Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino: All Style, No Substance

Starbucks has long been known to offer seasonal drinks, creating products ranging from Peppermint Mocha to their legendary Pumpkin Spice Latte to draw in customers with the promise of exclusivity. But their obsession with creating unique and attention-catching themed drinks has led them to create more than a few strange concoctions. So it’s no surprise that they chose to capitalize in the most outlandish way possible on one of the internet’s newest obsessions: unicorns. Having inspired trendy desserts, beauty tutorials and entire cafes, the mythical beasts seem to have infested the realm of humans in the past couple months. Starbucks has taken the initiative to try their hand at the trend by selling limited edition Unicorn Frappucinos, which were available from April 19 to 23.

Over the past week, the internet has blown up over this unique and aesthetically pleasing blended beverage, with nearly 150,000 posts on Instagram labed #unicornfrappuccino, many news articles covering the backlash from baristas and 3.2 million views on Buzzfeed’s Unicorn Frappuccino taste test video.

Impressed by the hype, I decided to head to my local Starbucks and order one of these frappuccinos for myself.

The presentation of the frappuccino was absolutely stunning. The drink was a beautiful lavender purple with a bright blue drizzle on the sides, and the whipped cream on top was accentuated with bright pink and blue powder.

For the first three sips, I was pleasantly surprised at the subtle fruity flavor and creamy texture. I was instantly reminded of Yakult Probiotics, a mild milk drink with a slight tang. The taste was also comparative of strawberry milk and was quite refreshing. Texture wise, it was easily distinguishable as a Starbucks frappuccino, with the familiar balance of crunchy icy bits and creamy milk.

After those three sips, however, the drink became overwhelmingly sour. The subtle sweetness gone, seemingly stripped away as if by magic, it tasted like liquified Warhead candy. The tartness of the drink was unfortunately punctuated by the bright blue gel and the pink and blue powder dusted atop the whipped cream, which were also both extremely sour. The entire drink was completely overpowered by the sourness, and no flavor except citric acid could be detected. The more I drank, the less I liked it. From a flavor standpoint, the Unicorn Frappuccino failed.

What perplexes me the most is Starbucks’ choice to make the flavor of a frappuccino that’s inspired by sweet unicorns to be too sour to take more than even a couple of sips. The Unicorn Frappuccino was obviously designed for Instagramming purposes and not for actual consumption.

Starbucks definitely earns brownie points for mastering the social media game and managing to capitalize on trends. The company clearly understands its targeted customers and uses this knowledge to advertise directly to them. In a way, having a special drink available for a limited time can enable not only enormous profits for Starbucks but also an exciting, if not quite tasty, experience for customers. After all, it got me to buy it.