The recent social media frenzy around the Unicorn Frappuccino at Starbucks might have catapulted the photo-friendly drink into mainstream media, but several colorful concoctions have already taken over Instagram feeds, one hashtag at a time. These drinks are more than just a pretty picture, though. For restaurant operators, these hashtags have not only produced fan followings and engagement on social media, but they've also lead to press and exposure across the internet.
While the LTO Unicorn Frappuccino might be the latest beverage from Starbucks breaking the internet, the candy-colored Pink Drink concoction previously ruled Instagram. The popular once off-menu drink has a growing hashtag of over 200,000 posts, and a big enough cult following that Starbucks officially added the Pink Drink to their year-round beverage menu earlier this month.
McDonald’s seasonal fan favorite garnered fresh attention this year with the addition of four new minty varieties, offering up both hot and cold options similar in flavor profile to the original. The bright green shake has popped up all over Instagram as well with consumers sharing their Shamrock Shake love on the #shamrockshake hashtag, which currently has over 98,000 posts, from selfies to homemade fan artwork.
Bigger is better in the #crazyshake hashtag, where towering milkshakes topped with everything from clouds of cotton candy to whole slices of cheesecake keep social media users infatuated with the sweet treats. New York City burger and beer bar Black Tap has popularized the hashtag, with its gravity-defying desserts dominating the nearly 5,000 posts on Instagram. The bar has also coined the cheeky hashtag #blacktapthat, which contains almost 4,000 posts of diners visiting Black Tap, spreading awareness of the brand.
Although NYC cafe The Good Sort has only been open about three months, it’s already making colorful noise on social media with its rainbow lattes and new iced iteration, which combines a variety of health-conscious ingredients into one tricolor drink. The picture-perfect latte, served in a cup emblazoned with the shop’s minimalistic logo, is sprinkled all over the already 4,300-plus posts for #rainbowlatte on Instagram—which has measurably helped drive sales. The drink has garnered extensive media coverage, with write-ups from Vogue, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan and even a Facebook live demo with the Food Network.
“The vast majority of our guests who order the rainbow latte saw it on Instagram,” says Eddy Buckingham, co-owner of The Good Sort. “It is a rare guest who takes a sip without taking a photo first.” Despite the social influx, The Good Sort is “pretty intent on the growth to be organic” as the drink’s popularity grows, Buckingham says. “We do like to repost content posted by our guests. One as a thank you for the exposure and patronage, and also to foster a little sense of online community.”
World latte art champion Hiroshi Sawada has created quite the buzz with a signature coffee option at Sawada Coffee in Chicago. The military latte combines vivid matcha green tea with vanilla syrup, espresso and cocoa powder to create a drink that looks reminiscent of camouflage. The specific branding of the beverage has gotten the signature drink over 2,000 posts on Instagram, with imitators of the two-toned latte starting to pop up as well.