Say “Ice Spice Pumpkin Spice Munchkin Dunkin’” ten times fast, and Ben Affleck will come to your house carrying one hundred packages. But say it at a normal speed — with “please” and “thank you” on either end — at any Dunkin’ location, and you too can try the strangest drink of the season, one that stretches the concept of “drink” beyond “liquid.” At the MTV VMAs on September 12, rapper/phenomenon/reason to love New York Ice Spice debuted her own entry in the celebrity fast-food canon, the Ice Spice MUNCHKINS® Drink. While McDonald’s does the laziest pop-culture tie-in of all time with its “As Seen On” meals (which are just normal food served in a bag that says what movie it appeared in, plus a Loki label stamped on its sweet ’n’ sour sauce), Ice Spice is taking beverages in an entirely new direction, and Dunkin’ is going along with it. Her beverage is rule-breaking and rebellious: a caramel iced coffee with pumpkin-spice Munchkins blended in. Forget slushies; this thing is a sludgy. My co-worker Reanna Cruz went out to get one on the very first day, so we got together for an emergency conversation to answer the questions: What does it taste like? Should you buy it? And does this stand a chance for DOTY (Drink of the Year) against the infamous Grimace Shake?
Rebecca Alter: Reanna, the Ice Spice Munchkin Dunkin’ is currently in my possession. You bravely went out and got it on its first day of release, while I waited an extra day. I ended up having my blood taken right before going to Dunkin’, so I think my depleted blood sugar is improving the overall experience. I want to know what your relationship to Dunkin’ is and what your relationship to Ice Spice is.
Reanna Cruz: Dunkin’ is my first love — I grew up in suburban New Jersey, where Dunkin’ is king, but now I live in Los Angeles, where I choose to travel 15 minutes minimum multiple times a week to get my Charli D’Amelio–branded caramel cold brew. It gives me something Starbucks, the Coffee Bean, Philz, etc. can not: the combined experience of a caffeine rush and feeling like my teeth are gonna fall out of my mouth. I had a similar love-at-first-sight experience with Ice Spice. I’ve been a loyal munch for the past year, and I love a celebrity brand collab, so of course it was imperative that I went to my trusty Marina del Rey Dunkin’ to try the Munchkins drink for myself.
RA: Do you think the Charli D’Amelio iced coffee is the most successful version of that?
RC: I do think it’s the best, taste-wise, and it welcomes return orders from me. Also love a brand collab, specifically the McDonald’s meals curated by Travis Scott, Mariah Carey, and J Balvin — but those aren’t particularly memorable or specific enough to warrant multiple purchases. I’ve tried all of them! But only once.
RA: Now that we’ve established our junk-food credentials, let’s review.
RA: The three flavors here are caramel, pumpkin spice, and, in theory, coffee. But that very specific sweetness of Dunkin’s caramel drizzle always overpowers their coffee. I don’t like it as much as Starbucks’ caramel, which tastes richer, deeper, darker, and more like real caramel. But the real factor here is that you do, in fact, taste not just pumpkin spice, but also pumpkin-spice Munchkin. Were you getting the fried, cakey, donut-y notes?
RC: Unfortunately, I was. And I say unfortunately because mine tasted slightly burnt and maybe even stale? But I also haven’t had a Munchkin in about five years, so maybe that’s just how they taste now. Other than that, like you said, it’s mostly caramel and pumpkin. The palate was one of a normal Dunkin’ seasonal beverage, and much like you prefer Starbucks’ caramel, I prefer Starbucks’ seasonal beverages.
RA: Every pumpkin-spice blend is different, and the one I tried today in this drink tasted so weird! The first note I got was almost savory? Like … not cumin … but kind of like cumin?
RC: I drank half of the beverage before the texture became extremely close to that of vomit. My roommate likened it to “bird food,” like when the mama bird predigests and throws up in a baby bird’s mouth. It was both loose and chock-full of pieces that, at a certain point, barely registered as Munchkins. I couldn’t finish it. How’d you feel about the blended-up Munchkins?
RA: I really applaud the concept, because more of these celebrity fast-food promos need to be innovating. Too many promos feel like someone’s business manager put a McDonald’s menu in front of their face and said, “Point to the things you like.” Blending one of Dunkin’s formerly titular Donut products into their coffee is an act of mad genius. Sadly, the reality is something chalky, pasty, pulpy, grainy, and, yes, vomitrocious. It didn’t take long for the liquid ingredients in the drink to start to separate from the solids. An hour in, my drink was two-tone.
RC: I definitely appreciate the ideas dial being turned up to 11 here. But it’s something that sounds better in concept than in practice, I fear. I’ve spent the last 24 hours thinking about it, and even looking at it as the day-old drink sits on my kitchen counter because I’m scared to throw it out in the inside trash, I think it comes down to the structural integrity of the Munchkin itself. It’s not dense enough to break up properly, nor is the frozen coffee strong enough to hold the pieces effectively. It’s unfortunate, because in my brain, I’d picture it to be akin to a cheesecake milkshake, or even a Starbucks Frappuccino. When I asked the Dunkin’ employee if the drink was a bitch to make, she laughed and said, “Not really, but the Munchkins clog the machine.” It really says a lot if the Dunkin’ infrastructure can’t handle the blended donuts.
