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A <a href="/content/Johnny_Rockets" style="color:blue">Johnny Rockets</a> <a href="/content/Strawberry" style="color:blue">strawberry</a> milkshake topped with <a href="/content/Whipped_cream" style="color:blue">whipped cream</a> and strawberry <a href="/content/Syrup" style="color:blue">syrup</a>
A Johnny Rockets strawberry milkshake topped with whipped cream and strawberry syrup

A milkshake is a sweet, cold beverage that is usually made from milk, ice cream, and/or ice milk, and sometimes flavorings or sweeteners such as butterscotch, caramel sauce, chocolate syrup, or fruit syrup.

Many more precise and rigid definitions are used, depending on the location.

Full-service restaurants, soda fountains, and diners usually prepare and mix the shake "by hand" from scoops of ice cream and milk in a blender or drink mixer using a stainless steel cup. Many fast food outlets do not make shakes by hand with ice cream; instead, they make shakes in automatic milkshake machines which freeze and serve a pre-made milkshake mixture consisting of milk, a sweetened flavoring agent, and a thickening agent. However, some fast food outlets still follow the traditional method, and some serve milkshakes which are prepared by blending soft-serve ice cream (or ice milk) with flavoring or syrups. Milkshakes can also be made at home with a blender or automatic drink mixer.

A milkshake can also be made by adding powder into fresh milk and stirring the powder into the milk.


Hand-blended milkshakes are traditionally made from any flavor of ice cream; additional flavorings, such as chocolate syrup and/or malt syrup or malt powder, can be added prior to mixing. This allows a greater variety than is available in machine-made shakes. Some unusual milkshake recipes exclude ice cream.[1]

Milkshake-like recipes which use a high proportion of fruit and no ice cream are usually called smoothies, even if frozen yogurt (a dairy dessert) is used; however there are cases where a blended beverage is made with sherbet, frozen yogurt and fruit which are sold as smoothies even though they could also be considered milkshakes. When malted milk is added, a milkshake is called a malted milkshake, a malt shake (or maltshake), a malted, or simply a malt. An ice cream-based milkshake may be called a thick milkshake or thick shake in the United Kingdom or a frappe (/fræˈpeɪ/ fra-PAY]]) or p in parts of New England and Canada.[2][3][4]

Some U.S. restaurants serve milkshakes with crumbled cookies, candy bar pieces, or alcoholic beverages.

Pre-made milkshakes are sold in grocery stores in North America and the UK.


When the term "milkshake" was first used in print in 1885, milkshakes were an alcoholic whiskey drink that has been described as a "sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat".[5] However, by 1900, the term referred to "wholesome drinks made with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla syrups." By the "early 1900s people were asking for the new treat, often with ice cream." By the 1930s, milkshakes were a popular drink at malt shops, which were the "typical soda fountain of the period... used by students as a meeting place or hangout."[5]

The history of the electric blender, malted milk drinks, and milkshakes are interconnected.

The use of malted milk powder in milkshakes was popularized in the USA by the Chicago drugstore chain Walgreens. Malted milk powder — a mixture of evaporated milk, malted barley, and wheat flour – had been invented by William Horlick in 1897 for use as an easily digested restorative health drink for disabled people and children, and as an infant's food.[8][9] However, healthy people soon began drinking beverages made with malted milk simply for the taste,[9] and malted milk beverages containing milk, chocolate syrup, and malt powder became a standard offering at soda fountains. In 1922, Walgreens employee Ivar "Pop" Coulson made a milkshake by adding two scoops of vanilla ice cream to the standard malted milk drink recipe.[10] This item, under the name "Horlick's Malted Milk", was featured by the Walgreen drugstore chain as part of a chocolate milk shake, which itself became known as a "malted" or "malt" and became one of the most popular soda-fountain drinks.[11]

The automation of milkshakes developed in the 1930s, after the invention of freon-cooled refrigerators provided a safe, reliable way of automatically making and dispensing ice cream. In 1936, inventor Earl Prince used the basic concept behind the freon-cooled automated ice cream machine to develop the Multimixer, a "five-spindled mixer that could produce five milkshakes at once, all automatically, and dispense them at the pull of a lever into awaiting paper cups."

In the late 1930s, several newspaper articles show that the term "frosted" was used to refer to milkshakes made with ice cream.

