Here’s how I’d like to think the pitch meeting for the Unicorn Frappucino went down:
The director of marketing at Starbucks is off his rocker, railing at the team seated in his boardroom about how the rise of small, independent coffee shops that source quality beans is threatening their brand, one tiny café at a time. They need a new idea, and they need it now. A woman, an account executive who hasn’t had her Big Idea yet, allows her gaze to slowly shift down to her briefcase, where the Dream Journal she’s been keeping since eighth grade is peeking out, pleading to be released from its corporate cage.
Could this be it? The moment she’s been waiting for? If she pitches her lifelong dream to see a unicorn immortalized in a non-caffeinated blended beverage, will they laugh in her face? Or will she finally pay off that student loan, give her parents something other than Starbucks gift cards for Christmas, and make Jared in Accounting rue the day he ever dumped her for Barbara?
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure it went more like this:
The director of marketing projects an image of trending emojis among iPhone users on a large screen, and team members proceed to rate the "Frappuccino Potential" of each one (probably on a scale of Tall to Venti). Eventually, they settle on the unicorn emoji, as its color palette, mythical status, and popularity among 12- to 24-year-olds makes it conducive to the coffee chain’s next non-coffee phenomenon.
If that story doesn’t make you barf, try the Frappuccino.
I’ll say this for the drink – it is pretty. And that’s what Starbucks was counting on, too; because, well, if you order a drink at Starbucks and don’t Instagram it … did it really even happen?
The Unicorn Frappuccino, unlike its eponymous spirit animal, is now everywhere, so you might as well know what you’re missing. The blended beverage is made with ice, milk, Frappuccino syrup (sugar), mango and vanilla syrups (sugar), and something called Blue Drizzle, which is actually made from a rare superfood found in the Brazilian rainforest. (Just kidding. It’s sugar.)
The result is a cotton-candy-pink slushy, with a bright blue line that snakes its way around the top of the cup, and slowly melts into the rest of the drink. The whipped cream on top is sprinkled with what Starbucks has charmingly titled “fairy powder,” a dusting of blue and pink that matches the drink below and looks great with a Hudson filter.
You know how, sometimes, you’re drinking a perfectly reasonable mangoes-and-cream smoothie, and then you accidently suck an Atomic Warhead up through your straw? That’s what drinking a Unicorn Frappuccino is like. Not metaphorically; it literally tastes like that.
Starbucks is calling it a flavor-changing, color-changing experience, and describes it thusly:
“Magical flavors start off sweet and fruity, transforming to pleasantly sour.”
In other words, that wavy blue ring of Blue Drizzle looks and works like Clorox toilet bowl cleaner, slowly oozing down the interior wall of your cup like ecto-slime. Go ahead and touch your tongue to the blue “fairy dust” on your whipped cream. Does it feel like you just licked an electric fence? Yeah, that’s the “pleasantly sour magic” that is slowly infiltrating your blended crème and, eventually, your stomach lining.
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How is it that the same people who bemoan the use of GMOs and artificial flavors and colors will also flock en masse to spend $6 on a drink that is electric blue, neon pink, and ultimately turns a shade of purple that doesn’t exist in nature? America is a fickle fig, ladies and gentlemen.
Ironically, if you make it to the end of your quest for the unicorn – that is to say, you drink the whole thing – the product at the bottom of your cup is actually quite pleasant. The slushy purpleness is creamy, fruity without being too sweet, and leaves a certain sparkle on the tongue that I can only attribute to the blue ooze, which has by now been cut by enough of the rest of the drink as to be tolerated by the human palate.
But if one of those undiluted blue gobs finds its way to your straw, God help you.
The Unicorn Frappuccino will be available at participating Starbucks stores until April 23, when it gallops back into the mist from whence it came. Many Phoenix locations were sold out by afternoon on release day (April 19), and several stores saw profits in the thousands of dollars that day, due to the Unicorn Frappuccino alone.