“BIG PUMPKIN ENERGY.” That’s the signage that glows down at customers from a giant menu screen at my nearest Dunkin’ location, punctuated with footage of a sultry drizzle swirl and a sprinkling of spices atop whipped cream. While the annual pumpkin spice machine clanks to life again at Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and elsewhere, Dunkin’ has, against all odds, established itself as the leader of the conversation in 2023. How? By using uber-popular rapper Ice Spice as the face of its fall menu, a lineup helmed by the new Ice Spice MUNCHKINS® Drink. Yes, that’s a drink with Munchkin doughnut holes blended right into the coffee.
Everyone’s buzzing about this drink, and not just because Ben Affleck and Ice Spice starred in kind of a funny commercial about it. You can’t get much more of-the-moment than Ice Spice, whose fame only grew this past Tuesday night at the MTV Video Music Awards—she won Best New Artist and was seated beside Taylor Swift all night. The very next day, the Munchkin-filled drink debuted at Dunkin’, conveniently named after both Dunkin’s signature doughnut holes and the nickname for Ice Spice fans. But the public’s curiosity is mostly piqued by the form factor: How does a Pumpkin Munchkin taste when it’s whizzed up into a cup of frozen coffee?
The press release from Dunkin’ describes this drink as “The collaboration you never knew you needed: Pumpkin Munchkins and Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee, blended together to create the Ice Spice MUNCHKINS® Drink. It’s fun, it’s delicious and it’s not your ordinary pumpkin drink!”
When I ordered the drink at my local Dunkin’, I was immediately suprised: The employee looked over to check on a rapidly dwindling supply of Pumpkin Munchkins in the basket alongside the other doughnuts. I had assumed the doughnut holes blended into the drink were some sort of pre-bagged crumble situation, but no; three Munchkins were plucked from the basket and placed directly into the bottom of the cup. It’s even itemized on the receipt that way:
It seems as though the new drink is something of an ordeal to make. At my nearest location, the doughnut baskets, frozen coffee station, and toppings area are situated as far apart as possible, meaning that although I was the only person being served in the otherwise empty cafe, it took a solid 5-6 minutes to assemble my order. Unlike many complicated limited-time-only menu items, however, there were zero flaws in execution—I was handed a beautifully crafted sugar bomb that looked exactly like its picture.
Despite its lovely looks, I anticipated that the drink would taste sludgy from the deconstructed doughnuts. However, it had the consistency of any other Dunkin’ frozen coffee drink, and that’s true for two reasons: One, the smallest size you can get is a medium, and three little blended Munchkins all but disappear into those 24 ounces of coffee drink. Two, the Munchkins were so thoroughly pulverized that they didn’t leave any detectable chunks or crumbles behind. Ground up so finely, their mass was quickly dissolved into the liquid and ice crystals.
Flavor-wise, this is a great entry in Dunkin’s pumpkin lineup. It’s got a strong pumpkin spice profile without tasting perfumy or overly artificial—or maybe the rest of the drink already tastes so artificial that the fall flavors feel right at home. The whipped cream only feels useful when it’s stirred into the drink for added creaminess and can easily be skipped. The caramel drizzle only has aesthetic merit and its sweetness gilds the lily; I would order it without next time.
Ultimately, if Dunkin’ is going to commit to the bit of blending real Munchkins into frozen coffee, the Munchkins should be more present throughout. I want chunks, dammit, something I can bite into. I even went digging around inside my coffee with a spoon trying to excavate the slightest bit of Munchkin that hadn’t been caught by the blender blades, but there was nothing. When I finished the drink, the only evidence that the Munchkins were ever there was a filmy residue lining the cup. Scraping up some of this residue with a spoon, it formed a loose paste that had the taste and texture of, well, saturated doughnuts—as every sip of the drink should have had.
Maybe it would be better if the Munchkins were just plopped in there and not blended at all. Or just crumbled up ever so slightly. Indeed, Dunkin’ could learn a thing or two from Portillo’s cake shake, which offers detectable chocolatey hunks of cake just big enough to chew but small enough to suck up through a straw. That shake is beloved for a reason, and if Dunkin’ mastered the art of pairing doughnuts with its coffee, it could add a whole new section to its menu year-round. Had there been more detectable doughnut in the drink, I would gladly pay $5.30 for this again.
It’s downright impressive that Dunkin’ has found a way to make itself the center of the pumpkin spice conversation this fall, and I commend the chain for innovating a drink that combines two of the most beloved aspects of its menu in one cup. It’s got the ice, and it’s got the spice—it just needs a little more Munchkin.