July 17, 2024

The rising temperatures in spring and summer used to usher in cold brew coffee season for those who prefer not to drink piping hot coffee on an equally stifling summer day. But over the last few years, we’ve collectively embraced cold brew coffees as year-round beverages — to the extent that Starbucks even offers most of its seasonal fall and holiday drinks in iced, cold foam, and frappuccino variations. With the fanfare of cold coffee offerings plateauing, Starbucks has made a bigger splash with new, fruity, non-coffee-based drinks on its Refreshers menu, including an all-new flavor profile for the 2024 season.

The Summer-Berry Starbucks Refreshers drinks are the newest seasonal addition to the Refreshers menu, on the heels of the Spicy Lemonade upgrades to the existing Refresher menu flavors in April. In contrast to the pink, magenta, and yellow colors of the existing Refreshers, the new Summer-Berry Refreshers are a stunning blue color. Like many of the other Refreshers options, the new Summer-Berry drinks include a special add-in, but this is the first time one like this has been offered.

Starbucks invited Mashed for a sneak preview of the new drinks and other new menu offerings, ahead of their scheduled release date. This is how the new Summer-Berry Refreshers stack up, what you can expect from the new menu items, and how to get your hands on them as things start to heat up this season.

Read more: How To Get More Flavor From Your Coffee Pods & Other Keurig Hacks

What’s In The Summer-Berry Starbucks Refreshers?

Summer-Berry Starbucks Refreshers Beverage

Summer-Berry Starbucks Refreshers Beverage – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

Like the drinks on the rest of the Refreshers menu, the new Summer-Berry flavor is offered in a few variations. The most basic preparation is made with a blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry blended base shaken with ice and water. It gets its poolside hue from blue spirulina instead of food coloring—but rest assured, it doesn’t taste like the blue-green algae from which spirulina is derived.

At the bottom of the drink are vibrant red raspberry pearls. These are reminiscent of colorful boba pearls but are different in ingredients and texture. Boba bubbles are traditionally made of tapioca starch and have a chewy, slightly slimy, and soft texture. The “popping raspberry flavored pearls” used in the new Starbucks Refreshers aren’t made of tapioca, and instead of adding a chewy element to your drink, the pearls pop in your mouth with a sweet burst of raspberry liquid.

The colors and flavors of the Summer-Berry Refreshers instantly brought back nostalgic summer memories of blue raspberry ice pops and red raspberry candies that pop open to reveal a jam-like filling in the center. I was immediately drawn to the nostalgia and bright colors of it all, but pleasantly surprised to find the drink shows quite a bit of restraint in its sweetness. The Summer-Berry Refresher is much lighter than drinking a mixed berry fruit juice, but packs more flavor than you’d get from most flavored seltzer waters, which often come across more as scented than containing any actual flavor.

What To Expect From The Summer Skies Drink

New Starbucks Summer Skies Drink

New Starbucks Summer Skies Drink – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

Not only does the new Refresher have an option that’s mixed with coconut milk instead of water, but the coconut milk version also gets a unique name. On the menu, the Strawberry Acai flavor transforms into the Pink Drink, the Mango Dragonfruit into the Dragon Drink, and the Pineapple Passionfruit Refresher becomes the Paradise Drink with the addition of coconut milk. Following the same formula, the Summer-Berry Refresher with coconut milk is called the Summer Skies Drink. And it’s a fitting choice since the milky addition makes for a lighter-toned translucent powdery sky blue colored drink.

The bigger berry flavors are a little more subdued in the Summer Skies Drink version of the Refreshers. Thanks to the coconut milk addition, it has a silkier texture and slightly more distinct tropical notes. But it’s still clearly a berry-flavored drink, and perhaps the version that best showcases the popping raspberry pearls at the bottom. The delicate milky flavor serves as a nice backdrop for the bursts of raspberry instead of competing for attention.

The new beverages are served with a wider straw, exactly like what you’d get with a boba drink, to make sure you can suck up all of those fruity pearls from the bottom. In 2018, Starbucks began phasing out straws in favor of a sippable lid, and with that same sustainability mindset, the new larger straws are compostable. They will also only be available for a limited time while the Summer-Berry Refreshers are on the menu.

