Dunkin’s latest summer offering, their new Smoked Vanilla Iced Latte, is the perfect, refreshing antidote to a sweltering summer day, especially as the temperatures creep into the hellish realm of 90F and beyond.
But it’s more than that, too.
Upon my first sip, it was clear. Dunkin’s website describes the drink as blending “the brand’s rich, smooth espresso with Smoked Vanilla syrup,” asserting that the “bittersweet chocolate and dark caramel notes in Dunkin’s signature espresso complement the Smoked Vanilla for subtle sweetness that, when finished with guests’ dairy or dairy alternative of choice, create the ultimate summer sip,” — but I’d argue that it goes much further than that.
The way the Smoked Vanilla Iced Latte embraces the signature “burnt cigarette” flavor inherent in literally every Dunkin’ beverage – the flavor that we all know, love, briefly gag at, then muscle through — sends a powerful message. One of self-acceptance, of staying true to your roots, of embracing who you are, where you came from, and what you stand for.
The smoky undertones beg the question: “Did they just burn this batch of coffee then market it as smoky to make it seem intentional?” – challenging us to not only acknowledge and accept our deepest insecurities but to brandish them to the world, to display them without shame, to proclaim: “I am FLAWED! I am PROFOUNDLY MEDIOCRE! And I am PROUD!”
This type of unabashed confidence and poignant self-awareness can only be described as one thing: brave. Brave of Dunkin’ to not only refuse to remedy their coffee — despite receiving near-constant customer complaints deeming its flavor “not good” or “disturbingly cigarette-adjacent, flavor-wise” — but to embrace those complaints, transform them into a branded offering, half-heartedly tie the flavor to some bullshit like “summer nights by a campfire,” then release it to the world sans taste-test (I’m assuming).
Because it’s true, you could say the Smoked Vanilla Iced Latte has, as Dunkin’ describes, a “subtle, s’mores-like taste reminiscent of summer nights by a campfire” – but only if “subtle” actually means “overpowering – almost offensively so”; “s’mores” is actually shorthand for “s’more diesel gasoline poured directly down my esophagus, please”; and the “summer campfires” Dunkin’s marketing team is referring to are the ones you spent at your dad’s house when you were a kid, watching your sketchy Uncle Darrell chain-smoke Newports until three AM while you covertly texted your mom, begging her to please, please, come pick you up.
In this way, Dunkin’ embraces its roots (bad coffee you continue to drink) while simultaneously encouraging you to embrace your own (bad childhood you continue to remember with weird, misplaced nostalgia). You drink this latte because no one will ever truly understand where you came from, or what your roots — your home — mean to you, and just one sip of the Smoked Vanilla Iced Latte explains it better than you ever could.
Home is that burnt-out cigarette aftertaste that lingers in your mouth for hours after drinking a Dunkin’ coffee.
Home is avocado toast that is, weirdly, like, good, actually?
Home is the gaudy, orange-and-pink beacon of hope that is the Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of the grossest street in your hometown.
Dunkin’s new Smoked Vanilla Iced Latte tells you it’s okay to let the world know what you stand for — even if what you stand for is consistently bad coffee doused in an indefensible syrup flavor combination. Because Dunkin’ understands that sometimes what you want doesn’t make any sense, even to yourself.
They understand that you want the same $5 coffee every day, but you want it to taste noticeably different every single time.
They understand that you want an iced vanilla latte, but you want it to always sort of taste like the guy in the back sprinkled a few of his late coal-miner father’s ashes in it.
You buy yourself a latte as a “little treat” one morning, then proceed to do it every single morning until the day you die.
You call yourself an “extrovert,” but pre-order your coffee on an app to avoid any unnecessary human interaction.
You look in the mirror every day and tell yourself, “I am a good person deserving of love and respect,” then immediately send a “just following up here” email.
You’re dynamic. You’re the devil. You’re a coffee snob. You’re a Dunkin’ rewards member.
You’ll have a large Smoked Vanilla Iced Latte to go, please.