Photo credit: McDonald’s
Shamrock Shakes, those minty-green harbingers of spring, are back. Last week, they began rolling out in 95 percent of the 14,350 McDonald’s restaurants across the United States. This week they’ll hit Canada and, you guessed it, Ireland.
“[When] Shamrock Shakes appear on the menu, it’s a better predictor of spring than Groundhog Day,” Mike Bullington, the McDonald’s archivist, told us.
But, like the groundhog’s disappearing shadow, the St. Patrick’s Day mainstay will become a sweet memory by the end of March or early April, depending on how long supplies last in particular markets, according to McDonald’s.
A vintage McDonald’s Shamrock Shake ad from the 1970s. Photo: McDonald’s
More than 40 years after their initial launch, Shamrock Shakes remain a huge fan favorite, generating the most customer inquiries regarding availability second only to the McRib. But they also hold a significant role in McDonald’s history: The shakes helped to fund the first Ronald McDonald House, the network of home-away-from-homes that provide support for pediatric cancer patients and their families.
This classic Shamrock Shake commercial from 1983 will definitely put a jig in your step. Video: The Museum of Classic Chicago Television
To help get the St. Patrick’s Day party started, Bullington and the McDonald’s team shared with us a few other Shamrock Shake facts:
- Hal Rosen, who owned several McDonald’s franchises in Connecticut, first introduced a version of the shake in 1967 in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
- McDonald’s picked up Rosen’s idea in 1970 and began selling Shamrock Shakes in some East Coast and mid-Atlantic restaurants.
- Owners of Delaware Valley McDonald’s restaurants joined ranks in 1974 and donated about $35,000 in proceeds from Shamrock Shake sales to help buy the first Ronald McDonald House, in Philadelphia. Fred Hill, a former tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles football team, had a daughter who was undergoing treatment for leukemia at the time and started the fundraising drive with the help of the team’s players and management.
Uncle O’Grimacey paints McDonaldland green in this vintage Shamrock Shake television commercial. Video: YouTube, Darin Manser
- In 1975, Uncle O’Grimacey, the shake’s beloved mascot, begins traveling from Ireland to McDonaldland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with his nephew Grimace. After appearing for a few years in commercials and promos, O’Grimacey returns to the homeland for good. “Uncle O’Grimacey is enjoying his retirement,” Bullington assured us.
- Reduced-fat ice cream, milk, and the secret Shamrock Shake sauce are the primary ingredients. Here’s the full list of ingredients and nutritional information.
- At some point during the shake’s history, McDonald’s began blending a thinner version. Prompted by customer requests, the company in 2003 returned the shake to its “triple-thick” consistency.
- McDonald’s rolled the shake into its McCafe line in 2010, added whipped cream and a cherry, and began serving it in a clear plastic cup so customers could see the color, explained Bullington.
- In 2012, the company made the shakes available nationwide.
You’d know spring was around the corner if you happened to see this ad. Video: YouTube, WRFB79
A few ideas for your next St. Patrick’s Day feast:
Who do you think would win in a St. Patrick’s Day shillelagh smackdown, Uncle O’Grimacey or Cookie O’Puss?