Lemonade Adds Pop To The Starbucks Summer-Berry Refreshers Lineup

New Starbucks Summer-Berry Lemonade Refresher

New Starbucks Summer-Berry Lemonade Refresher – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

Undoubtedly, the most electric version of the new Refresher is the Summer-Berry Lemonade version, which mixes the triple berry base with lemonade instead of water or coconut milk. The lemonade brings additional sweetness to the drink and a hit of lemony zing that brightens up those berry flavors for the most exciting version of the new flavor. It’s like strawberry lemonade but with the bigger, juicer flavors of the three other berries in this mix.

In fact, the Summer-Berry Lemonade version is so flavorful on its own that the popping raspberry pearls almost don’t seem necessary. But according to Starbucks, the popping raspberry pearls lend a hand in creating the drink’s flavor profile. Because of that, all of the new drinks must be served with the raspberry flavor pearls. Additionally, if you’d like to add the juicy popping pearls to another iced drink, tea, or Refresher, you can for $1 per scoop of pearls, up to 12 scoops’ worth (at which point, you’re essentially just drinking raspberry pearls on ice).

The lemonade and water-mixed versions of the Summer-Berry Refreshers look nearly identical, so you might not be able to immediately tell them apart if you order both. And if you taste the water-mixed version first, you might wonder how the drink could possibly be improved upon with coconut milk or lemonade. But each new addition makes for a new tasting experience, that offers something different with each rendition.

Summer-Berry Refreshers Ingredients And Nutrition Information

New Starbucks Summer-Berry Refreshers

New Starbucks Summer-Berry Refreshers – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

The great thing about the Starbucks Refreshers beverages (other than being icy cold on an unbearably hot day) is that they have relatively low calorie counts and offer a small boost of caffeine. For example, a 16-ounce Grande Summer-Berry Refresher has only 110 calories, with 55 mg of sodium and 27 grams of carbohydrates. The Summer Skies Drink has 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat from the additional coconut milk, 105 mg of sodium, and 31 grams of carbohydrates. A Summer-Berry Lemonade Refresher has 160 calories, 55 mg of sodium, and 39 grams of carbohydrates, thanks to the additional lemonade. Each of the Grande drinks has an estimated 50 mg of caffeine.

Refreshers beverages have a small amount of caffeine, which comes from the addition of green coffee extract (not tea, which you might assume) and is supposedly added for flavor purposes. Despite the fact that the new Refreshers are berry-flavored, the flavor base is primarily made with white grape juice concentrate. It also contains natural flavors, sweet potato, and carrot juice concentrates, stevia extracts, and the vivid blue spirulina concentrate.

The popping raspberry pearls are created with both sodium alginate and calcium lactate. This leads me to believe that they’re made using the gourmet cooking technique of molecular gastronomy spherification that gained widespread popularity in the fine dining industry in the early 2000s. The liquid ingredients in the pearls are similar to those in the rest of the drink, including natural flavors and vegetable juice concentrates.

Summer-Berry Refreshers Availability, Prices, And Starbucks Rewards Deals

New Starbucks Summer Sky Drink

New Starbucks Summer Sky Drink – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

Unlike the rest of the drinks on the Starbucks Refreshers menu, which are available year-round, the Summer-Berry Refreshers will only be available for a limited time. There’s no firm date for when the drinks will come off the menu, but they may become harder to find once supplies start to run out. Also, for the past six years, pumpkin spice latte season at Starbucks has begun at the end of August (even if there’s still a month or so of blistering hot temperatures remaining), so it’s safe to assume that the drinks will be gone by then.

Of course, you can order the drinks in stores everywhere beginning Tuesday, May 7, but you might want to consider ordering through the Starbucks app on certain days of the week for some extra perks. Launching simultaneously with the new summer menu items is the Starbucks Rewards App-y Days promotion. Through the app, you can score 50% off any and all handcrafted beverages on Fridays during the month of May, from 12 to 6 p.m. local time. Additionally, beginning on Monday, May 13, Starbucks Rewards members will receive personalized offers in the app every Monday in the month of May.

Prices vary by location, but a water-mixed Grande Refreshers drink typically costs between $4.75 and $5.45 before taxes. The lemonade and coconut milk-mixed versions of the Refreshers typically cost about 50 cents more than the water-mixed Refresher. Delivery fees and customizations may also cost more.

