Tim Nelson

The coffee + vanilla milkshake = a bogus version of an affagato

Tim Nelson
September 26, 2018

Anyone who has more than a passing familiarity with fast food no doubt knows that every restaurant has something of an off-the-book ‘secret’ menu. This nebulous underground of bizarre burgers and odd drinks was once only spoken about in hushed tones, passed from employees to their friends while off the clock or revealed by those brave souls with the gall to ask for an unorthodox combination of items. As it does with everything, the internet exposed secret menu items to the masses, making them more widely available but somehow less fun.

The latest such entry into the pantheon of internet-age “secret” menu item hails from the UK. It’s an apparent late-night favorite of cops patrolling the streets of Birmingham, a job that Netflix tells me has something to do with roughing up or taking bribes from blokes who look a lot like Cillian Murphy while a more Irish version of Sam Neill from Jurassic Park yells at you. That sort of work calls for both copious amounts of caffeine and the occasional sweet treat, which is naturally where the “McAffogato” comes in.

A play on the affogato, a traditionally Italian dessert consisting of an espresso shot poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the Birmingham Mail says cops have taken to combining McCafé espresso with a vanilla milkshake for their own jury-rigged version. But because I don’t want to live in a world where British cops have all the fun, I decided to see if I could recreate the McAffogato on my own for American eaters.

The first obstacle in acquiring the DIY drink comes down to a difference in offerings between the UK and the US, as there was no straight-up espresso on the menu at the McDonald’s I visited. Because my greatest fear in life is mildly inconveniencing service industry workers, I opted for an Americano instead, figuring that a diluted version of espresso wasn’t the end of the world. Only now am I realizing how antithetical my “don’t ask for something that isn’t on the menu” approach was to the fundamental idea of ordering a secret menu drink.

I realized quickly that I’d have to sip down the vanilla shake a bit to make room for the (watery) espresso. Having never ordered one from McDonald’s before, I’m pleased to confirm that it tastes pretty much like the platonic form of vanilla shake: sweet and creamy. The Americano (I opted for medium in the hopes that it’d yield enough for this experiment) felt a bit watery on its own, but it’s not a go-to coffee order for me so maybe that’s just what happens when you decide to ruin perfectly good shots of espresso.

When I combined the two ingredients, something magical happened. The Americano’s collision with the vanilla shake suddenly drew out its dormant flavor, making for a taste that’s—shocker— pretty similar to coffee ice cream. There’s only a slight change in coloration to the shake when viewed from the top, but a look from the side shows a layer of soft beige sitting just beneath the vanilla surface. I can only imagine both the taste and visual effect would be more pronounced if I was an alpha who successfully acquired an off-menu espresso. But the Americano gets the job done, and arguably makes the concocted confection less sludgy and more drinkable.

While the taste and drinking experience were solid enough, it’s the after-effects you might want to worry about. I felt a palpable caffeine rush from the dual espresso shots less than halfway through the drink, no doubt catalyzed by some of the 72 GRAMS of sugar in a medium vanilla shake that I’d ingested. I can see why a Bobby would chug one of these to get through a long night of chasing down chavs who’ve knicked mobiles and breaking up boisterous lad fights at the chip shop. This thing provides the kind of rush that makes you feel like you’ll live forever until you inevitably crash so hard you wish you’d never been born.

So there you have it: the McAffogato is essentially a coffee shake that comes with a profound sense of existential dread. Was it the worst drink I’ve ever had? No. Would I have been better off trying it in the depths of an all-nighter instead of at 2:00 on a pretty normal Wednesday afternoon? Perhaps. Was it worth the $6 I paid for what amounts to a DIY Frappucino? Unclear.

Maybe I’m getting soft and old. Maybe I’m too much of a wimp to make it as a British police offer. The only thing I know for sure is that this thing is maybe the closest you could get to ordering a speedball from McDonald’s. McAffogato at your own risk.  

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