Serious Eats: Drinks
We Try Arby's Peppermint Stick Swirl Shake
I have always been of two minds when it comes to peppermint. In certain forms, it doesn't appeal to me at all. Candy canes passed around every December? Forever passed along to an eager sibling or friend. Those hard little Brach's Star Brite mints they bring to your table with the receipt after you finish your meal at a restaurant? Left untouched. Yet in other forms—most notably the peppermint ice cream used in Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie flavor—I find it extremely difficult to resist.
Arby's may be known for its fast-food roast beef sandwiches, but that hasn't stopped the national chain from getting in the holiday spirit of things with its new Peppermint Stick Swirl Shake. Starting with a whole milk vanilla shake base blended with a proprietary peppermint syrup, the drink takes on a pinkish hue before it's deposited in a 20-ounce cup decorated with the namesake "peppermint stick swirl."
Comparing the careful application of the swirl in Arby's press images with the photograph of the shake I purchased, it becomes clear that the level of creativity and flair devoted to the application of the deep red ribbon of sugar is left entirely to the discretion of the employee. The whole affair is then topped—needlessly so, if you ask me—with a mound of whipped cream and a sprinkling of crushed peppermint candy.
To my surprise, the shake wasn't a freight train of sweetness charging straight for my blood cells, but a mild, milky drink that faithfully mimics a lighter version of mid-tier peppermint ice cream (you know, the pink stuff). There was a chemical aspect to the flavors at play, no doubt about it, but it was subdued enough that it didn't prove much of a distraction.
The shake also delivered hints of Andes Mints and Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies in there, minus the chocolate components, of course. I was expecting peppermint overkill from a milkshake lightweight like Arby's, but the chain's food scientists pulled off a nice balancing act here.
The question remains, however: Who is up to the task of consuming a 20-ounce peppermint shake? That's over a pint of milkshake, and while it isn't incredibly rich like the pumpkin shake at Burgerville, it's still a lot of peppermint and sugar to ingest. If you're a lover of this flavor, even if only in ice cream form, the Peppermint Stick Swirl Shake from Arby's isn't a bad choice at all. How much of it you'll finish, though, is directly tied to your enthusiasm for all things peppermint.
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. He is currently searching desperately for a bottle of Upright Brewing's Blend Love, so if you can lend a hand, get in touch!