It’s that time of year again! Fast food lovers rejoice as their favorite McDonald’s product makes its annual return. Second only to the McRib, the Shamrock Shake has one of the biggest cult followings in the chain’s history. The minty green shake is a seasonal staple, as its loyal fanbase savors the late-February through March period when this drink appears on the menu. Its limited availability is, of course, inherent to its appeal. We only get a month to enjoy the milkshake before it goes back into hibernation for the rest of the year.

Now that we’ve finally enter this blessed pre-St. Patrick’s Day season, we decided to take some time to celebrate this beloved beverage by exploring its secret history. Here’s everything you never knew about the Shamrock Shake.

It was originally lemon-lime flavored.

Yup, it’s hard to conceptualize now,  but when the Shamrock Shake was first introduced in the 1970s, it wasn’t minty at all. Instead it was a combination of vanilla ice cream and lemon and lime sherbet. In 1973, they decided to remove the sherbet altogether and just dyed the vanilla ice cream green, but still no trace of mint. It wasn’t until a decade later, in 1983, when the pivotal flavor was added—a major game-changer that forever defined the drink we’ve come to love today.

It had its own mascot.


In 1975, Grimace got a visit from his uncle, the aptly named Uncle O’Grimacey!  The character is a fluffy green version of, well, whatever the Grimace is. He would apparently takes annual St. Patrick’s Day vacations to McDonaldland to visit his nephew where they would share Shamrock Shakes in furry, familial harmony.  We have no idea what happened to Uncle O’Grimacey, but we have a feeling he’s busy partying in Ireland with the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

There wouldn’t be a Ronald McDonald House without it.

Okay, so here’s a fascinating story. When Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end Fred Hill’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, he was alarmed at how many parents of fellow cancer patients had to spend the night in the hospital (they couldn’t afford hotel rooms nearby after traveling long distances for treatment). Hill sought the help of teammates for a fundraising endeavor. The Eagles’ general manager at the time, Jim Murray, reached out to a friend in advertising who was working a McDonald’s campaign and suggested a charitable partnership. At the time, there was a promotional push around the Shamrock Shake, and since green is the Eagles’ team color, it seemed like a great match. The company decided to donate a proceed of the profits from the drink towards this initiative. Together they raised enough to buy a four-story house in Philadelphia, which became the first ever Ronald McDonald House. It officially opened on October 15, 1974 and the charity exists to this day.

A small 12-ounce serving has 63 grams of sugar.

Okay, so you probably already know these are unhealthy by virtue of it being a McDonald’s dessert product, however, did you know a small 12-ounce serving contains a whopping 63 grams of sugar, 460 calories and 13 grams of fat? We’ll just ignore those nutrition facts while guzzling them down this St. Patty’s Day.

Header image courtesy of Chowhound.

Jessica is an Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
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