By the 1950s, popular places to drink milkshakes were Woolworth's "5 & 10" lunch counters, diners, burger joints, and drugstore soda fountains. These establishments often prominently displayed a shining chrome or stainless steel milkshake mixing machine.[13]

These establishments made milkshakes in Hamilton Beach or similar styles of drink mixers, which had spindles and agitators that folded air into the drinks for "smooth, fluffy results" and served them in 12½-ounce tall, "Y"-shaped glasses.

Milkshakes had also become popular in other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and Australia. In Australia, milk bars had grown popular and milkshakes were normally served lightly whipped and often in the aluminium or stainless steel cups in which they were prepared. In addition to more conventional flavors, spearmint and lime flavored milkshakes became popular in Australia.

In the 1950s, milkshakes were called "frappes", "velvets", "frosted [drinks]", or "cabinets" in different parts of the U.S. A specialty style of milkshake, the "concrete", was "a milk shake so thick that the server hands it out the order window upside down, demonstrating that not a drop will drip."

In 2005, the traditional home of the milkshake, the family restaurants and 24-hour diner-style restaurants that were the "staples of 1950s and 60s America such as Denny's, Big Boy, and the International House of Pancakes" were supplanted "in terms of revenue for the first time since the U.S. census started measuring this in the 1970s. The shift means the burger, fries, and milkshake ideal evoked by the sitcom Happy Days is losing its hold on the American appetite." Instead, U.S. consumers are going out to casual dining restaurants.[17]

In 2006, the U.S. Agricultural Research Service developed reduced-sugar, low-fat milk shakes for lunch programs. The shakes have half the sugar and only 10% of the fat of commercial fast-food shakes. Schools need a milk shake machine or soft-serve ice cream machine to serve the milkshakes. The milkshakes also have added fiber and other nutrients, and they have much less lactose, which makes the shakes appropriate for some lactose intolerant people.[18]

The U.S. sales of milkshakes, malts, and floats rose 11% in 2006, according to the industry research firm NPD Group.

Part of the increase in milkshake sales reported in 2006 may be due to the increasing availability of innovative chef-designed milkshakes in high-end restaurants.

Other novel ideas offered in LA-area restaurants include milkshakes made with toasted pecans, saffron-rose water or orange-blossom ice cream, taro root, vanilla beans steeped in rum, Valrhona chocolate and Grey Goose vodka, and vanilla custard mixed with Russian Imperial stout.[20]

A 2016 article stated that chefs are trying out innovative ideas with milkshakes to keep customers interested in the frothy drinks.[21] The article noted that coffee-flavored shakes are popular "because it [coffee flavour] complements both sweet and savory" dishes.[21] At One Market Restaurant, gay pride was celebrated with a Harvey Milk shake (intended for adults, due to its alcohol content), named after the ground-breaking gay US politician. The shake included "vanilla ice cream, Pinnacle Peach Vodka, Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, strawberries, blueberries and Valrhona White Chocolate Pride Tuile." [21] Other bars are also adding alcoholic beverages to shakes for adults, such as "spirits and/or beer, though these can be very challenging to pull off without dairy curdling.” [21] Unusual flavours from 2016 included bacon (particularly popular amongst millennials), peanut butter and jelly (like the popular sandwich), pumpkin, chocolate-coated strawberry and red velvet (like the cake).[21] Another trend is using different types of milk, such as "almond milk, coconut milk, [or] hemp milk."[21]

An unusual trend from 2016 was the Black Tap milkshake, a premium-priced ($15), 1,600 calorie drink that includes a "mountain of ice cream topped with peanut butter cups, lollipops, cotton candy, or even entire slices of cake".[22] Similar drinks referred to as "freakshakes" were popular in the United Kingdom and Australia around this time.[23] A 2018 article described a date shake made with ice milk and a concentrated form of dates called "date crystals"; the milkshake, sold in Palm Springs, California, was described by the reviewer as "[e]arthy and sweet", with tastes of "butterscotch, caramel and even chocolate", with "surprisingly complex flavors".[24]

Use in protests

In May 2019, during the build-up to the EU parliament elections in the United Kingdom, the throwing of milkshakes emerged as a protest tactic, usually targetting far-right politicians. The movement originated with the "milkshaking" of Tommy Robinson on 3 May, with a second thrown later that month.[25][26]

