A newbie tastes McDonald's Shamrock Shake for the first time

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Graphic: Natalie Peeples

McDonald’s Shamrock Shake is the dessert McRib; its annual return sparks both a chorus of glee or a wave of derision. Until this week, I couldn’t join either camp. I was left out of that most cherished of American pastimes: arguing about fast food on the internet. I had never had a Shamrock Shake, and I felt alone.

How this came to be was entirely accidental. I didn’t avoid the Shamrock Shake, nor was I banned from eating McDonald’s as a kid. I just… never had one. I confessed this fast-food blind spot to my coworkers, who reacted like Jack Black in the High Fidelity scene where a record store customer admits to not having Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde on vinyl: “That is perverse. Don’t tell anybody you don’t own fucking Blonde On Blonde.” Jack Black pauses for a sigh and hands over the record. “It’s going to be okay.”


I knew I was going to have to review the Shamrock Shake, coming to it as I am with fresh, adult eyes. I have no nostalgia, no fond or un-fond memories, just a deep appreciation for milkshakes. But the taste test almost didn’t happen, because the McDonald’s near me told me the location’s machine was broken (a common plague among McDonald’s, apparently). I had to drive back to the McDonald’s two days later at the start of a blizzard to procure the Shamrock Shake, which is more than I’ve done for any fast food except for the time my college boyfriend and I got stoned and drove three hours to the nearest Sonic. That’s a story for another time.


So, what does a Shamrock Shake virgin think of the Shamrock Shake? This is anticlimactic but: It’s fine? The mint flavor of it was a stretch, I thought. If you blindfolded me and I couldn’t see its green color, it might have taken me a few sips to arrive at the mint. It tastes to me like a mix of cream, Trader Joe’s Speculoos cookie butter, and liquified butter mints. I’ve since heard some people say the mint flavor is like toothpaste, but my toothpaste is way more minty. That’s kind of sad, considering.

The texture is the best part of the Shamrock Shake, by far. It’s almost mousselike, with a creamy, light body that surely can only be achieved by feats of food engineering or extensive NASA research. How a liquid can be so sugar-dense and yet fluffy boggles the mind. I recall only learning about four stages of matter in high-school chemistry—solid, liquid, gas, plasma—so I guess I’ll have to assume the Shamrock Shake falls into the last category.


I didn’t outright hate the shake, though it did make my stomach feel strange for a couple hours. (I’ll blame the 63 grams of sugar.) If I’m going to ingest that much milk sugar, I’d prefer to do it in the form of a Frosty or McFlurry, which have flavors that I can readily discern and a texture that doesn’t make me read up on Bose-Einstein condensates. Please, no one tell my coworkers I’ve never eaten a Filet-O-Fish.