Serious Eats: Drinks
Reality Check: New Bacon Shake from Jack in the Box
As part of Jack in the Box's recent and mildly disturbing "Love Bacon? Marry It." advertising campaign, the scientists slaving away in the fast food chain's laboratories have concocted a new milkshake that will either have you sprinting to the nearest franchise location or recoiling in horror: the Bacon Shake.
Arriving a few years late to the bacon party, along with such fellow bandwagon-hoppers-on as Denny's and IHOP, Jack in the Box is hoping to carry over the popularity of its bacon-topped burgers to its desserts, starting with its Bacon Shake, which it is making available for a limited time only. And while marrying sugar with the smokiness of salty bacon is hardly new, the result of this bacon-meets-ice cream experiment can only be described as disastrous.
Like the burgers at Jack in the Box and other fast food restaurants of its ilk, the shake doesn't quite end up looking as nice as it does in the promo photographs. But it's not as if anyone actually expects them to hire professional pastry chefs for this purpose. A quick squirt from the can is all anyone really expects here. The shake comes in two sizes: a 773-calorie 16 ounces and a gluttonous 1081-calorie 24 ounces.
The ingredients list is pretty short: vanilla ice cream, bacon syrup, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries. Extract the embellishments and you're left with just the ice cream and bacon syrup. That syrup is manufactured by Torani, whose ubiquitous red, gold, and blue label should be familiar to anyone who's ever visited a coffee house or snow cone stand. Torani suggests using its bacon syrup in cocktails, particularly Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. The Torani website even has a recipe for a Bacon Bourbon Sour. Delicious?
I digress. The syrup, while key to this shake's distinctiveness, singlehandedly renders it undrinkable. The first sip of the shake is sure to put you off as your senses are hit with an overload of sugar from the ice cream and the front-and-center smokiness of the bacon syrup. The next few sips manage to lull you into a false sense of acceptance, tricking you into picking up hints of maple in the shake and resurfacing memories of syrup-soaked strips of bacon next to your pancakes at breakfast. But then that charred bacon syrup comes charging right back to the head of your palate, cold-cocking you with an overwhelming chemical sensation that coats the inside of your mouth like Pepto-Bismol. Subsequent sips recreate the reaction like clockwork: initial pleasantness at the mild bacon-and-maple flavor, followed quickly by the chemical assault.
For those who are wondering, the bacon syrup contains no actual bacon. The shake itself contains no actual bacon—apparently, it's technically vegetarian. That doesn't mean we're advocating vegetarians rush out and buy it to "see what they've been missing." On the contrary, one slurp of the Bacon Shake is sure to keep anyone with even the remotest objections to eating meat on a plant-based diet for at least the next few decades, if not forever.
So, should you give Jack in the Box's Bacon Shake a shot? The answer is an emphatic no. That doesn't mean you should swear off bacon-based desserts completely, though. Adam Reid's recipe for a real Maple-Bacon Shake shows the right way to tackle this beverage/dessert, using real bacon fat and no chemicals. As for Jack in the Box's version, let's just hope they make good on their promise to keep this abomination in limited availability.
About the author: Adam Lindsley is a Pacific Northwest-based writer, musician, and the author of the pizza blog, This Is Pizza. You can follow him at @ThisIsPizza on Twitter. Astonishingly, he really enjoys burgers, pizza, beer, and doughnuts.