We Tried Starbucks Spicy Refreshers And Can't Wait To Share The Spice

Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refresher flavors
Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refresher flavors - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Spring is the season when it's winter in the shade and summer in the sun, so you need a drink that can keep you cool or hot in either circumstance. Thankfully for your stroll through the cherry blossoms, Starbucks just announced its new Spicy Lemonade Refreshers, a piquant twist on the usual icy relief that lemonade brings to a warm day.

Two kinds of powder make this line of drinks a little different from the lemonade you might make at home. The first is the chili powder blend that puts the spicy in their name. The second is green tea extract, which technically makes this drink a mild version of the Arnold Palmer. The two tastes set these beverages apart from typical diluted lemon juice, as do the fruit flavors infused into each variety.

Now that's a union even Arnold Palmer's evil twin, Spicy Arnold Palmer, would approve of. Read on to find out where you can try these drinks, how much they cost, and what I thought of each flavor, which I was recently able to taste in advance at Starbucks Reserve.

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What Are The Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refreshers?

Starbucks Spicy Strawberry Refresher
Starbucks Spicy Strawberry Refresher - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

At present, there are just three flavors of the new Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refresher, so you're in good standing to try them all before they disappear. The inaugural flavors are Spicy Strawberry, Spicy Dragonfruit, and Spicy Pineapple. All three are made from a mixture of lemonade with green tea extract and include other fruits supporting their efforts in a thoughtful combination of tastes. But what really sets these apart from other spring drinks is they bring the heat even if the weather isn't warm yet; Starbucks's custom spicy chili powder blend — which we sampled in their recent hot honey cocktails, exclusive to Starbucks Reserve.

In addition, the coffee chain is selling a Spicy Cold Foam made by adding the same chili powder to the ubiquitous cold foam offered at Starbucks locations. The Spicy Cold Foam can be added to any Starbucks drink, though Starbucks recommends pairing it with iced chai tea or the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew. The company also encourages customers to experiment with their own tastes by adding the foam to any drink they think would benefit from it — which probably doesn't include these tart and tangy infusions.

Price And Availability Of The Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refreshers

Starbucks Spicy Dragonfruit Refresher
Starbucks Spicy Dragonfruit Refresher - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refreshers are available nationwide starting Tuesday, April 16... unless you're a Coachella attendee who's lucky enough to party it up at the Delta Air Lines Ephemeral Garden Party at Gallery Media Group's Gallery Desert House. Whew! That was a mouthful. Is anyone else parched after pronouncing that long of a title? Good thing anyone with cause to say the entire name will be hoisting one of these early today, April 14, but you have to be a Delta SkyMiles member to get in. Everyone else will just have to wait a couple more days, by which time these sweet beverages will be in Starbucks everywhere in the United States.

Unlike some previous Starbucks spring offerings, you won't have to find a Starbucks Reserve or Roastery to sample these treats. Much like the recent lavender menu, the Spicy Lemonade Refreshers are at every single Starbucks in the country, and just as likely to vanish without warning as supplies run out, which they will probably do chili powder first. If that happens, you could always try sidling up to your barista and ask for a non-spicy Refresher, but then it's a game of chance.

Taste Test: Spicy Strawberry Lemonade Refresher

Starbucks Spicy Strawberry Refresher cup
Starbucks Spicy Strawberry Refresher cup - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Strawberry is the star, but its strong, silent partner açaí gives the first drink I tried an awesome earthy undertone; something I noticed consistently in the choices of each beverage's supporting player. If you're expecting the fresh taste of strawberries, it's here for a moment, but this drink is so sweet, and in a different way from a bite of the berries themselves, it's easy to sink into an intensity that more closely resembles a Skittle than the fruit underlying it.

That's when the chili kicks in, pairing best with the açaí. All in all, this drink soothes you, then gives you a pinch just when you relax your guard, but there's an imbalance here between how much liquid it would take to satisfy thirst versus how much more parched you'll get drinking the sugar before you cross into rehydration. Coupled with its minimal fruit pulp presence compared to the other drinks (already scant themselves) this fairly mild flavor whiffs an easy toss with a beloved strawberry/lemon combination, drowning in its own sucrose.