The UK police requested that an Edinburgh McDonald's refrain from selling milkshakes on the 17th, during a visit by Nigel Farage. This prompted Burger King to tweet in response: "We're selling milkshakes all weekend. Have fun."[27] At a separate visit in Newcastle on the 20th, Farage had a Five Guys milkshake thrown at him.[28] Carl Benjamin had a total of four milkshakes thrown at him that week.[29] The act of milkshaking is similar to that of egging as a form of protest against political figures.[30]

In popular culture

"The Longest Drink in Town" is a popular drink cup in New Zealand with a branded logo of a giraffe that is used for milkshakes throughout the country, most commonly in dairies.[31] The cup was introduced in 1968; it has a logo is composed of a giraffe on a cup or shirt, with text reading "The Longest Drink in Town" next to it.[31][32] The phrase, "The Longest Drink in Town", compares the height of the milkshake cup to that of a giraffe. In 2011, Delmaine introduced a brand of milkshake syrups under the brand name The Longest Drink in Town.[33] Master Shake, one of the main characters from the long-running American animated television series Aqua Teen Hunger Force (also known by various alternative titles), is a life-sized anthropomorphic milkshake. In the ultraviolent futuristic dystopia in A Clockwork Orange by director Stanley Kubrick, the young gang members go to the Korova milk bar for "milk plus", a dairy beverage to which stimulants and hallucinogenic drugs have been added.

"Milkshakes in the movies are shorthand for sweetness and goodness."[34] In All About Eve, by director Joseph L Mankiewicz, Bette Davis’ character is unhappy to see a man she likes chatting up her young female assistant, so Davis' character orders an alcoholic Martini, and "then mockingly suggests [that] Eve [the young assistant] will have a milkshake", thereby "asserting womanhood over girlhood through milkshake's associations with virginity."[34] Similarly, the socially awkward and nerdy character Steve Buscemi plays in Ghost World is made fun of by a teenage girl because he orders a "virginal vanilla milkshake"; in Manhattan, by director Woody Allen, the director draws attention to the difference in age between his 42-year-old character (he also acts in the lead role) and his teenage girlfriend by having her drink a milkshake. In the film Lolita in 1997, a teenage girl drinks a milkshake while she is with the middle-aged man (her mother's new boyfriend) who is attracted to her.[34] Pulp Fiction has a scene in a retro-50s diner where two characters on a first date discuss the merits of a "Five Dollar Milkshake" ("Martin and Lewis" for vanilla, "Amos and Andy" for chocolate).

The TV series Riverdale depicts the characters in a 1950s-inspired "local diner, Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe, where they favor the greasy, calorie-laden stuff of American folklore: burgers, fries, and milkshakes"; to promote the show, the cast "...shared a milkshake on a Jimmy Fallon [talk show] segment in reference to their characters’ heroic consumption of thick malts."[35]

"Milkshake]" is the title of a 2003 R&Belectro song written and produced by The Neptunes for American singer Kelis' third studio album, Tasty. It reached the top ten in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands, and became Kelis' biggest success to date on Billboard Hot 100 scenes from the film (most notably from its famous "I drink your milkshake" scene) were edited to the song.[36][37] The line became something of a catchphrase for the film and gained moderate recognition in popular culture following the film's release.[38]

In 2017, The Guardian* described the slang term "milkshake duck", which refers to the social media "...arc, where the internet rushes en masse to embrace something or someone as cute, worthy, fun or funny" (such as a duck that drinks milkshakes), but "then just as quickly drops it, when it’s revealed to somehow be unpleasantly complicated"; the paper called the term "useful shorthand" for when a "favourite [concept] is revealed to be problematic".[39] In 2017, there was also a trend of posting photos of milkshakes online; the "hashtag #freakshakes" was used for "more than 89,000 posts on Instagram." [40] Photographer Alana Dimou made fun of the trend of topping milkshakes with donuts "perched upon mason jars, [and] Kit-Kats wedged like an unholy crucifix", with "each establishment attempting to outdo the last, to outplay the originals who rightly hold the claim to fame"; her parody photos show milkshakes topped with tall stacks of donuts or burgers.[41]

See also

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