- Starbucks baristas say they’ve been asked to make weird blue drinks that aren’t on the menu.
- Customers called them the “tropical drink”, “tropical refreshment” and “forbidden refreshment”.
- The drinks are almost certainly based on a prank that surfaced on Facebook and TikTok.
Starbucks baristas have been mystified by requests to make bright blue drinks known as “tropical drink,” “tropical refreshment” and “forbidden refreshment.”
The drinks have a few things in common, current and former baristas told Insider. Firstly, they all seem to share the same blue hue. Two, they’re not on the menu. Third, their color cannot be achieved with any of the usual chain ingredients.
And four, they’re almost certainly based on a prank that surfaced on Facebook and TikTok.
Four current and former Starbucks employees told Insider that customers asked them to make one of these three blue drinks. Some said customers showed them TikTok videos of the drinks. Three others said customers had not requested the drinks but had heard about them through social media.
But what about the color blue?
Most Starbucks employees who have encountered the drinks speculated that the blue tint could only be achieved with Urnex, a cleaning liquid used on coffee-making equipment. A current barista in New York City suggested the color could come from Gatorade Blue.
A Starbucks spokesperson said, “This is not a real drink and is not available in our stores. We have stringent food safety procedures in place of which the use of a chemical in a drink violates these standards. We are not aware of any incidents in which a customer has been intentionally or unintentionally served any of these drinks. “
Gary Ladewig, a former Starbucks barista in Illinois, described the blue drink as “Urnex Refresh.” He told Insider that he was from a Facebook group for Starbucks baristas that is not affiliated with the company.
Ladewig said it was “just a joke that happened on one of Starbucks’ Facebook pages” before it was leaked on TikTok. No customer had asked him to make the drink, he added.
Wacky blue drinks seem to poke fun at the craze of patrons asking Starbucks baristas to recreate elaborate, personalized drinks that appear on TikTok. Sometimes the drinks can’t be prepared and staff have to explain that maybe they are pranks, the baristas said.
In a TikTok video claiming to promote the blue drink, a customer appears to arrive at a Starbucks drive-thru and ask for “tropical refreshment.” After a cut, a Starbucks employee hands the customer a bright blue frozen drink. After another jump, the customer shows the label, which indicates that the drink is a “Vt Strbry Acai Rfr.”
In the space on the label that typically lists beverage specifications and modifications, it simply says “Tropical Refresher”. (Starbucks sells a line of Refresher-brand cold drinks, including a strawberry and acai cooler, but none of those drinks are blue.)
A TikTok user said he didn’t think it was a real drink. The user speculated, “This is most likely Urnex (Starbucks cleaning product) and lmao water.”
Another user commented: “That doesn’t exist. They trollin [sic] you. Don’t be that person. Starbucks does not have a blue drink. 5.5-year-old Starbucks partner here. “
Insider obtained footage from a TikTok video that is no longer appearing online. In the video, a Starbucks employee points to a bright blue drink and says, “Have you all tried the new tropical refreshment? It’s blue.”
A comment on the TikTok video says, “I remember seeing aa [sic] photo of frozen urnex which is also blue so after my shift I looked on tik tok ‘tropical drink’. They wanted ice cream cleanser lol. “
The images were shared in a private Facebook group for current and former Starbucks baristas. One group member told Insider, “Facebook group posts are just barista jokes, [none] of us try to promote these things to customers. I don’t think that’s necessarily true for TikToks. “
Nat El-Hai, a former Starbucks barista in Beverly Hills, suggested that the fake blue tropical drink likely came from a barista who posted it on TikTok as a joke. El-Hai told Insider that several customers ordered what they called “the tropical drink” and met her on TikTok.
A barista said that customers were sometimes “frustrated” when told that the “tropical drink” was not real. Some customers “accuse us of lying to them or denying them a product,” said the barista.
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