Starbucks released its summer menu early this year and our editor decided it would be a good idea for someone to test all the drinks. In a single day. He was then kind enough to volunteer me for the gig. Now, five caffeinated sugar bombs later, it’s seeming less like a reward for my genius and more like he was trying to deliver me to the hands of death.
In recent years, the release of new Starbucks Frappucino has garnered nothing but disdain from the media. This is not without basis. Generally speaking, drinks like the Unicorn or Crystal Ball Frappuccino seem like little more than eye candy to help decorate your Instagram feed, not actual drinks meant to be enjoyed.
I’m here to report that the pendulum might be swinging back to drinkability. Of the five drinks I tasted, only one feels like its pandering to social media. Still, the sugar that has come to define this brand even more than caffeine is very much intact in this flight of newbies. Here they are, ranked inconsistently because I’m jacked up on caffeine and can’t decide on a clear ranking system. DEAL WITH IT.
Cold Brew with Salted Cream Cold Foam
Starbucks likes to position their new Cold Brew with Salted Cream Cold Foam as a simpler, less-indulgent option but at 230 calories and 23 grams of sugar, it isn’t really that at all. Utilizing Starbucks’ signature cold brew coffee, the Salted Cream is sweetened with a touch of caramel and topped with a salty and thick chilled foam. It is… unremarkable.
This feels like cold brew for cold brew drinkers who don’t want to commit to the intensity of actual cold brew coffee — think I’ve used the word “cold brew” too many times? Well, when you’ve had this much cold brew you can’t really help yourself okay?! Look, this drink has 185 milligrams of caffeine, I am absolutely wired folks!
What You Could Have Instead:
At 23g of sugar, you might as well have eight Starburst Fruit Chews and a 16 oz glass of straight Matcha Tea. The Matcha Tea will supply you with about 140 mg of caffeine — just 45 mg short of the Starbucks Cold Brew — and won’t cause you to crash a couple of hours later. And you don’t even have to eat all eight starburst because that’s kind of insane. Grab a fun size pack, and you’re looking at a way more health-conscious decision.
The Verdict: Bland. One out of five Ed Sheeran’s singing that song he sang in Game of Thrones that grown adults freaked out about way too hard. Is this really even a “new” drink, Starbucks? You just added some salt, caramel, and foam to your cold brew coffee.
Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino
Starbucks’ new Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino was designed for boring people who have grown tired of the regular Caramel Frappuccino and think this is “spicing” it up. In truth, there’s little difference. You get the benefit of caramel sugar crystals, which add a nice texture, and that’s about it. Starbucks claims they use a “dark” caramel sauce but it doesn’t taste all that different to me.
What You Could Have Instead: 80.9 Skittles. Drinking this is the sugar equivalent of eating 80.9 skittles in one sitting. That is insane. What are we doing to ourselves?!
The Verdict: Redundant. Like a repeating decimal. So far Starbucks is two for two when it comes to straight up disappointments. Is this new menu even worth announcing?
Starbucks LOVES making drinks for Instagram. They’ve become purveyors of insane photogenic eye candy for “civilized” health-conscious people to criticize on the internet. Enter the Dragon Drink. Obviously, using the word “drink” in the name of a drink conjures up images of Kool-Aid and mysterious purple stuff in the back of fridges.
So what kind of crazy sh*t is this going to be? Well, oddly enough, this is the most sensible offering on Starbucks’ entire summer menu. At just 90 calories and 19 grams of sugar, the Dragon Drink is pretty conservative and not all that bad for you. Sweet mango and dragon fruit flavors are hand-shaken with ice and topped with a scoop of real diced dragon fruit.
It tastes alright, it isn’t horrible but it’s a bit like a tropical Pepto Bismal. The smell is fragrant, if a bit overwhelming.
What You Could Have Instead: Well, uh, you could just have an actual dragonfruit. The average dragonfruit will contain fewer calories than the Dragon Drink but contains a whole lot more fiber, magnesium, and iron, as well as a host of antioxidants that’ll aid in lowering cholesterol, hold anti-cancer properties and reduce heart disease.
Dragonfruits are healthy! Starbucks’ Dragon Drink? Not so much. But they did, in fact, try to keep this one on the healthier side and we appreciate that. It’s definitely easier to score one than finding a ripe dragonfruit at your local roadside stop.
The Verdict: Five out of 10 adults singing Taylor Swift’s new single “ME!” way too loudly. We’re pretty sure that song is for children, this Dragon Drink might be too.
Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate! If you’re a fan of Starbucks’ Java Chip Frappuccino then you’re sure to love the Mocha Cookie Crumble, which offers a similar experience with a softer crunch and sweeter flavor. Chocolate cookie crumble, mocha drizzle, MORE chocolate cookie crumble, mocha sauce, and frappuccino chips are blended with milk and ice for a chocolate lover’s paradise of a drink.
It’s not bad tasting, but so sweet that it’ll make your teeth ache. You’d think Starbucks would be keyed into darker, less sugary types of chocolate by now.
What You Could Have Instead: Hey look at that, the Mocha Cookie Crumble has one gram less of sugar than the Caramel Ribbon Crunch. That means you could opt instead for 148.8 plain Milk Chocolate M&Ms!
The Verdict: I’m flying high on caffeine and sugar right now so I don’t have the patience for this rating system — which honestly started out weird anyway. So let’s say the Mocha Cooke Crumble Frappe gets a “67 grams of sugar out of too many grams of sugar.”
The S’mores Frappuccino is absolutely ridiculous! At 490 calories, the S’mores Frappe has the highest amount of calories of any of the new drinks on the Starbucks Summer Menu by a whole 100! It hardly tastes like you’re having a s’more but I will say this about it — it’s f*cking good.
Marshmallow infused whipped cream, milk chocolate sauce, vanilla, coffee, milk, ice, a double dose of graham cracker crumble, the S’mores Frappe is Starbucks’ most complex Frappe in terms of flavor on Starbucks’ entire menu. It actually has a progression of flavors, first hitting with vanilla, then a surge of decadent mocha goodness, and leaving you with the lingering taste of marshmallow.
Having said that, you’re absolutely insane if you drink this. It’s 1/4th the total caloric intake for an adult. It gets the top spot on this list for being both the worst for you and the best tasting, number one for different reasons — choose the one the best suits the way you look at life.
What You Could Have Instead: Come on this one is obvious right? Instead of having a Starbucks S’mores Frappuccino — as delicious as it may be — you could just make a good old fashioned s’more. This recipe from myfitnesspal will get you two s’mores for 268 calories and 24 grams of sugar. That’s for the most basic of basic s’mores too, you could go all health conscious and use real dark chocolate and sugar reduced marshmallows and eat five of them!
The Verdict: Oh, Starbucks! We love you but we’re pretty sure you’re just trying to kill us now. If you order this, you have no right to judge anyone who drinks a Coca-Cola ever again. For the rest of your life!
People should have to drink the Starbucks S’mores Frappe hidden from the rest of the world as a taboo act — S’mores Frappe drinkers are the new cigarette smokers, forever relegated to enjoying their vice away from the public, out in the cold. Not surrounded by a real campfire making actual s’mores with people who want to live. (Okay, honestly it isn’t that serious, I just want to be able to indulge in my own vice, drinking a Coca-Cola with a slice of pizza, without being looked at like I’m a horrible monster.)