Sugar rush: Recreating the lovely, yet elusive Unicorn Frappuccino

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, May 6, 2017

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Mocha Madness

MOCHA MADNESS – David and Racey show off their final creations, mocha frappes, which they could barely drink because of the sugar overload. Messenger photo by Kristen Tribe

If you’re in a certain age group (teens to late 20s) and on Instagram, you probably saw a lot of Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccinos in everyone’s selfies a few weeks ago. I was not one of those lucky few who managed to snag one before the Decatur Starbucks sold out in a single day.

David and I, both coffee addicts, were disappointed to miss out on this rare and aesthetically pleasing drink. So we decided to cut out the middle-man and just make our own.

SWEET CARAMEL – The clear winner of the day were the caramel frappes. Messenger photo by Racey Burden

Now, if you read any reviews or promotional material concerning the Unicorn Frappuccino, you likely know that Starbucks never really specified a lot of the flavors in the drink – there was some mango, but also “pink powder” and “sour blue drizzle.” Maybe Starbucks just wanted to be sure posers like us couldn’t replicate their recipe, or maybe it was all just a bunch of food coloring and they didn’t wanted to admit it. Whatever. David and I found a recipe that claimed to look like the Unicorn Frappuccino, not taste like it, and looks are more important than what’s on the inside, kids.

Milk, ice cream, ice, food dye, strawberries and blueberries went into our concoction (note that the original recipe did not call for blueberries, but we improvised ’cause that’s what makes a great chef and/or barrista). The final product actually looked pretty cool, all pink and blue swirls, and when we added whipped cream and colored sugar to the top I almost felt like we’d done it. We’d finally defeated Starbucks at their own game.

The thing is, every review of the Unicorn Frappuccino I read said it tasted disgusting, like sour birthday cake. We were sure ours would be better. It was pretty, plus it had actual fruit in it! Fruit is healthy and generally tastes good even when blended, right?

Wrong! Our frappe was actually super gross. Maybe we shouldn’t have added the blueberries. Maybe God looked down at man and saw us getting too ambitious with our drink designs and decided to remind us that we are not the masters of our universe; I don’t know. In any case, it tasted like a sour smoothie. I make smoothies a lot, ones with spinach in them, and they taste way better than this did.

So we gave up and poured the beautiful remnants down the garbage disposal. The drink turned a nice purple color at the end, so at least it still looked great as it washed out of my sink. Feeling discouraged but not defeated, David and I then set out to make some simpler frappes – caramel and mocha.

Those tasted so much better. David said it was the coffee included in the recipes, but I’m pretty positive it was all the sugary syrup with which we coated both frappes. The downside of said sugar being that we both felt sick after drinking them and could barely take more than two sips of the mocha.

And so we found ourselves between a rock and a hard place – the most beautiful drink tasted terrible, the drinks that tasted good were at lethal, tooth-rotting levels of sweet. We just can’t win.

And yet I’m not ready to concede defeat, because hey, at least we figured out how to make our own drinks at a much reduced price. Take that, Starbucks (just kidding, I still love you, see you tomorrow).

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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