With the coming of St. Patrick’s Day 2013, it’s that time of the year again when we embrace a beverage not usually available during the other months. I’m not talking about green beer; I mean the green Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s — available for a limited time from February to March — made “classier” in recent years by being rebranded as the McCafé Shamrock Shake. However, the newer labeling and transparent cup doesn’t hide the fact that this is pretty much the same, minty green shake of yesteryear that used to come in a paper cup, brought back to appease the nostalgic masses (much like McDonald’s does with the McRib from time to time).
It was suggested to me to compare this popular shake to another kind: one made from scratch instead of being dispensed out of a dessert machine with a mechanical lever. For this comparison, I was suggested to pull from the archive of recipes here at Cooking Channel: Hedy Goldsmith’s recipe for the Grasshopper Chocolate Mint Chess Pie Milkshake.
At a glance, it seems these are two minty shakes are similar enough to compare, however upon further analysis, you’ll see that one is a mint shake, and one is a chocolate mint shake. With that said, it only seems fair to break down the two into categories, so you can see which one best fits your lifestyle:
McCafé Shamrock Shake: 1 min. (Participating locations may vary.)
Grasshopper Chocolate Mint Chess Pie Milkshake: 1 hr, 55 min. Yup. It took me about two hours to make this milkshake, which is more time than I anticipated going into this milkshake analysis. In fact, it’s the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent making a milkshake, by at least 1 hr and 50 minutes. If you follow the recipe, you’ll see that it actually involves first baking a chocolate pie from scratch (with a pre-made crust; add more time, if you do everything from scratch). Once the pie is baked and cooled, a slice of it goes in a blender with other ingredients. Effective use of time? It depends if you have better things to do in your day.
McCafé Shamrock Shake: $2.89 for a regular 16 oz. serving. (Participating locations may vary.)
Grasshopper Chocolate Mint Chess Pie Milkshake: About $51. Going into this shake comparison, I realized that I didn’t have any of the needed ingredients in my fridge or cupboard, and had to buy them all. Obviously, for a milkshake that requires baking a whole pie first — just so you can put one slice in a blender — it will cost you a pretty penny if you’re starting with nothing. If you’re going to make all eight shakes from all the slices in the pie, you can divide that $51 by 8 and get an individual cost of $6.38.
McCafé Shamrock Shake: 660 for a 16 oz. serving.
Grasshopper Chocolate Mint Chess Pie Milkshake: When adding all the ingredients in preparation of this pie/milkshake, I was definitely conscious of how everything is going to add up in terms of calories. I mean, when a recipe calls for ¾ cup of sugar, that’s 580 calories right there. Doing the math, all the ingredients for the pie filling — the butter, unsweetened chocolate, eggs, creme de cacao, flour, etc. — totals 2242 calories. Adding 800 for the crust equals 3042 calories. Now divide that by 8 for one slice = 380. That 380 goes in a blender with more ingredients, totaling 870. Add another 65 calories of garnish and you have a milkshake with 935 calories. Not too bad, considering what it is.
McCafé Shamrock Shake: It’s minty. It’s creamy. It’s frosty. Those are all good adjectives — but it also has that weird aftertaste that reminds me of Milk of Magnesia. Obviously the Shamrock Shake is made with some sort of unnatural mint flavoring, although the ingredients on McDonald’s website says it contains “natural flavor (plant source)” with those curious use of parentheses.
Grasshopper Chocolate Mint Chess Pie Milkshake: It should be mentioned that neither of these milkshakes actually call for actually using fresh mint at all. The Grasshopper Pie Shake gets its minty flavor through York Peppermint Patties, which is made with the listed ingredient, “oil of peppermint.” This gives the patty its signature refreshing taste, which transcends into the milkshake. One notable difference between this shake and the McDonald’s one is that it has a lot more texture; there are bits of chocolate and pie crust, which is a nice touch — sort of like a cookies ‘n cream shake, or any milkshake with crumbles in it.
As I said before, it’s not truly fair to compare these two shakes because one is just a mint shake, while the other is a chocolate mint shake. However, with time and money as a factor, I’d definitely opt for the McDonald’s one, if I’m just by myself and craving a mint shake. Of course, if I’m with seven other friends or family and want to make a to-do about the whole thing, I could make the Grasshopper Pie shake. I might feel better about knowing the ingredients in it, given I have the time to buy and prepare them. Plus it has the added chocolate, which I love. I suppose for the sake of saving time I could always spend one minute getting a Shamrock Shake, and another minute to put it in a blender with a graham cracker and a store-bought brownie. Now if I’d had to bake that brownie from scratch, that’d be another story.
Get the recipe for Hedy Goldsmith’s “Grasshopper” Chocolate Mint Chess Pie Milkshake.
Erik Trinidad is a food and travel writer, and author of Fancy Fast Food: Ironic Recipes with No Bun Intended, based off his popular food humor blog.