Even if you’re not a mint lover, you have to admit: Shamrock Shakes are a welcome sign of spring in this winter-doldrums period between Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s days.
So what if the groundhog saw its shadow, when those bright-green shakes start popping up on billboards?
Sure enough, the cult favorite is back, but along with four new offshoots this year: the Chocolate Shamrock Shake and Shamrock Chocolate Chip Frappé, both cold drinks, as well as two warm beverages, the Shamrock Mocha and Shamrock Hot Chocolate. There's also a tricked out new straw that was created for the drinks and comes out on February 24th (more on that later).
Some believe the new flavors were inspired by "secret menu" orders, where customers requested for chocolate to be added to the Shamrock Shakes in the past. A McDonald's rep neither confirmed or denied that to TODAY Food, saying, "McDonald’s knows its customers love the combination of chocolate and mint flavors. With this in mind, the McDonald’s Menu Innovation Team went to work to deliver the perfect mix of two delicious mint and chocolate flavors into one seasonal McCafé beverage."
With so many new choices, which should you try? I hit the drive-through — and probably drove the kitchen nuts with my insane drink order — to try every one and get feedback from fellow tasters. Here are our faves, in order of preference.
1. Shamrock Chocolate Chip Frappé
It was a close toss-up between the Shamrock Chocolate Chip Frappé and the Chocolate Shamrock Shake, but ultimately, the frappé won out for its "nice texture" of blended chocolate chips, which make it "less monotonous than a regular shake," one taster said. A hint of coffee is in there too, and don't be fooled by the whipped topping, green sprinkles and chocolate drizzle: “Wow, it's not at all as sweet as you’d expect," one taster happily noted.
2. Chocolate Shamrock Shake
Watch out, Shamrock Shake, there's a new favorite: Tasters overwhelmingly picked the new Chocolate Shamrock Shake version as tops between the two. One described it as a "liquid version" of the crowd-pleasing Andes Chocolate Mints. Since the drink is layered, we could see how the over-the-top new snorkel-shaped straw, which shows up in select stores starting February 24, would help keep you from getting sips full of just-chocolate or just-mint, but really, let's face it, that's not exactly an earth-shattering problem.
3. Shamrock Shake
By comparison, alongside the new chocolate-mint drinks, the original Shamrock Shake, which launched in 1970, paled in comparison, tasters agreed. "You have to really, really like mint to like this," one said. "I don't know if I can go back now."
4. Shamrock Mocha
As with the frappé, tasters were pleasantly surprised that the Shamrock Mocha was "not cloying." The espresso drink is made with (sustainably sourced) espresso, steamed milk, and mint and mocha syrups. Ours was "a little heavy on the mocha," but overall, it satisfied that chocolate-mint craving without being overly minty.
5. Shamrock Hot Chocolate
By default, the hot chocolate earned the least raves, since, after all, it's just not as flashy as any of those shakes, though it does get the whipped topping and chocolate-drizzle treatment. Tasters did give it props for being "smooth" and having a "very subtle mint taste." With mint, it seems, subtly is key.
If you want to try the new drinks for yourself, consider going during the week of March 11 to 17 — that’s when McDonald’s will donate 25 cents from each purchase of a McCafé Shamrock Chocolate beverage to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Also notable, the layered Chocolate Shamrock Shake spawned the release of an innovative new snorkel-shaped straw from McDonald’s, meant to draw in a 50/50 sip of chocolate and mint from the layered drink at the same time. Only 2,000 will be available at select stores this year, and the company was mum on plans for next year: “Anything is possible for Shamrock season 2018!” a spokesperson told TODAY.
This article was originally published on February 16, 2017.