We Added Lemonade to Our Cold Brew Because Starbucks Told Us to

Is the beverage combo really as bad as TikTok says it is?

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Photo: Angela L. Pagán

At the beginning of August, Starbucks began promoting a Summer Menu Remix. It’s not a slate of new late-summer menu items, but rather a list of recommended customizations for customers to add to existing Starbucks drinks. (Sounds a lot like McDonald’s “hackable” menu from earlier this year.) Soon after the Summer Menu Remix was announced, TikTok users zeroed in on an unusual combination recommended by Starbucks: cold brew coffee and lemonade. Some TikTok vieos deem the drink a complete flop, yet others say the drink is better than they expected.

Although the combo is not actually on the Starbucks menu board, it’s generating the intended buzz among customers. The idea of mixing lemonade and coffee might be enough to cause some people to do a spit take, but you can’t judge a drink that’s been around for as long as this has.

A brief history of lemonade and coffee, aka mazagran

Combining lemonade and coffee is nothing new; the roots of the drink can be traced to Algeria as far back as the mid-1800s. According to one possible origin story, French colonial soldiers found themselves temporarily cut off from the supply of milk and brandy that they’d normally add to their coffee, so they added water instead. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad, and they named the concoction mazagran, after the town in Algeria where it originated. Eventually the beverage evolved to include seltzer, lemon or lime juice, or rum (if you’re in Austria).

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The ways in which this drink can be served has also evolved. Mazagran can be made using cold brew or espresso and can be shaken or stirred.

In fact, this isn’t even the first time Starbucks has attempted to market mazagran; back in the mid-1990s, it collaborated with Pepsi on a bottled version of the drink. However, this product was a coffee soda that did not contain any sort of lemon at all. It was ultimately a commercial failure.

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How do coffee and lemonade taste together?

To walk you through my experience in the simplest of terms, I would say this: What I smelled was coffee, what I tasted was lemonade, and what lingered on my palate was coffee. Whether all of that makes for a pleasant sipping experience is a question I can’t quite answer.

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The word that keeps coming to mind for this drink customization is “fine.” I didn’t gag upon my first sip of the coffee and lemonade combo as some online reaction videos show, but I also didn’t smile to myself or think, wow, that’s great. In fact, the first sip tasted so mild that I had to take another one immediately, just to get a sense of what flavors were at play.

The two notes, coffee and lemonade, don’t really blend, as I could taste both distinctly—but the lemonade acts as a sweetener for the cold brew. As someone who does not enjoy drinking my coffee black, I was worried this drink would taste bitter due to the lack of cream and sugar. The lemonade addition provides enough sweetness to dull the cold brew but also hits your tongue with a little sour twist. After that, you’re left with a coffee bean aroma that sticks around longer than the lemonade.

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The iced drink is light enough in color and flavor that it reminds me of the chain’s line of Refreshers, but one that is just a bit off. Although the drink was sippable, it’s not something I’d buy again (especially not at $5.42 for a Tall). Final call on this customization? Starbucks cold brew and lemonade is fine. Not fantastic, not terrible, but just fine. It’s worth the one-time cost for curious drinkers, and I can almost guarantee you won’t be doing a spit take.