McDonald’s New Grimace-Inspired Meal Features a Purple Shake and a Heavy Dose of ’90s Nostalgia

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McDonald’s New Grimace-Inspired Meal Features a Purple Shake and a Heavy Dose of ’90s Nostalgia

The ‘90s are back in a big way. I should know—I never experienced them, and yet, I’m still being suckered into the nostalgia at every turn. Between loose-fitting pants and strange-colored novelty foods, I have a feeling we’re two weeks out from TikTok falling in love with the Super Nintendo’s iconic sound chip or Orbitz popping up on store shelves.

McDonald’s has become the latest company to cash in on the ‘90s trend by bringing its bygone mascot, Grimace, seemingly back from the dead. (Grimace was introduced in the early ’70s, but for many ’90s kids, he was inextricable from the McDonald’s experience.) The anthropomorphic purple blob is getting lots of love from the company; not only are McDonald’s social media pages now “run by Grimace,” but the giant taste bud has his own birthday meal at the fast-food chain.

Fries with either a Big Mac or a 10-piece McNuggets isn’t anything new or ground-breaking, but what makes this meal special (and absurdly expensive by fast food standards) is the Grimace Shake, a deep purple shake that’s apparently “Grimace-flavored,” whatever that means. Being a total mark for any sort of weird or cursed food novelty or fast food concoction, I knew I needed to try the purple shake, lactose intolerance be damned.

The shake is unmistakably purple. Not just in color but in flavor too; the first sip just tastes like unadulterated, artificial purple (not grape) flavor. In other words, it tastes like artificial blueberry or mixed berry. I’ve seen people online compare it to Fruity Pebbles or Froot Loops (especially the purple flavor), but I don’t exactly see it. I don’t really like artificially fruity cereals, but this shake was a real treat. The brighter, borderline zesty purple flavor adds a fresh sensation to the milkshake that balances out the rich, creamy vanilla in an interesting way. Think of it like a berries and cream-flavored shake that comes with a disclaimer that it doesn’t actually contain any real berries. 

Maybe it’s because I don’t exactly drink a lot of milkshakes thanks to my mild lactose intolerance, general preference to drink my sugar after it’s been distilled and disinterest in spending ungodly amounts of money on milk and ice cream, but I thought the Grimace Shake was delicious. Aside from its breakfast, McDonald’s milkshakes are some of the fast food chain’s most consistently decent offerings. I remember ordering one every time I successfully pestered my parents into taking me to the Golden Arches on the way home from school.

In the midst of my Grimace Shake experience, I found myself caught in a nesting doll of nostalgia. While the outermost layer was one that’d been sold to me by a company that literally made a Game Boy Color game to celebrate the mascot’s birthday, the innermost layer was one that brought me years back to the past. McDonald’s milkshakes have a uniquely buttery—almost fatty—quality to them that you just won’t find elsewhere; it must be their specific soft serve ice cream’s texture and chemical makeup that make for a perfectly slurp-able yet simultaneously thick drink every time you order one (assuming the ice cream machine isn’t out of commission).

As with a lot of things McDonald’s does these days, my biggest issue with the meal is its price. In the past, McDonald’s was a safe haven for me and a few friends to meet and post up at without spending more than $5 to $6 on a big meal. Hell, at the height of Pokemon Go, the McDonald’s on 68th and North in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, was the spot for kids to meet up, catch monsters and compare their finds from a day out in the wild.

Seven years later, I just don’t see my younger self going there as a place to see friends because it’s no longer cheaper to eat a complete meal than it is at any other burger restaurant. At one of my favorite burger joints, Kopp’s Frozen Custard, I can expect to spend roughly the same amount of money and get a much better burger and a shake made from fresh frozen custard. Even within the fast food realm, there are plenty of other chains that carry much better deals, like Wendy’s 4 for $4 or any of Taco Bell’s cravings deals.

At the end of the day, I come to fast food restaurants for two things: cheap, fast eats and absurd menu items. McDonald’s Grimace Shake is the latest in a line of products that prove that the home of the Big Mac isn’t interested in being affordable. Instead, boutique products that exist to garner social media buzz (and articles written by gastronomic thrill-seekers) make it possible for the Chicago-based chain to keep the masses entertained rather than fed.

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