In the Simpsons episode “Stop or My Dog Will Shoot,” Chief Wiggum and Lou debate whether the Shamrock Shake is vanilla ice cream with green coloring or if the vanilla ice cream is mint-flavored. Lou thinks that the Chief is tricked by the green coloring, convincing himself that he tastes mint. The question of whether the green coloring actually plays tricks on the mind and simulates mint would be a worthwhile experiment for an AP Psych project, but the debate does highlight one serious point of contention surrounding the Shamrock Shake—what is it actually made of?
When introduced in 1970, the Shamrock Shake was a concoction of vanilla ice cream mixed with lemon-lime sherbert for an added green hue and a fruity flavor. The sherbert was short-lived, and from 1973 until 1980, the shake was indeed just vanilla ice cream with green coloring, proving Lou right—had the Simpsons lived in the seventies. The current incarnation of the Shamrock Shake in all its mint-flavored glory was a creation of the early eighties.
The basics can be agreed upon: vanilla ice cream and mint. It’s the 54 distinct ingredients that make up the ice cream, the flavoring, and the whipped cream that have raised questions about the Shamrock Shake. The reason it’s called a shake is because the milk content of the “low-fat vanilla ice cream” is iffy. The sugar and fat content is probably better left a guessing game. What makes the Shamrock Shake “The Best” is that despite these variables, knowing it’s bad is what makes it so good.
Never has guilty pleasure been so accurate. What harm does reading a trashy magazine or watching a soap opera do? The Shamrock Shake is a true guilty pleasure, all 820 calories of it, making it worthy of a surgeon general’s warning. Slurping a large shake down, you know you have sacrificed half your daily calories, and yet you still order a medium fry, dipping them into the shake in the perfect sweet/savory combo. Sometimes the machine breaks with the most unfortunate timing, considering the Shamrock Shake is only sold for a two-month period. There are flaws galore, both with the actual quality of the shake and the ethics of McDonald’s. On almost all accounts it should be easy to say no to the Shamrock Shake, but on occasion the temptation is simply too much to shake. At least once during those two months, you forget all the flaws and relish in that minty fresh, frothy green shake, pardoning the detrimental health effects and acknowledging the rarity as a phenomenon.
It’s practically a holiday on it’s own, and with an elevated status in the mind of American consumers, Shamrock Shake season likens itself to fall and the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The cult following may not be as extreme, but it is the shake of the people. With the hardcore American sentiment of McDonald’s behind it, it has a bit more grit than the beverages of the uber-metropolitan Starbucks. As much as it is a component of the consumerism built around St. Patrick’s Day, it’s the wait and the tradition of the Shamrock Shake that makes it the best shake around.