The other day, on my way home from a meeting, I saw the sign from the road. The local McDonald's was touting their elusive Shamrock Shakes ($2.09 - $3.19, depending on size).
This green concoction is, like the McRib, a limited-time-only treat, designed to capitalize on the St. Patrick's Day holiday. First introduced in 1970, the Shamrock Shake is the usual McDonald's shake flavored with an antifreeze-colored mint-flavored syrup.
If this shake were simply introduced as a minty addition to the usual vanilla, strawberry, chocolate flavors that McDonald's has in it's frosty beverage lineup, it probably would have been eliminated due to low sales. But the marketing machine at the golden arches had a better idea.
Sell the beverage for a limited time only and don't sell it at every location. This gives the Shamrock Shake some intrigue (especially with eight-year- old kids and the parents who want to make them happy). If it's difficult to find, it must be good.
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Then in the '80s, McDonald's went one better and introduced a mascot behind the shake. The stereotypical Uncle O'Grimacy, the green, Irish cousin of the purple Grimace. This still couldn't help the green menace, which was discontinued due to lack of interest.
But everyone likes nostalgia, so in 2008, the Shamrock Shake returned. People immediately gravitated toward it. We suppose these are the same people who liked Mork and Mindy and had Cabbage Patch dolls. People got Shamrock Shake fever. A website was formed where you could find a Mickey D's that sold the frozen green slime. This made the drink even more popular.
O'Grimacy on a Shamrock Shake cup circa 1980. Notice the green was less alien inspired then.
This year, McDonald's did one better and promised the shake would be available in every single McDonald's restaurant (it still pains me to call McDonald's a restaurant) in the United States. The fast-food mega giant has posters and signs reminding you that you want a green shake.
Which is what led me to turn my green car around and head over to the drive through for a Shamrock Shake of my own.
When the shake was placed into my hands, the only thing I could notice was the color. This was an unholy and unnatural green. This was no shade of green found in nature. This was the color of green food dye. Or Scope mouthwash. The whipped cream and cherry on top, made the shake look less like a celebration of Saint Patrick and more like something elves would eat on a break from toy making at the North Pole.
In fact, that's what it tastes like. A heinous combination of sugar, mint, and a faintly chemical taste. A treat for elves and not leprechauns.
If you Google "What do leprechauns eat?," you'll get everything from soda bread to green clovers to mushrooms to, of course, Lucky Charms cereal. There's no mention of Shamrock Shakes.
In any event, whether the shake is best suited for elves or leprechauns is debatable. What's for certain? Shamrock Shakes are not palatable for humans. So on St. Patty's day, we suggest sticking with the green beer.