Shamrock Shakeup

6 spirit pairings for the popular Shamrock Shake


Recently, our friends over at What’s Cookin’ conducted a minty shake taste test with the Shake Shack Jeremy Lin-Mint and more traditional McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. This got me nostalgic for those bright green, frosty treats which I haven’t indulged in since before the Clinton administration. 

I wanted to know if the current shake still stood up to those happy memories. And since my mind often goes there anyway, it also had me wondering what it might taste like with different spirits mixed in. I decided to revisit my childhood memories, but with an adult spin by playing Home Bar Roulette.

I was a bit disappointed that the shake wasn’t as fresh-minty as I remembered, instead it had more of a sweet spearmint toothpaste flavor, with a lot of vanilla and surprising creaminess.

Staring at my home liquor shelf, I found what I thought would be a worthy selection: Zubrowka bisongrass vodka, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Banks white rum, Hum liqueur, green Chartreuse and Clontarf Irish single malt whiskey. Were they lucky charms? Read on to find out!

Zubrowka Bisongrass Vodka

Zubrowka on its own has a somewhat sweet, spring-like flavor I thought would mingle well with the mint. It did serve to bring that note to the fore, but the botanicals in the vodka and the sweet vanilla started a fierce, Roadhouse-style bar brawl on my taste buds, leaving an astringent after taste.

Hayman’s Old Tom Gin

Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is a weightier style with warmer botanicals and less citrus. I thought this might match the creaminess of the shake and play up to the mint. It actually tasted great, except that the mint was completely dismantled. What was left was a pleasant, sweet vanilla and orange peel flavor. I would love this if I wasn’t purposely trying to showcase a minty drink!

Banks White Rum

Banks white rum is a blend of five different West Indian rums. I thought the rum and mint would have a mojito-like effect on the shake. It does take on a surprising limey quality, but also a weird pine taste. I liked the first sip but by the second felt like I was drinking the sap directly from an air freshener tree.

Hum Liqueur

Hum liqueur is a blend of hibiscus, ginger, cardamom, sugar cane and kaffir lime. While it sounds busy, my flavor logic told me since the shake is now served with an optional cherry, so something with spicy, red fruit flavors could work. I was initially worried because it didn’t completely mix in and left a red swirl on top, a clear sign of struggle. Upon tasting, I was blown away by how well the ginger, cardamom and kaffir matched the mint and vanilla. The flavors bonded like long lost school chums at a reunion.

Green Chartreuse

Green chartreuse. It’s sweet. It’s green. It matches so well with everything from cheesecake to gin and maraschinos. How could this not work? Answer: there is apparently such a thing as too much green. The first sip tasted of milky, concentrated, mint TUMS spiked with battery acid. Did I not add enough shake? This only made it worse. I felt as though my stomach was emitting a fluorescent green glow, summoning the mothership. Never mind phoning home. I might need 911.

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey in a Shamrock Shake is probably a no-brainer, but I had to be sure with the Clontarf. The honeycomb and vanilla of the whiskey perfectly matches the creaminess of the shake, but is subtle enough to let the minty flavor stand out. It happened to be the only one that didn’t separate after a few minutes. They went together like pub-mates singing to the Pogues on an all night bender.

Conclusions and The Winner!

What did I learn from this? Substances in the same color palate can be too much of a good thing. The right notes will combine to sing a perfect harmony. But when in doubt, stick with tradition. Note to self: invest in some creme de cacao. The shake with the Clontarf would make the ultimate Grasshopper.

Photo courtesy Potjie via Flickr/CC

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  • The Irish whiskey is a no-brainer, but even better than the minty Shamrock Shake is the more traditional Irish Coffee Shake. I started making these at the Student Union snack bar in the 60s. The other shake du jour was the Screwdriver Shake, orange sherbet shake spiked with vodka.

    Mar 01, 2012 at 4:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Amanda Schuster
    Hand of Snooth
    870341 1,996

    Ha! That's great. Anyone else have beloved boozy shake recipes/stories they'd like to share?

    Mar 01, 2012 at 4:57 PM

  • Removing yourself from the Shake creaminess into frozen delights using Slurpees, or other frozen roundy-round concotions at your local convenience / gas station locations . . . Pouring with careful agility leaving an area in the middle to be filled with (typically) rum is one of my favorite pasttimes in the summer. Luckily, I live within 1/2 mile of such a location and can get home before any melting occurs.

    Mar 01, 2012 at 6:45 PM

  • New Deal is making a cacao vodka which I bet would be delish with a shamrock shake.

    Mar 01, 2012 at 8:59 PM

  • Snooth User: autrefoi
    732136 9

    really? a shamrock shake?! i honestly thought this website was geared towards mixology and the art of the craft.
    i also really thought this website in entirety would be against genetically modified foods (if you could even call mcdonalds FOOD). bummer.

    want to know how to make a mint shake taste real? REALLY make it. steep a mint syrup. add it to vanilla bean ice cream. i bought a kitchen aide attachment to make ice creams at home. no artificial colors/flavors.


    Mar 02, 2012 at 3:15 AM

  • Snooth User: Amanda Schuster
    Hand of Snooth
    870341 1,996

    Yes, we here at the strive to introduce drinks that are made entirely from scratch using fresh ingredients. We were just having a little fun. As you can read from the results, I wasn't too happy about how certain flavors reacted to the synthetic ingredients of the Shamrock Shake. Your recipe does indeed sound way better. It might have even worked with the Chartreuse!

    Mar 02, 2012 at 10:18 AM

  • Definitely a bit of fun! Thanks for the great ideas!! Especially in the summer: a dash to the local Macs convenience gasbar when unexpected (but always welcomed) friends drop in! I too love making drinks from scratch, and I just love experimenting in the art of mixology and If you can cut a corner or two on the turn of a dime, sometimes that's good too!
    Cheers from Yellowknife, NT, Canada

    Mar 02, 2012 at 2:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Medlingkid
    1049260 1

    I am going to try the Clontarf one based on your Pogues line alone. I only wish Shamrock Shakes were around for the entire year and not just gone by March. I have a similar wish for my liver.

    Mar 02, 2012 at 6:35 PM

  • Snooth User: fionapom
    850222 5

    Never cared for Shamrock Shakes. But if you have a Rita's Water Ice near you -- they will be open soon!! -- and Lots of fun ways to get schnockered there! ;) My favorite is mango water ice and 3 Olives orange. For the nutritionally- conscious among us, many of their water ice flavors are all natural. A welcome sign of spring around here .... can't wait!

    Mar 07, 2012 at 8:49 PM

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