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It’s Shamrock Shake season, baby!
Yesterday, McDonald’s brought back its annual St. Patrick’s Day-themed sweet treat for a limited time and that has us pretty psyched. Not because of the fact that for the next month it’ll be socially acceptable to drink a green milkshake, but because of what the Shamrock Shake signifies. The (s)lime green shake is a symbol that winter is coming to an end and we’re about to transition to the spring season — meaning more time outdoors, on the road, and amongst friends. Few things illustrate the ending of the dull sleepy months of winter like sipping a crayon green milkshake.
The Shamrock Shake, like the McRib or pumpkin spice flavored foods, benefits from seasonal hype. But is that hype actually justified? Is this thing any good or is it just… green?
We’re here to find out for you. But the Shamrock Shake isn’t the only new dessert on the menu — McDonald’s has also dropped a Shamrock McFlurry. So, in the spirit of competition, we’re pitting the two snacks against one another to see which is more worth your time and money. Do you stand by the old classic or throw it all away for that hot new thing?
Below, we break down each dessert, awarding a score from 1-5 for flavor, mouthfeel, and thickness. Let’s drink!
Shamrock Showdown: The Shamrock Shake vs. The Shamrock McFlurry
The Shamrock Shake
We’re starting this fast food face-off with the OG. If you’ve never had a Shamrock Shake but you’re assuming that because it’s green it’s minty, you’re correct! Mint is the primary flavor of the Shamrock Shake. It’s cool and refreshing on the initial taste and settles into a slightly watered-down vanilla finish. The flavor is very reminiscent of green sweet stripes candy (wintergreen, but sweeter), so if your grandpa has ever given you candy, you’re about halfway there in terms of the flavor experience.
Here is the thing about McDonald’s milkshakes though… they aren’t actually milkshakes. When I say that I don’t mean in some weird arbitrary “not thicccccc enough” way. I’m not going to slap a Shamrock Shake out of your hand and say “that’s not a milkshake, this is a milkshake” while handing you a shake from Carl’s Jr (though I think I just wrote Carl’s Jr a free Super Bowl commercial).
I mean they’re not milkshakes. Legally.
That’s right, McDonald’s milkshakes aren’t allowed to be called milkshakes by law, as per Business Insider. In actuality the McDonald’s milkshake is soft-serve ice cream thinned out with something called “shake syrup” and whipped cream. In the Shamrock Shake’s case, they also add some minty green syrup. That messes with the mouthfeel. Where a traditional milkshake has a balance of thick and creamy qualities, the McDonald’s milkshake is airy, thin, and way too easy to drink out of a straw.
Flavor: 3. Minty, sweet, with a watery vanilla finish.
Mouthfeel: 3. It has a luxurious smoothness to it, but once it melts it feels like sweetened skim milk on the tongue. It’s also one of the easiest milkshakes to sip through a straw. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you. We think it’s a bad thing.
Thickness: 2. It’s not thick, which a good shake should be. Instead, it’s thin and airy like it was frothed up in a blender.
Final Score: 8/15
The Shamrock McFlurry
The Shamrock McFlurry was only introduced two years ago, so if you’ve never had one, we don’t blame you. This was also my first introduction to the Shamrock McFlurry and it was, by all metrics, a significant improvement over the middling quality of the Shamrock Shake. (Spoiler? Can you spoil fast food reviews?)
The Shamrock McFlurry improves upon everything that’s wrong with the shake version. It has that same mint-dominated vanilla flavor, so if you’re nostalgic for the Shamrock Shake, you’re still going to love this, but it’s greatly improved by the inclusion of the crushed Oreo cookies. The overwhelming minty sweetness of the green syrup & vanilla combo is reigned in with that dusty sweet dark chocolate flavor of Oreo cookies, adding richness to the experience. It’s got the texture of mint chocolate chip ice cream and the flavor of an Andes Mint.
It’s also much, much thicker than the shake. It’s essentially a mountain of soft serve in a cup, and isn’t thinned out by the mysterious “shake syrup” and it’s much easier to throw in the freezer and save for later if you get overwhelmed with the single serving.
The chunks of Oreos also improve the mouthfeel, adding some much-needed texture to this spoonable snack. Sure, you can’t drink it through a straw, but it’s easier to share, easier to save, and a better overall experience.
Flavor: 4. If you like the luxurious flavor of Andes Mints, and the texture of cookies and cream ice cream, you’re going to love this.
Mouthfeel: 5. Fantastic. It’s creamy and crunchy, but still capable of melting in your mouth if you want to savor the sweetness.
Thickness: 4. It’s not a milkshake, a spoon is an absolute must here. That makes it a bit less convenient, you’ll need two hands to eat this without making a mess, but it’s all-around a better treat.
Final Score 13.
Today’s Winner: The Shamrock McFlurry
Order the Shamrock McFlurry. Even with this poor mix quality, it has a better flavor, a better mouthfeel, it’s thicker, and it sounds like a villain from a Ducktails arc. It’s not the best milkshake or dessert snack you’ll find in the fast food universe (which is why it doesn’t get a perfect score) but it’s capable of earning a top-five spot in a fast food dessert ranking, while the Shamrock Shake that inspired it is middling at best.
The Shamrock Shake and Shamrock McFlurry are available at all McDonald’s nationwide for an unspecified limited time. Find your nearest McDonald’s here.