Starbucks is introducing a new national menu item inspired by a drink it serves only at a single gourmet location

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Starbucks is debuting a new summer beverage inspired by an Italian ice cream-espresso treat.

On Thursday, Starbucks is adding Affogato-style Frappuccinos to the menu in the US and Canada. The beverages are created by pouring a shot of espresso on top of a Frappuccino, adding a jolt of caffeine and melty flavor to the drink.

Starbucks is featuring three Affogato-style Frappuccinos — vanilla bean, caramel, and mocha — on the menu, but customers can add a shot of espresso to any Frappuccino. A tall beverage will cost from $4.25 to $4.75.

The new Frappuccino variant is based on affogato, an Italian dessert in which a scoop of ice cream is drowned in a shot of espresso.

While this is the first time that Starbucks is serving up an affogato nationally, one location of the coffee chain added the Italian delicacy to the menu in late June.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle serves a line of affogatos that are prepared with local ice cream instead of with a Frappuccino. Variations on the Roastery's classic affogato include a cold brew ice cream float and the Shakerato Affogato, which is made with icy shaken espresso and finished with vanilla syrup and a mint sprig.

The affogato is likely not the only future national menu item already being served up at the Roastery, which serves as a Willy Wonka-esque behind-the-scenes look at the production of Starbucks' Reserve coffee, as well as a testing ground that could determine the future of the chain.

Before Starbucks debuted Nitro Cold Brew earlier this summer, for example, the beverage was already on tap at the Roastery. Similarly, the Smoked Butterscotch Latte was served at the Roastery before becoming a national hit in early 2016.

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Starbucks locations around the world
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Starbucks locations around the world

The Roastery, and the more complex and gourmet beverages tested there, represent a major key to the future of Starbucks. With new items such as the Nitro Cold Brew, Starbucks is doubling down on coffee-snob-approved offerings with roots in craft coffee shop culture — a culture that is clear at the Roastery, where hip baristas mix coffee like cocktails.

The affogato fits into this plan perfectly, pairing flavors customers across the US already enjoy (Frappuccino plus espresso), with the legitimacy of a classic Italian dessert. Plus, as ice cream follows in coffee's footsteps in going craft and increasing in complexity, strengthening the link between the two makes sense for the future of the chain.

Even better for Starbucks, with the Affogato-style Frappuccino, the chain manages to achieve all this without adding a single new ingredient to the store. While serving Nitro Cold Brew required adding taps to 500 Starbucks locations across the US, adding Affogato-style Frappuccino simply requires a change of the menu board — and for customers to add a new Italian phrase to their vocabulary.

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