RA: There were balloons in my Dunkin’ and I thought they were welcoming Ice Spice into the Dunkin’ familia, but no, I think it was just that a new franchise location had opened. I apologized in advance as I ordered, but they didn’t seem to have an issue with making the drink. The Dunk-ista (?) said he hadn’t tried it yet, but loves Ice Spice so definitely supports the beverage. It was awesome watching them pull Munchkins fresh out of the donut case and plopping them in the blender. It was also nice to see the attention to detail when they add an interior cup-drizzle of caramel and a secondary drizzle atop the whipped cream. It was about $5.22 for a medium at my location (downtown Manhattan), which was frankly a steal because it was my breakfast and lunch.
RC: Yeah, when I pulled up, there was no signage, nothing. I actually got scared pulling into the Dunkin’ lot because I thought they hadn’t gotten the news, and I’d be the crazy person ordering the Ice Spice beverage at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday. But when I rolled up, the drink was already on the menu, and I asked for it in a sheepish tone — I, too, was embarrassed. But my favorite Dunk-ista was behind the counter, and she knows me for being the only person in Los Angeles still ordering the Charli D’Amelio drink twice a week, so she just laughed and rang me up. The rest of the Dunkin’ employees seemed less than thrilled to make the bev, though, which makes sense, now knowing that the machine gets clogged by the Munchkins. These poor service employees.
RA: It’s been over two hours since I drank the drink (I tapped out halfway through), and I’m doing surprisingly well — no stomachache or sugar hangover, no gastrointestinal issues brought about by dairy. It didn’t cause me physical distress. But then again, I just had blood drawn at the doctor, so maybe it just replaced all the missing blood in my body and reset me to normal? Can drinks do that???
RC: You’re mad lucky, Rebecca, because my roommate and I both felt like we got hit by a truck. Maybe it’s because I didn’t know I could order it with oat milk instead of whole (my biggest mistake), but my roommate got the non-lactose version and spent a similar amount of time on the john an hour after consumption. I usually opt for a sugary, intricate coffee, but this was an unprecedented level of stomach cramping. I tweeted that I hoped Ice Spice was paying for plumbing bills because surely my household was not the only one deeply affected by the Ice Spice Munchkins Drink … my stomach was in its own Ice Spice–themed Saw trap.
RA: Between “Munch (Feelin’ U),” a fandom called Munchkins, being named being Ice Spice, and having pumpkin-orange hair, the collab is flawless and cohesive. This drink feels dumb and young and fun, in a good way, and I think that pairs well with Ice Spice’s entire vibe. And for what it’s worth, something about the ad, featuring Dunkin’s own Ronald McDonald Ben Affleck getting meta about his brand ambassadorship, made me realize we’ve hit a convergence point between reality and fiction, where real-life Dunkin’ marketing has grown indistinguishable from the fictional and parodic Dunkaccino from Adam Sandler’s seminal work Jack and Jill. I don’t know what reality is anymore. I don’t even know if we exist.
RC: The ad was giving not-filmed-in-the-same-room, but I do think the collaboration makes sense for those very reasons, Rebecca, with emphasis on the young factor. I think this drink is designed for young teenagers who have a higher tolerance for nonsense in their beverages. This drink gave me an acute feeling of “maybe I’ve aged out of sugary frozen coffee.” It’s a drink designed for people, like myself, to post on social media and not engage with it taste-wise. Do you think this drink will be around for a while? Like, do you think it warrants itself to TikToks and virality? It doesn’t seem like the restaurants themselves are promoting it all too well.
RA: I can’t imagine a world where Dunkin’ allowed Ice Spice to blend Munchkins into a beverage and sell it as an official on-menu item if the Grimace Shake hadn’t come first and been such a huge success. So much of the social-media phenomenon surrounding the Grimace Shake was that it was such an obviously gross color to consume. Like, that wasn’t meant to go in a human body. This concept swaps color for texture. The issue there is, texture doesn’t read as well on-camera. Looking at the drink in photos I took, it looks like a normal iced latte. And even when foods go viral on TikTok unrelated to some sort of mascot or rapper attached, it’s usually because they have a compelling visual element. The only way this has a shot at going viral is if people put their phones in Dunkin’ workers’ personal space and film them while they blend the donuts, and I’m sick of people filming people when they’re at work, especially in customer-service roles. Unless Ice Spice invents some sort of TikTok Challenge to go along with the drink, I sadly don’t see it reaching Grimace heights.
RC: I feel like the golden standard for the celebrity-food linkup is McDonald’s, and that’s because even when the food might not look incredibly appealing or embody something new and exciting for the menu (thinking of the Travis Scott burger, which was just a Quarter Pounder with bacon), they do change the bags the food is served in. With the Grimace Shake, the color was the big draw, but when I got it, it was given to me in a Grimace-branded cup. That’s something that I feel is missing here. Despite Ice Spice being such an integral part of the beverage’s appeal, she is absent from the store, the packaging, and even the promotional aspects other than the name of the drink itself. I don’t think it’s set up to go viral. It also doesn’t help that every post I’ve seen about it was about how crazy the drink makes you feel.
RC: Personally, it’s a one-and-done for me. I will not be purchasing this drink again, nor will I be telling people to buy it unless they’re interested in tasting pumpkin-spiced gruel through a straw.
RA: I actually do recommend it … but only to people like us who think spending five dollars on something you know will be gross for novelty’s sake is a good way to spend five dollars. Leave it to Ice Spice to de-cheugify pumpkin-spice season.