the chain gang

The Chains Are So Thirsty Right Now

How do you choose just one? Photo: Starbucks; Taco Bell; Sonic

This summer, the fast-food gimmick wars will play out in drinks. The same “food” innovators who dream up things like Cap’n Crunch doughnuts have turned their collective attention to beverages, and really, it makes you wonder if they’ve ever stopped to think about the fact that someone — a child, most likely — will actually have to drink this stuff.

First up is Starbucks, which will reportedly release the latest offering in its ever-growing line of Frappuccinos meant to be Instagrammed first, then consumed later, only if you absolutely must. Folks, get ready for the Crystal Ball Frappuccino. Like its precursors, this new drink is super limited edition (reported availability: four days, starting Thursday), and looks like the work of an R&D team being held hostage by Lisa Frank. It is a “marbled turquoise” drink that has no caffeine, tastes like peach, and comes topped with rock-candy crystals. (So, the exact opposite of actual coffee.) Given its name — remember: Crystal Ball Frappuccino — it seems that this latest follow-up to the Unicorn, Mermaid, and Dragon Fraps means the chain really thinks “magic” is big with the youth of America these days.

Meanwhile, over at Taco Bell, there is, as of a little over a week ago, a Skittles slushie. To maximize co-branding potential, it’s being advertised as a very cold way to “taste the rainbow” for the summer months, but officially, it’s called the Strawberry Skittles Freeze, and only uses the red candies in the drink. Give one to a blindfolded friend and ask them to guess which color it is, and you two can spend the rest of the warm months arguing whether the entire Skittles bag is in fact one flavor.

Finally, we have Sonic’s boldest play in as long as anyone can remember. The drive-in chain will introduce fast food’s first Pickle Juice Slush. Food & Wine was allowed (forced?) to try this at the chain’s Oklahoma headquarters, and reports that it’s “exactly what it sounds like.”

Although, in this case, the pickle part refers to a sweet-and-sour pickle, the taste-tester calls the drink “too sweet, as if overcorrecting for the acidity,” and “fluorescent.” If the idea of a pickle Slurpee is, for some unknown reason, off-putting to you, know that the actual flavoring comes from a syrup, and stores will sell you a squirt of that in, or on, “anything,” which means you can picklify an iced tea or a breakfast burrito or whatever you want instead of a slushie. It debuts in June.

The Chains Are So Thirsty Right Now