What Else Is On The Summer Menu?

Two new bakery treats on the seasonal summer Starbucks menu

Two new bakery treats on the seasonal summer Starbucks menu – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

The new Summer-Berry Refreshers aren’t the only new items hitting the Starbucks menu this season. There are also two new treats in the bakery case, including the Orange Cream Cake Pop and a Pineapple Cloud Cake. Fans of Starbucks’ cake pops will be familiar with the moist and buttery texture of the cake in the cake pop — which is orange cream flavored, mixed with buttercream, and dipped in a decorative white chocolate icing. The Pineapple Cloud Cake has a fluffy vanilla cake base that reminds me of the cake cups sold in the produce section at the grocery store in the summertime for making easy strawberry shortcakes. The cake is filled with pineapple cream, then topped with pineapple spread and whole fruit pieces before getting a final drizzle of icing.

Additionally, the fan-favorite White Chocolate Macadamia Cream Cold Brew is back on the menu for summertime, just like your favorite Hawaiian-inspired cookie. The cold brew includes macadamia syrup and White Chocolate Macadamia Cream Cold Foam. It’s finished with a crunchy Toasted Cookie Crumble Topping.

For those on the lookout for some of Starbucks’ under-the-radar releases, a new iced coffee blend will be available, served without Classic Syrup unless specifically requested. Whole bean coffee lovers are in for a treat with two new single-origin Starbucks Reserve coffees. Finally, collectors will find a new selection of mugs and tumblers in the Starbucks Artist Collaboration Series with beautiful designs by Chinese-American artist Monyee Chau.

Final Verdict Of This Summer Lineup

Summer-Berry Lemonade Starbucks Refreshers Beverage

Summer-Berry Lemonade Starbucks Refreshers Beverage – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

Creating an icy cool blue drink that looks like a swimming pool in a cup is an undeniably genius move. Before you even take a sip, you’re thinking about summertime, relaxing by the pool with a blue raspberry ice pop and craving a refreshing sip of whatever’s in that cup. It just looks so satisfying.

Having tasted the majority of the Refreshers flavors over the years, the Summer-Berry flavor is one of my new favorites, surpassed only by the Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade Refresher (which is just too hard to top). I was quickly roped in by the Summer-Berry drink’s appearance and won over with the big juicy berry flavor that comes on stronger than the Strawberry Acai Refresher’s flavor. Sure, it’s got more of a generic mixed berry candy flavor, but I was surprised by how balanced the sweetness of the drinks was in every iteration.

Each variation of the drink provides a little something different, but the Summer-Berry Lemonade Refresher is the clear winner. In fact, it was hard to stop drinking it long enough to taste all of the other drinks. The water-mixed version is ideal for anyone who just really needs to hydrate, but hates both the taste of lemons and plain water. The Summer Skies Drink is what I’d reach for when I’m in the mood for a more subtly flavored drink without sacrificing any of that liquid summer joy, but it probably wouldn’t be my go-to order on a sweltering day in July.

Tasting Methodology

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cold Brew

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cold Brew – Jenny Kellerhals/Mashed

Over the last several years, I’ve tasted nearly every variation of every Refreshers flavor that Starbucks has released, and have reported on seasonal menu changes for both the smaller summer season and wildly popular Starbucks fall and holiday menu lineups. When tasting so many drinks, I generally begin with the least complicated or lightest drink and work my way up to the most complex or heaviest.

After tasting all of the drinks in order, I’ll go back to taste and compare drinks that are the most similar, which helps define them in the ranking order. When a clear winner isn’t obvious, I rely on input from those I’m tasting with, as well as a classically reliable round of “Would you rather?” to honestly decide which drinks I’d prefer to keep drinking and which I’d pass on if given another sip.

Since Starbucks offered this particular tasting, I was able to taste all of the drinks and desserts in one sitting, side-by-side, to help distinguish the subtle differences between the drinks. For heavier drinks, I’ll pay attention to the nutritional information, but for the lighter Refreshers beverages, nutritional information tends to be less important than the flavors and ingredients in the drinks. For drinks with special ingredients, I take into consideration any added costs, perceived value, and how much it might appeal to a particular audience. In the end, the winner tends to be the drink I’d order without a second thought or worries about the price and dietary impact.

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