Here at Consumerist’s virtual headquarters, we were reading a Starbucks fan blog, as we do, and noticed a passing reference that took us by surprise. A post mentioned a “secret menu” drink called the Undertow, which consists of hot espresso on top of cold half-and-half and flavored syrup. This sounded both confusing and delicious, so we made the editor whose office is closest to a Starbucks go out and try to order one.
The Undertow has been around for a long time, unofficially, as an off-the-menu Starbucks drink. When done correctly, it’s about a 4 to 6 ounce beverage, with cold milk on the bottom with espresso shots floating on top. In the Starbuckian world, I’ve heard a lot of people order it with vanilla syrup or even white mocha sauce on the bottom (or pre-stirred in with the milk).
The upscale version uses half-and-half and Madagascar vanilla, but the point is to drink the beverage quickly enough so that the layers don’t mix and hit your mouth as two separate temperatures. Alternate names for the drink are the breve blast (breve is a fancy coffee word for half-and-half), John Wayne, speedball, bludgeoner, cup of love, and some other inappropriate names that we won’t repeat.
We learned the basic recipe poking around online, and dispatched Kate Cox to a Starbucks in downtown Washington, DC. No one at this particular Starbucks knew what an “undertow” was, or recalled anyone asking for one before, but they were happy to make one. It cost $3.53 (plus a tip for being great and making the drink.)
Was it any good? Kate’s verdict: it tasted like a regular old iced vanilla latte from Starbucks. Maybe if she had gulped it down right away, there would have been the novel mixing of flavors and temperatures. Instead, she said that the overall effect was that of an iced latte that wasn’t watered down with melted ice.
If you’ve ever ordered this beverage, or you’re a Starbucks partner who wants to berate us for even publicizing such a thing, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Thanks to Eater for pointing us to this story.)