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The student news site of New Trier High School

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Hot take: Spicy Starbucks is NOT the new summer drink

Starbucks released its new Spicy Lemonade Refreshers in three, exciting, fruity flavors on April 16th. I taste tested them so you don’t have to
Starbucks billboard advertises new Spicy Lemonade Refreshers

On April 16, Starbucks launched its hottest new item: Spicy Lemonade Refreshers, which comes in tropical flavors Spicy Strawberry, Spicy Mango Dragon Fruit, and Spicy Pineapple. When this popped up on my phone, I was shocked. With Refreshers as one of  the most popular drinks Starbucks offers and the lavender powder released just weeks before, this new launch seemed abrupt and, frankly, out of place. The new Spicy Chili Powder Blend takes the classic, beloved Refreshers in a unique, controversial direction. Yet, as a spicy food lover, I felt compelled to give these drinks a fair shot.

Waiting in the Winnetka Starbucks on Chestnut and Spruce for my three Spicy Lemonade Refreshers to be made, I felt a little exposed, very clearly just purchasing every flavor to give each new drink an overly critical review, something I’m sure the baristas have dealt with constantly the past week since its release. The bright lemonade and spicy powder remained a constant throughout all three flavors, with the neon yellow pineapple bits, dried strawberry slices, and hot pink dragonfruit clusters differentiating them. Creating a festive assortment of colors on my cardboard cup holder, my exotic drink choices made a statement on the counter amongst all the brown iced coffees. Balancing the drinks on my lap, I drove home quickly, eager to discover why Starbucks made a new recipe.

Spicy Mango Dragon Fruit

Starting with the deep purple beverage in front of me, Spicy Mango Dragon Fruit was the first drink to be picked apart. Skeptical, I tried the drink, taking small sips, nervous about facing an overly bearing spicy flavor right off the bat. At first, the drink tasted fairly normal. The fresh, sweet flavor of the classic drink stuck out, with the flavor seeming, strangely, normal. However, a spicy, chemical-tasting aftertaste quickly hit my throat, a slow burn staying put while the drink was long gone. I was able to stomach another sip, yet the spice kicking in at the end tasted extremely fake. Despite being advertised as a refreshing summer drink, it tasted overly dry and the peppery flavor lingered in my taste buds for far too long. Over the summer, I can only imagine this making you feel more dehydrated than before, forcing you to buy another drink in order to cool off. 

Spicy Strawberry 

I tried Spicy Strawberry second. With an already bad impression of the Spicy Chili Powder Blend, I had low expectations for this one. Fearing that this version of the Strawberry Açai Refresher would ruin my love for the original, I slowly took my first sip. Again, it was hard to notice anything at first, my brain even tricking me into thinking the baristas may have forgotten to add the spicy blend. But once again, the spice kicked in right at the end, ruining the flavor we all know and love. In the process, I began to question what the people behind these new recipes have been thinking lately. The new Lavender powder, also advertised in giant letters on all Starbucks bulletin boards, was becoming a  personal hatred of mine. The spicy flavor of the drink tasted overly tangy in the back of my mouth, and the sour lemonade disappeared far too quickly. The spicy powder took control of the drink’s aftertaste. The Spicy Strawberry Refresher wasn’t terrible at first, yet I consistently felt like I was being tricked. The spicy flavor tasted extremely artificial, and as someone who loves all things spicy, this was a big disappointment. 

Spicy Pineapple

Then it was time to taste the third and final flavor of the new collection: Spicy Pineapple. Yay. My stomach, already hurting, and my throat, already burning, did not want to try any more sips of these creative creations, yet I decided to try my last purchase. This one, however, was unlike the others. Whereas before, the drinks took a while for the spicy kick to come in, this one came right away. The spicy powder mixed with the fruity pineapple juice burst right into my palette, and my brain immediately sensed an awkward combination of flavors. Pineapple, my absolute favorite fruit, definitely dropped a few ranks  in my head after trying this drink. To be completely fair, I had never tried this drink before, so my extreme dislike could, in part, be my exposure to a new flavor, something different than my usual Strawberry Açaí Lemonade with light ice. Again, the flavor tasted fruity and bold at first, and quickly dried out to a stale aftertaste. Of the three, Spicy Pineapple is my least favorite and something I would prefer to never have in my mouth again. 

Overall, Starbucks’ Spicy Lemonade Refreshers are a “no” for me. I will never understand the stray from the classic, refreshing, fruity flavors of the regular Refreshers, but at least Starbucks is trying something new. As an avid Starbucks lover, I want to confirm that, yes, these drinks are disgusting, and no, it was not worth the money. After a long review and many petite sips, the Refreshers now sit dumped down my kitchen sink, the three cups tossed in the recycling bin. Maybe this will be your favorite drink, and I applaud you for being unique, but for the rest of you, let’s stick to the classics. Spicy Refreshers? Absolutely not.

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