One Thousand Words on How McDonald’s Has Ruined Their Shakes

I am pissed off at McDonald’s.

I’m not too worried about it. After all, if I decided never to eat there again, it wouldn’t be a big lifestyle change for me.

It would be more traumatic to my diet if I got angry at the Cape Cod potato chip company, but I can’t image that would ever happen. Just today I discovered their red pepper and garlic chips so they can do no wrong in my book right now.

I used to eat at McDonald’s quite often, back when I worked at the Department of Agriculture. It was the only restaurant that was close by, except this strange Texas barbecue place that serve ginormous baked potatoes with chili, cheese, sour cream and anything else you could imagine on them.

I always wondered what baked potatoes had to do with Texas barbecue.

For a while there was a born-again Christian deli that had really good sandwiches if you could put up with the religious rhetoric that came with it.

That and the picture of Jesus watching you eat corned beef on rye.

So if I hadn’t brought my lunch from home, I ate at McDonald’s. Sadly, that happened at least once or twice a week.

When I started working at the performing arts center, I stopped eating at the golden arches almost entirely.

Once in a while, I’ll grab a fish fillet for a quick lunch when I’m out shopping. Like I did last Christmas when I saw that old guy trying to tip the girl sweeping the floor.

One of my favorite things at McDonald’s has always been the shakes.

I’m a fan of any kind of ice cream shake. When I eat ice cream I stir it up to melt it a little. It tastes better when it’s kind of melty.

And that’s basically what a shake it, right? Partially melted ice cream.

When I was a teenager, the McDonald’s shakes were pretty good. They were chocolaty, at least the chocolate ones were, and really thick. The kind of thick where you had to suck on the straw hard to get any shake. Or use a spoon.

I don’t know for sure, but I think they only had chocolate and vanilla shakes back then. At least I don’t remember any other flavors. I always ordered the chocolate.

But then one day I tried the strawberry. I can’t imagine that I ordered strawberry, so maybe I got it accidentally. But I liked it. It tasted like frozen Quick strawberry milk. Super sweet, but delicious.

I never went back to chocolate.

I even started ordering strawberry shakes at other ice cream places. One now defunct dairy bar put real strawberries in their shakes.

Once I was really sick in college. It was during Easter break and I had stayed on campus to do a show.

My mother had come to see a performance, but I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed. The only thing I could think of that would possibly taste good was a strawberry shake, so she went out and got me one.

I’ll never forget how good that shake tasted.

Over the years, the quality of the McDonald’s shake has declined. They’re thinner and just don’t taste as good. Maybe I just grew up or maybe they changed their ingredients.

I still order one every once in a while for old time’s sake, but I don’t have high expectations any more. It’s pure nostalgia.

So when I ordered a strawberry shake last Christmas, I didn’t think it was going to be best shake I ever had. I didn’t even think it would be particularly good.

But I didn’t expect that McDonald’s had totally ruined their shakes all together.

First, they are now serving them in plastic cups. The same ones they uses for their fancy frozen coffee drinks.

I don’t like it. Give me the paper coated in wax that gets a little soggy when you let your drink stand too long.

The wax cups are better because I don’t want to see my shake. Especially now that they don’t mix the flavor in completely.

A strawberry shake used to be pink from top to bottom. All strawberry. Now they mix flavors into the vanilla shake, so you can see the swirls of color through the clear plastic glass.

And one of the best parts of the shakes was pulling off the lid to see how much you had left in the cup. Now you can see it the whole time.

But the new cups weren’t the worst part.

My shake had whipped cream and a cherry on it.

I hate whipped cream and I hate cherries.

Shakes are not ice cream sundaes. They are not slices of pie. Whipped cream and cherries do not belong on a shake.

I suppose, if I was feeling generous, I could maybe excuse the whipped cream. You can stir it in and hardly taste it at all. But the cherry is unforgivable.

Even though I did not enjoy my Christmas time shake, I tried again today. I decided I could ignore the fancy plastic cup with the stupid dome lid and too big straw hole and I’d order it without the disgusting whipped cream and cherry.

But then they told me that I couldn’t have a strawberry shake because they had replaced strawberry with the shamrock shake for St. Patrick’s Day.

Ok, I know the shamrock shake is a tradition. It’s been around forever and I guess people love them. So add them to the menu but leave my strawberry shake alone!

I did try the shamrock shake after learning that it’s mint, not pistachio like I always assumed. I think they would have been better off with pistachio.

So I’m pissed at McDonald’s. First they gussy up their shakes to look like a Starbuck’s creation and then they “temporarily” replace the best flavor with their mint crap.

Give me frozen strawberry Quick in a wax cup any day.


17 thoughts on “One Thousand Words on How McDonald’s Has Ruined Their Shakes

  1. I will comment about having time to read if you are writing – eventually, but boy did this hit home. I’m with you on the whipped cream and the cherry. (And I don’t do McDonald’s at all except for shakes and McFlurrys when I want a treat.)

