Two months ago, Starbucks announced that it would begin serving kale smoothies in its West Coast stores. Now, Starbucks has made it clear that those kale smoothies are in no way the beginning of a health kick: The coffee behemoth has publicly recommitted to its bread and butter—sugar-laden milkshakes for adults—by releasing six new sickeningly sweet Frappuccino flavors.
The flavors—Caramel Cocoa Cluster, Cinnamon Roll, Cotton Candy, Cupcake, Lemon Bar, and Red Velvet—are the brainchildren of Starbucks customers, according to Starbucks. “Over the years we have seen many creative recipes from our customers,” said Starbucks marketing director Renee Jones in a press release, “and the six Fan Flavor Frappuccino beverages featured in the Flav-Off contest represent a few of the most popular recipes.” This “Flav-Off” contest will allow consumers to vote for their favorite new recipe on Frappuccino.com from June 19 through June 30, and fans will also be able to express support on social media using hashtags like #TeamCottonCandy. The winning flavor will be available at a discount for certain hours over July Fourth weekend.
From Starbucks’ perspective, the ideal scenario would be if you bought all six of the new flavors between now and the end of June. But perhaps you don’t have room in your budget for more than one Frappuccino per week, or perhaps you simply don’t want to risk your money on a flavor that might end up being sort of gross. To help you figure out which new Frappuccinos—if any—to buy, I purchased all six of the new flavors yesterday and tried all of them along with a panel of tasters, who shared their unbridled opinions on each.*
What follows is my ranking, from best to worst, with our panel’s descriptions and commentary on each.
1. Cinnamon Roll
According to Starbucks, this is “A blend of cinnamon dolce syrup, white chocolate mocha sauce, vanilla bean, Frappuccino® Roast Coffee, milk and ice, finished with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon dolce topping.” Apart from one coffee hater, our panel liked it, declaring, “It sort of tastes like coffee ice cream but with a cinnamon taste … almost like a gingersnap.” Another panelist said she liked how the flavor “goes from sweetness into bitterness,” while a third gave this simple, straightforward endorsement: “It just tastes to me like a coffee Frappuccino with squirts of cinnamon bun syrup.”
2. Caramel Cocoa Cluster
Starbucks describes this combination as, “A blend of toffee nut syrup, Frappuccino® Roast Coffee, milk and ice and topped with a layer of dark caramel sauce, finished with whipped cream and a drizzle of mocha sauce.” Our panel gave it solid reviews, with one reviewer declaring it her favorite, even if it “also tastes fake.” Comparisons were made to “a Reese’s Pieces sundae,” “a Chocolate Coolatta,” and “a Mocha Frappuccino.” If you like the original Frappuccinos, this one’s a safe bet.
Starbucks tells us this is “A blend of vanilla bean, hazelnut syrup, milk and ice, finished with whipped cream.” Panelists commented on the prominence of the vanilla flavor, with one taster saying it tasted “just like vanilla,” and another praising the “beaniness of the vanilla beans in the aftertaste.” The coffee hater on our panel declared, “I love this one.” Of all the flavors, this was the most straightforward and the most straightforwardly sweet.
4. Cotton Candy
Starbucks’ official description of this flavor is, “A blend of vanilla bean, raspberry syrup, milk and ice, finished with whipped cream.” Most panelists disliked the flavor combination: “Like Jello before you set it,” “like melted lollipop,” and “like Peeps,” they said.
5. Lemon Bar
Says Starbucks: “A blend of lemonade, vanilla syrup, milk and ice, finished with whipped cream and a sprinkle of caramel sugar.” If milk and lemonade don’t sound like a promising combination, you’re right. Our panelists tried to put their finger on why it was so weird, positing that it tasted like “corn syrupy Italian ice,” “lemon-flavored milk,” and “milk water ice.” Finally, one taster hit the bullseye: “It tastes Sprite-ish.”
6. Red Velvet
“A blend of mocha sauce, raspberry syrup, vanilla syrup and Frappuccino chips with milk and ice, finished with whipped cream” can’t be that bad, can it? It can. Our tasters compared it to “fake hot chocolate,” “the cheapest Halloween chocolate,” and “cherry cordials.” One diplomatically said that the Frappuccino was “trying to do a lot of things at once, [but] it’s overwhelming in a bad way.” Since you can’t see the faces the panelists pulled after sipping this one, I will leave you with one last comment: “Ew, god.”
*Thanks to Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo, Seth Maxon, Lily Hay Newman, and Heather Schwedel.