It used to be that unicorns were in the same category as fairies, gnomes and trolls: mythical and only really believed by the very young. Unicorns have come a long way since then, however, and the word is now commonly used to describe something that’s bursting with pastel colors, rare or so unique that there’s never going to be anything like it again.
Even companies such as Uber and Airbnb are described as unicorns, though that’s because they’re worth over a billion dollars and are still privately held (and also because they rarely are worth as much as they are valued).
Where this gets far more weird is in the food space, where a unicorn food is described as “food too pretty to eat.” Yes, that’s a thing. And now has jumped on the bandwagon with its one-week-only Unicorn Frappuccino, which I decided to try in the spirit of hands-on reporting.
Psyching ourselves up for something teeth-numbingly sweet, we headed to the local Starbucks where they assured me that the Unicorn “fraps” were selling really well. Turns out that flavor-wise, it’s a mango Frappuccino with pink coloring and a sour blue flavor squirted on the sides of the cup. Add whipped cream and sour pink and blue sprinkles and you’ve got yourself a strange beverage.
People have been going crazy for the Unicorn Frappuccino on Instagram and Twitter—which is surely what Starbucks intended. The hashtag #unicornfrappuccino is a top trending topic and is only barely edged out by discussion of Bill O’Reilly, who might also be a unicorn, now that I think about it. Starbucks definitely seems to have a hit on its hands. I’ve even heard anecdotally that some Starbucks have run out of the ingredients, on day one of the five days it would be available.
And then there are all the other unicorn foods. The Daily Meal, for one, argues that “the Unicorn food trend has to stop,” while detailing pink unicorn hot chocolate, pastel unicorn macaroons and pink and sprinkle-covered unicorn cheesecake. The Daily Meal partly blames the Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok because they supposedly serve edible unicorns.
Of course, the social justice warriors are starting to take on the Unicorn Frappuccino, because, well, ‘merica. On Twitter, @merican1dolator opines: “Now I know why God let all the unicorns drown during the Flood” while @RageMichelle whines “Unicorns are majestic animals, people. We can’t reduce a unicorn to tall, grande, venti or trenta.” Is PETA involved yet?
As for that Starbucks unicorn drink, here’s the truth: it’s actually pretty unpleasant. Without the sour flavor mixed in, it’s a sweet mango beverage, not too bad, though weirdly pink, but the sour flavor is really, really sour and the sprinkles on top? They’re the sourest of all, almost painful to lick and try directly. It all adds up to a beverage that was definitely cheery in appearance but not so pleasant in the taste department.
Then there’s the nutritional side of things. You can’t actually get a trenta unicorn frap, but a venti (large) Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino is bursting with 500 calories, primarily from its 76 grams of sugar and 11 grams of saturated fat.
So if you have a weird My Little Pony or Strawberry Shortcake fixation and will only eat food that’s pretty, well, Starbucks has a drink for you, at least for a few more days. After that, you’ll be stuck asking for a Cap’n Crunch Frappuccino and hoping the barista knows how to make it.