Val Hacks: Pho’s Frappe

In this edition of Val Hacks, Pho Vu ’23 whips up a frappe in an effort to emulate Starbucks’ classic and delectable drinks.

Val Hacks: Pho’s Frappe
In this edition of Val Hacks, Pho Vu ‘23 whips up a frappe in an effort to emulate Starbucks’ classic and delectable drinks. Photo courtesy of Alex Brandfonbrener ‘23.

The beginning of this past summer held a sense of tranquility. I sent off my friends one by one as the outflow of students going home began. Valentine Dining Hall, which is usually packed, was now full of empty tables, chairs, and the few students who were staying at Amherst for an on-campus job or research. Val suddenly felt bigger, and my endless free time seemed ironic. Now that I had time to socialize, my friends were gone. What would I do to occupy myself?

On a scorching day in June, I was eating lunch with a friend who was set to leave town soon. Amid our conversation about badminton practice, I was overcome by a sudden craving for  a Starbucks iced coffee with caramel. I knew that getting one would be impossible. There used to be a Starbucks on North Pleasant Street, but it was shut down in 2019, so a die-hard fan like me had no options. Still, out of my seeming helplessness, I started to look around Val for a possible way to satiate my thirst. Years of tasting the Starbucks menu at different times and places eventually paid off: It was a first-try success with a “trusting the process” mindset and a couple rounds of going back and forth between two sections in the dining hall (they are quite distant from each other!). No Starbucks? No problem!

Apart from July and August, when the “Do It Yourself” station beside the waffle makers is temporarily closed, you can always rely on this tried and true formula. Ever since its debut, many enthusiastic souls have approached me and asked about the recipe, so I thought it would be helpful to share it with the Amherst community.


  • Black coffee of any kind. My recommendation would be Sumatra or Mocha Joe’s Medium Roast Costa Rica (Beverages Bar)
  • Whole milk (Beverages Bar)
  • Fresh chilled cream (Beverages Bar)
  • Monin Caramel Syrup (Beverages Bar)
  • Ice (Beverages Bar)
  • HERSHEY’s Chocolate Syrup (“Do It Yourself” Station)
  • Smucker’s PlateScraper Caramel Dessert Topping or Smucker’s Sugar-Free Breakfast Syrup (“Do It Yourself” Station)
  • Hood Sweetened Whipped Light Cream (“Do It Yourself” Station)
  • Cinnamon powder (“Do It Yourself” Station)


Take out a plastic cup from the Beverages Bar. For the base of the drink, walk to the “Do It Yourself” Station and drizzle HERSHEY’s chocolate syrup along the inside of the cup. Remember to rotate your cup as you pour the syrup in slowly. Fill the cup with crushed ice almost to the brim. Pump three shots of caramel syrup. Go to the coffee section and fill the cup slightly below the halfway mark with coffee. Then, fill three-eighths of the cup with whole milk. Add fresh chilled cream, and top it off with whipped cream. Drizzle chocolate syrup on top. Drizzle again, but with the caramel topping this time. Finally, don’t forget to sprinkle the cinnamon powder on top. Despite it not being a pumpkin spice latte, I guarantee the drink will spice up your fall semester just as much!

Note: Regarding the first step, if you are not an avid fan of chocolate drizzle decorations or you simply don’t advocate for plastic consumption, there’s no harm in using a paper cup. These plastic cups are compostable anyway, though.

According to Slang Define, “starbuzzing” refers to the feeling you get after having a great sip of coffee. I hope this Starbucks-inspired recipe will give you some starbuzzing for an energetic start to your mornings!