Sugar rush: Copy-cat coffee sends sweet tooth into shock

By David Talley | Published Saturday, May 6, 2017

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Prettiest Drink

PRETTIEST DRINK – A blend of blueberries, strawberries and ice cream made up the homemade “unicorn” frappe. Messenger photo by Racey Burden

This didn’t start as a joint column. It started with a newsroom conversation about Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino.

For those not well-versed on fancy millennial coffee orders, that’s a frozen cappuccino, and they’re not very good. It’s more milkshake than coffee and at this stage in my life, I’m more coffee than person. I have no use for coffee-flavored milkshakes.

But this unicorn drink caught our eye. It’s colorful, and the buzz on social media is that it tastes like sour birthday cake. That sounds like the kind of gross I’m willing to try.

TAKE A SIP – David tries the caramel frappe. Messenger photo by Racey Burden

We talked about it enough to consider visiting the store to order one, only to call and find out they ran out the same day as the drink’s release. Bummer, Starbucks. You should have known better, and we should have known better than to trust you.

But Racey had a solution – let’s make our own. We found a recipe online, which promised a Unicorn Frappuccino with none of the sour taste. That’s a little bit of a letdown, but the recipe called for ice cream, which I don’t need an excuse to eat.

We picked two other famous Starbucks drinks to make, the Caramel Ribbon Crunch and the Mocha Frappuccino. While the Messenger kitchen was probably big enough to accommodate us pretending to be baristas, we picked Racey’s house as our DIY coffee shop because she had several of the ingredients we needed and a large enough blender to make multiple drinks.

Below are the results:

We started with the Unicorn Frappe. You can find the recipe we used at wcmess.com/unicorn. It doesn’t require any coffee, so made coffee for the other two and had it cooling in the fridge while working on this one. The Unicorn recipe called for strawberries and red food coloring to create the red swirl and only blue food coloring for the blue swirl. We added actual blueberries to make it a little more special.

You make the two parts separately, using ice cream to thicken them so they don’t just blend into a purple mess. We poured a little red, some blue and then the rest of the red to create a layered effect and added whipped cream and colored sprinkles to top it off. As someone who drinks his coffee black, this looked unnecessary, but potentially tasty. The end result: a thin, overly-sweet milkshake.

Our second beverage, the Caramel Ribbon Crunch, was my favorite of the group. You can find the recipe we used at wcmess.com/caramel. The recipe called for coffee, milk, caramel syrup, brown sugar and whipped cream. While it was about as sweet as the unicorn frappe, it tasted better thanks to the real coffee. I would make this drink again, but halve the caramel syrup and skip the brown sugar and whipped cream.

Our final beverage was the mocha frappe. You can find the recipe we used at wcmess.com/mocha. Ironically, we were a little annoyed with the food blogger responsible for this recipe, who starts off with a really long introduction about themselves. Sounds familiar.

This recipe called for even more coffee, which helped it rise above the level of a chocolate milkshake. We brought a blender of the mix back to the office for others to try. I felt like I’d gotten pretty good at garnishing drinks with whipped cream at this point, but Racey took this one and totally overdid it. The drink still ended up being pretty good, but by the time I was finished, I had eaten entirely too much sugar for the day. I went home and had boiled eggs and baby carrots for lunch and took a nap.

I don’t know the store prices for the drinks we made, but if I had to pick a moral for this column, it’s that you can probably make your own for a lot cheaper. The mocha and caramel drinks are worth trying and were relatively simple to make.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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