The new, limited-run Unicorn Frappuccino from Starbucks, a sugary wash of pink and purple “fairy powder,” has found itself in the center of a news and social media tornado since its launch on Wednesday.
It was designed to check all the boxes on the “cutesy” scale and thus to be the most Instagramable beverage ever created. And while it may have achieved a striking and, fine, kinda cute aesthetic, the Unicorn Frappuccino has been met with both disgust and delight, but one thing’s for sure: It went mega-viral.
Say what you will about the drink, but it has managed to worm its way into America’s social consciousness in the space of only a few days.
“Magical flavors start off sweet and fruity transforming to pleasantly sour,” Starbucks says of the drink. “Swirl it to reveal a color-changing spectacle of purple and pink.”
Initial responses to the UniFrapp zeroed in on its nutritional value, or complete lack thereof. It’s made of mostly sugar — 59 grams per drink — and some mango and passionfruit fruit concentrates. But honestly, were you surprised? Nothing that color was ever going to be nutritious.
But people’s focus quickly changed to other things once they began buying the drink.
Comments rolled in across the internet remarking on just how bad the drink actually tastes. On Reddit, one user recounts their particularly jarring experience with the Unicorn Frappuccino. “At a certain point in one’s Unicorn Frappuccino experience, the drinker must be reminded that pain and fear exist in this world,” they write. “I can only describe the flavor as maybe a Warhead sour candy mixed with dog vomit. It was truly one of the worst things I have ever drank [sic] in my life.”
Twitter users seemed to agree.
On Thursday, even baristas began getting involved in the commentary. Braden Burson, a barista from Colorado, posted a video on YouTube in which he rants about the drink.
“Please don’t get it!” he begs viewers. “I have unicorn crap all in my hair and on my nose…If you love us as baristas, don’t order it!” He explains that the Unicorn Frappuccino is incredibly difficult and stressful to make, especially one after another. Other baristas on Reddit felt the same way.
The drink even prompted a Newsweek article entitled “The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino Represents Everything That Is Wrong With America”, in which the author rails against a “vicious cycle” of marketing and cinsumption:
“Influencers snap photos of shiny objects and publish them to social media platforms; followers travel great lengths to get their hands on said shiny object for additional posts; the media then writes “hot takes” on said shiny object until multibillion-dollar industries create a newer version of that shiny object. The vicious cycle continues on and on, with no real focus ever being put on a product’s quality or value.”
But still, even despite all that, the drink continued to sell. And it was, as its core purpose originally stated, Instagrammed to hell and back.
Does all this mean that the Unicorn Frappuccino was a success? It’s hard to say, and it really depends on one’s definition of success. It has to be said that it makes for some good-looking photos. It also has to be said that the drink perhaps wasn’t designed with taste as a primary consideration. Like Starbucks’s Pokémon GO tie-in it captured people’s attention one way or the other.
The Late Show host Stephen Colbert dedicated an entire segment to the beverage, even taking a sip of one on air. If Starbucks was looking to generate a cultural moment, one that was as divisive as it was profitable and memorable, then the company hit the mark.
The Unicorn Frappuccino will end its run on Sunday, April 23, 2017.