July 24, 2011

A cool reception for Dunkin' Donuts Frozen Hot Chocolate

Yesterday I struggled to prepare notes and sort my ideas for a review of two varieties of flavored Cheerios. Techniques that have served me since grade school failed to put my thoughts in order. Outlines, idea webs and note cards all failed me.

Suddenly insight burst forth into my head like a cold water balloon: We're in the middle of a massive heat wave sending the mercury arching into triple-digit territory. No one wants to eat breakfast or even talk about it. Foodies just want something cold to take on the sizzling temperatures outside.

I'm no different from any other foodie, so a quick change of gears saw me at Dunkin' Donuts ordering a Frozen Hot Chocolate. A few sips and I needed no idea web to tell me I had one incongruous beverage in my hands.

You could fry an egg on top of a car Saturday, but the Frozen Hot Chocolate kept things from boiling over.
The Frozen Hot Chocolate is little more than an icy example of contradictions. The one in the name is nothing more than a gimmick -- there's obviously nothing hot about this drink, and it would be better named a slushy, or, in Dunkin' Donuts speak, a Chocolate Coolatta.

Moving beyond the label, the flavor unleashes its own set of discrepancies. At first sip, the Frozen Hot Chocolate comes off as intensely sweet and packed with chocolate. It's impossible to keep from immediately sucking up every liquid drop within reach of the straw. Once all the fluid has found its way into your mouth, however, you're left with half a cup of bland ice.

Give it time, and that ice melts into a tepid brown fluid with just a hint of cocoa. The resulting beverage contains just enough vapid flavor to leave you longing for a shot of Hershey's syrup.

At a fundamental level this isn't a problem unique to the Frozen Hot Chocolate. The end of slushies are classically painful experiences, unless you happen to love pastel chunks of ice drained of all their initial syrupy flavor. I harbor absolutely no love for that ice, and I actually find the Frozen Hot Chocolate to be a step below its fruit-slushy brethren at this stage of the sipping game.

While the end of fruit slushies leaves me longing for the strong sugar of a fresh slushy, the end of the Frozen Hot Chocolate had me wishing I'd ordered a milk shake instead. The recently melted chocolate-milk doppelganger in the bottom of my cup left my palate crying out for richness, a richness I quickly realized never actually existed in the Frozen Hot Chocolate. Sure, it was sweet. Yet all that sugar only covered up a lack of depth.

We have an outline for trouble any time the end of a drink makes you wish you'd ordered something else. Things start out all right before dissolving into a lackluster effort worthy of just two sporks out of five.

If you want to order and actually enjoy the Frozen Hot Chocolate, I'd recommend drinking half of it and chucking the rest. The first part of the drink is a completely different story from the second, and maybe you can keep your tongue from ever realizing the depth of flavor it's missing -- you're better off without that flash of insight.

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