’m in a hospital.’”
And finally, “Unicorn is supposed to be magical. Like you eat it and you live forever. I eat that and I want to die.”
Tomorrow is the last day you can get your hands on a Unicorn Frappucino. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but if you’re feeling adventurous, then what the hell. Just make sure you believe with all of your heart.