The History of McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

We are deep into spring at this point, which means we’re also deep into Shamrock Shake season.   Have you had yours yet?  Me, I’ve had several, and hopefully will have several more before they’re gone for another year.   The Shamrock Shake has been a tradition for me for many years now, and apparently, I’m not alone in my love them, as McDonald’s estimates they have sold over 70 million of them since their debut in 1970.  Well, McDonald’s official story is that it debuted in 1970, but a McDonald’s franchise owner in Connecticut, Harold Rosen, claims he invented the shake in 1966.

But for the point of this, let’s go with the official McDonald’s story.  Even though it was created in 1970, it was 1974 when the Shamrock Shake entered itself into the Pantheon of McDonald’s products.  Around that time, the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill was battling Leukemia.  Fred and his family wanted to stay as close to her as they could during her treatments at the hospital, so they camped out on the sofas and benches in the waiting rooms of the hospital.  Fred Hill saw many other families doing the same thing and knew there just had to be a better way.

Fred and his teammates rallied together to raise funds to help families like his who were traveling far from home for treatment.  Then Eagles General Manager Jim Murray got involved.  Murray called a friend from McDonald’s advertising and suggested they team up during the next promotional push, which happened to be Saint Patrick’s Day.  The Shamrock Shake was perfect for the team-up since it’s green color meshed well with the Eagles green uniforms.  A portion of each shake sold would go to the cause, and enough funds were raised to buy a four-story house for families to use when staying close to loved ones in the hospital.  This was the beginning of the Ronald McDonald House charity as well, as it was the first to earn that designation.  Every year since then, a portion of every Shamrock Shake sold has gone to the Ronald McDonald House Charity.

The Shake was given an added boost in 1975 when a new McDonald’s character was introduced to push the product in commercials.  Uncle O’Grimacey was added as the uncle of popular character Grimace.  He was from Ireland and came to visit Grimace every year in March for Saint Patrick’s Day.  The character was used through the mid-’80s before being phased out.

The Shamrock Shake is just four basic ingredients.  Vanilla ice cream, Shamrock Syrup, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherries.  In the mid-’80s, McDonald’s tried to up the ante by introducing the Shamrock Sundae.  It was just a simple sundae featuring Vanilla ice cream with Shamrock Syrup drizzled over it.  The public was not impressed, and the Shamrock Sundae quickly faded away.

But for those of you less educated in the secret ways of McDonald’s, there is an alternate version of the classic shake that you can acquire.  It’s known as the McLeprechaun Shake and is simply a Shamrock Shake blended with a Chocolate Shake.  I say simply, but in all actuality, it’s heaven in a cup.  Chocolate is the one thing that can make a mint shake even better, and trust me, it is bliss.

The current fervor over Shamrock Shakes is a recent phenomenon though, as it wasn’t a nationally available item until 2012.  Before that, there were large sections of the country that could not get their hands on one without traveling a great distance.  These days, the wonders of mobile technology and smartphone apps combine to make it easier than ever to find one.  If you search your app store, you can actually find Shamrock Shake trackers.  It’s a really big help for those of us still on the hunt after our local franchises are out of them.  I can pull up the app, and maybe find another location within a 100-mile radius still offering them long after my local establishment has called it quits for the season.

The Shamrock Shake has been a big part of my spring every year and hopefully will continue to be for a long time to come.  But what about you?  Are you a fan?  Do you remember when you first stumbled across the Shamrock Shake?  Hit me up in the comments below and tell me YOUR story.

If you’ve got a junk food question, junk food memory, or just want to share an observation of your own, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]. And you can always find me on Twitter posting about both old and new junk food, as well as other random geeky stuff. Stop by there and say hello as well.


Shamrock Shake

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About Mickey Yarber 237 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Sometimes referred to as the Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via my Retro Ramblings column.

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