Anyone that has been to Olive Garden likely knows about those complimentary little mints that come at the end of the meal along with the check. For many people, myself included, these wafers are small chocolate-mint slices of heaven.
While many people know that they are made by Andes (the Andes logo is stamped right on top of the mint), most erroneously assume these are the same Andes mints you can buy at the local supermarket. The top result in a Google search for “Olive Garden mints” is this page; everyone answering the question of where to find them suggests Walmart or a grocery store. Unfortunately, all of these people are incorrect. As a true after-dinner mint connoisseur, I am here to set the record straight: Olive Garden mints are not for sale.
Andes makes several varieties of their after-dinner mints; the ones commonly available at retail outlets are the Crème de Menthe type. If you look closely at these, you’ll see they have two layers of chocolate with a mint layer sandwiched in the middle. The Olive Garden mints have a single layer of chocolate at the bottom, and a layer of mint on the top. (The top mint layer accounts for about 2/3 of the candy’s height, making them the same size as the Crème de Menthe variety).
The two types of mints are obviously different in appearance, and because of the varying chocolate-to-mint ratio, different in taste. To my palate the Crème de Menthe variety have more of a “bite” to them. I’m not sure what kind of chocolate Andes uses in their mints, but I tend to think it’s more on the bitter side, like dark chocolate. The Olive Garden mints have a smoother taste, which I prefer—slightly sweeter and more minty.
For those that prefer the Olive Garden mints there is good news: Andes makes a variety called Mint Parfait, which has two layers of mint and a layer of chocolate in the middle. The chocolate-to-mint ratio is the same as the Olive Garden mints, and the taste is almost identical. (Because the Olive Garden mints’ chocolate layer is fully exposed, the chocolate taste may be more prominent as it can directly contact your taste buds when you put the mint in your mouth.) The only problem is that the Mint Parfait variety is difficult to find. My local grocery store had them for a short time around Christmas. They sold out quickly. You can buy them online; however, they tend to be expensive, you can usually only find them in bulk quantities, and if you buy them in summer they could melt during shipment.
The image below illustrates the difference between the various types of mints:
On the left is Crème de Menthe, in the middle is Mint Parfait, and the Olive Garden mint is on the far right.
I wrote to Olive Garden asking them if their mints were available for purchase. Here is the answer I received:
We are honored by the compliment you have given us in asking if our mints are available for purchase. Unfortunately, our Olive Garden mints are not for sale. Often we have agreements with our vendors for exclusivity. It is our way of keeping Olive Garden unique and exciting for our guests each time they visit. We trust that you will understand.
Based on my Web research, most people either can’t tell the difference between the various types of Andes mints, or simply don’t care. The rest of us can be seen at Olive Garden, courteously asking the waitress for extra mints with the check.