    Not to long after that, I went to Burger King to get a shake – knowing I wouldn’t get one at Mickey D’s. Shocker! They’ve changed there shake to something more like Wendy’s Frosty. This after they changed their coffee to the oxymoronically names Seattle’s Best! (which ruined the BK drink, too.) I told the clerk, “If I wanted a Frosty, I would have gone to Wendy’s!”

    Geesh! When will they learn to stop new and improving things?

    Are you going back to Vermont for Booktopia?

  2. Having some intimate knowledge of McDonald’s (I managed a restaurant throughout high school, college and some time in between) and having just coincidentally enjoyed a shake for the first time in a few years, I can tell you that:

    1. You don’t have to have the whipped cream and cherry, and yes, they are stupid and do not belong on a shake. And the new cups are stupid, too.

    2. Strawberry has been available for at least twenty years but on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis.

    3. The formula has not changed. The same machine makes the same shake as twenty years ago. In fact, the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, sold shake machines. This is how he discovered the McDonald’s brothers’ restaurant and bought them out.

    4. There has always been a shot of unflavored shake in every shake, but you’re right. When the old cups were used, you couldn’t see it. My wife had the same reaction when she had a shake with me recently. “Why isn’t my shake mixed right?” I explained that it was. The machine fires off a final shot of unflavored shake mix to prevent the previous flavor from mixing with the next flavor. Otherwise every shake would have a hint of the previous flavor. You never saw it before, because as you drink, the unflavored shake mixes in.

    5. Shamrock shakes have also been around for more than twenty years. They come and go for Saint Patrick’s Day. I hate them, too.

    • I, too, dislike those slippery plastic cups, which also don’t insulate the shake like the wax paper cups do.
      I guess the solution is to simply ask them to mix the shake well, and serve it in the old-fashioned wax paper cup (which they still have for their sodas).
      Another toss-up is their hamburgers – and this all depends on the crew, which is disappointing because stupid fast food crews are ubiquitous in America these days – but a decent crew can actually serve up a good burger, good fries.
      BTW, I HATE it when they don’t serve the fries salted; the salt clings so much better to the fries when they are hot and in the bin; too often fast food places will serve them sans salt as the default, figuring they can have it ready for those very, very few people who are on a low-sodium diet but still want fries anyway, and the manager simply figures that if people want salt on their fries, they can just ask for a packet of salt and salt them themselves, but the fries do not taste as good this way.

  3. Absolutely! I stumbled upon this,curious to see if anyone else was as peeved as I am. Many fast food places have jumped on this disgusting trend. The shakes are so much smaller now too!

  4. GREAT topic!!! There’s no way their formula has stayed the same throughout the years. I remember when they switched to Low Fat milk….and the shakes were never the same (thinner, bad after-taste, etc.)…..BK became the shake destination of choice after that!!

  5. I stopped buying my favorite shakes, the McD ones, a couple of years ago when they changed them. Now, here in 2013, I read that I don’t have to get the whipped cream and cherry and the shake part is still the same? I’ll have to go back and do the Shamrock this year again. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Pingback: I don’t need to be personal, political or funny. | One Thousand Words Project

  7. When I was in school back in the 80’s, we used to go to McDonalds just for fries and a shake. The shakes used to be good back then. They were somewhat similar to a frosty maybe a little more creamier and not as thick. I am not sure when they changed them but one day I ordered one of the new ones and have not had a milkshake from McDonalds ever since.

  8. I agree with you that the shakes have taken a dive. Why just today, in fact as I type this, I have one in hand. Chocolate. Actually it’s a vanilla shake that looks like someone squirted Hershey’s chocolate syrup into. I took a picture of it and plan to write the company with a formal complaint. If enough people complain, maybe they will put the old formula back into the shake machines. It’s probably cheaper to have vanilla as their base flavor, and be able to add other flavor syrups to it since they now offer “blizzard-like” treats like Dairy Queen and it’d cost too much to have a machine dedicated to every kind of dessert. Anyway, a chocolate shake SHOULD be chocolate. I can barely taste any chocolate. It’s bogus. And axe the whipped cream and cherry too. I can live with a clear cup, but if you’re gonna give me a clear cup you’d better blend my stuff up right and give me a chocolate shake. Not a vanilla shake with chocolate boogers in it.

    • Spot on. Vanilla with syrup not even mixed. Whipped cream and cherry? Is this to disguise the fact that the shakes suck now ( no pun intended)? Bring back the old shake ’cause I’m not ordering the new ones!

  9. McDonald’s has always had the best shakes. I had a chocolate shake last month. It was terrible. It tasted like Hershey’s syrup mixed in. It was barely mixed in, only a little swirled together, chocolate syrup sticking to the side of the cup. I went to a different McD’s last week and that shake was just as bad. I’m not gonna eat there anymore.

  10. I too have a slight fascination with the quality curve of McDonalds strawberry shakes. When I was growing up in NJ in the 70s and 80s, there were real strawberries in the McDonalds strawberry shakes. I remember them fondly. In fact, I actually found this page by googling “when did McDonalds stop putting real strawberries in their strawberry shakes”.

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