Taste Test: Spicy Dragonfruit Lemonade Refresher

Starbucks Spicy Strawberry Refresher cup
Starbucks Spicy Strawberry Refresher cup - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Dragonfruit is one of the most beautiful foods in the produce section, but its understated flavor is closer to a mild melon than any kind of ferocious flavor like, say, mango... which is why it's a good thing that Starbucks included mango in the mix here. Its sticky sweetness and pungent earthiness combine into a more forceful flavor than the supposed top-note dragonfruit. As with other drinks in this lineup, the sugar amplifies the mild flavor of the titular fruit, but the secondary fruit's earthiness persists pleasantly.

And just as much as with those other drinks, you can increase the spiciness to your tastes by requesting extra powder, meaning you could actually add heat to make this dragon breath fire. Will you exhaust our nation's precious and dwindling supply of Starbucks spicy chili powder blend a little bit faster in pursuit of this poetry? Yes, you will. The future will just have to deal with it. This is our time, baby. Anyway, this was our favorite of the flavors, by a nose, but also by the tip of the tongue.

Taste Test: Spicy Pineapple Lemonade Refresher

Starbucks Spicy Pineapple Refresher
Starbucks Spicy Pineapple Refresher - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

You won't catch it from the name, but this drink follows through on its big opening burst of pineapple with a slightly earthy stroll through passionfruit. The heat crawls in somewhere in between those two flavors, then lingers a long time in the sweet aftertaste.

There's also a pulpy chew that some will find heavenly, but those who like their orange juice filtered might consider distasteful. If you ask me, it's a plus, and for a moment, this flavor was the front-runner among the three I tried. I had to think long and hard about whether this flavor won out over Spicy Dragonfruit. All three drinks feature, to their benefit, minced bits of real fruit, but the silky texture of the dragonfruit and mango pushed it just ahead of these neck-and-neck flavor combinations. Sorry, Spice Pineapple — ya did good, but in the end, it went to the judges for a technical victory by decision. No shame in fighting to the end, though.

Taste Test: Spicy Cold Foam Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

Starbucks Spicy Cold Foam Vanilla
Starbucks Spicy Cold Foam Vanilla - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

As mentioned above, the Spicy Cold Foam can be added as a topper to any drink on the Starbucks menu. By way of example, my tasting included the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew coffee spiced up by this lovely foam. Though not part of the Spicy Lemonade Refreshers lineup, it does bear the same chili powder blend for heat and is released at the same time.

While the taste of both the foam and the cold brew was very good, the fattiness of the foam itself does nerf the heat of the powder blended into it. I found any peppiness to be almost indetectable, though, in fairness, this was one of the last drinks I tried out of a double tasting that included the Refreshers and the hot honey cocktails exclusive to Starbucks Reserve, so take it with a grain of salt (and spice) after everything else lit my palate up.

I may have been tongue-hobbled by heat by that point, but as none of these drinks presented too sizzling in the sipping, I think this one is a strong candidate to spice as far as you can stand. Take it all the way, and be glad for the pain. Now is not the time to be subtle with our, again, rapidly diminishing reserve of bespoke chili powder. You know and I know that these flavors are going to vanish before you know it, so go for the gusto.

Are The Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refreshers Worth Buying?

Spicy Dragonfruit Refresher closeup
Spicy Dragonfruit Refresher closeup - Brendan McGinley / Tasting Table

Here's the deal: These drinks are sweet. Really, really sweet. For some people that might be the draw, but I found the Refreshers universally cloying. You're better off getting the Spicy Cold Foam on a coffee or chai and still feeling sated, but minus the heavy feeling of a sugar rush.

Now with that said: The flavors of these drinks are successfully paired, and I really appreciate the inclusion of real fruit pulp. So should you skip them entirely? No, but they would blend beautifully into a larger iced tea or a lemonade with less sugar in it, or even a sparkling drink like a low-sugar soda or straight seltzer. So while I can recommend the order itself, I don't recommend it unto itself. I strongly advise you to use these three flavors as mixers with a big, cold cup of something mild, and you'll find the balance between taste and oversaturated sugar. The ideas in these varieties are strong, but the compositions lean too far.

If you're not looking to rehydrate, or you just don't want to consume this much sugar even in diluted form, give the Refreshers a miss. Making your own dragonfruit-infused iced tea might be a pain in the neck, but at least you can set it to a level where the fruit is the star rather than the sugar.

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