Just as you can chart the passage of time through the strata of cliffs, so, too, can you age a food trend by looking at its color. Pink, specifically.
In the late 1990s, it was the mellow orangey-pink of strawberry kiwi Snapple. The early 2000s brought the deep, dark magenta of Pom Wonderful, the mega-trendy pomegranate juice that was introduced in 2002. Then the color morphed into the soft baby pink of cupcake frosting, a trend that hit its peak in 2008.
Around the same time, we were also deeply fond of Jamba Juice smoothies the color of guava, as well as the brownish-pink of bacon, which topped snacks from doughnuts to milkshakes and formed the shell of tacos. We left the bacon days behind for the magenta of acai bowls, trendy in 2014, and then the dusky peach of rosé. Our restaurants turned millennial pink in 2017.
And here we are in 2019, with a new pink drink and a new trendy fruit. The Starbucks Dragon Drink adds a hue to the spectrum: a bright bubble gum pink, the color of the Barbie Dreamhouse. It is not exactly the same shade as the ruddy pink peel of dragonfruit (also called pitaya), a tropical fruit grown in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not as though Snapple was concerned about accuracy when it brought strawberry kiwi to the fore.
Dragonfruit is the new acai, if any fruit that has been around for ages can be the new version of any other fruit. That is to say: Dragonfruit is the new buzzy ingredient in quasi-health foods, appreciated more for its novelty than its taste. It is a strikingly beautiful fruit that can have white or pink flesh, dotted with black seeds. It is rich in antioxidants. But it has a pretty mild flavor, sort of like an underachieving kiwi.
Starbucks isn’t the only company playing with dragonfruit: There are dragonfruit chips and dragonfruit gum. The Japanese candy Hi-Chew has a “Superfruit mix” exclusive to 7-Eleven in the United States; it has dragonfruit, acai and kiwi, and chia seeds stand in for the dragonfruit seeds. It’s the starring ingredient in a ceviche in the Miami outpost of José Andrés’s restaurant The Bazaar. Lemon Perfect, a maker of cold-pressed lemon water, has a dragonfruit mango version. There’s also a Dogfish Head summer beer, a collaboration with the band the Flaming Lips, called Dragon & Yum Yums, with dragonfruit and yumberry, which seems like a strong contender for a future trendy ingredient.
This is a drink that exists for Instagram, like every pink drink that has come before it since the app’s 2010 introduction. But the difference is that this one is kind of good. The Dragon Drink is caffeinated – it contains green coffee, a tea-like drink made from unroasted coffee beans. There’s also mango flavoring, white grape juice, pieces of dehydrated dragonfruit, and a whole lot of sugar. The drink can be made with or without coconut milk.
It’s the pink drink of summer – or at least until the next one rolls in. Yumberry is a nice shade of fuchsia, after all.