Long before frozen yogurt, the smoothie, or the icee, there was the milkshake, our nations favorite treat. However, this creamy concoction wasn’t always so kid-friendly. In the 19th-century, the frosty beverage was more cocktail than dessert, with the earlier recipe calling for whiskey in addition to milk and eggs.
Over time, sweet syrups were added, then malted milk powder, followed by ice cream. In 1922, according to food historian Dr. Jennifer Berg of New York University, Walgreens’ employee Ivar “Pop” Coulson made the first modern day milkshake by adding two scoops of vanilla ice cream to their standard malted milk recipe (chocolate syrup, malt powder, and milk). The drink was an instant hit, and soda shops across the nation started selling it as “Horlick’s Chocolate Malted Milkshake”.
With the invention of the blender in the 1930s by Steven Poplawski, milkshakes began to take their modern, whipped, aerated, and frothy form. This sweet, cold beverage was referred to as the frosty. In 1937, the Denton Journal in Maryland stated, “For a ‘frosted’ shake, add a dash of your favorite ice cream.”
By the 1950s the most popular place to get a milkshake was Woolworth’s. This establishment served the shake as it is recognized today, mixed in a stainless steel blender and poured into a 12 1/2 ounce tall, “y”-shaped glass, then topped with whipped cream and a Maraschino cherry. At this point, a drink called the “concrete” was introduced to the list of milkshakes served at Woolworth’s. This hearty beverage claimed to be so thick it had to eaten with a spoon or the customer might risk breaking a rib, or at least that is what the soda jerkers would say jokingly to the patrons.
Pop culture has embraced the milkshake in a number of different ways, including Uma Thurman drinking a $5.00 version at an old fashion diner complete with classic movie star waiters in the movie Pulp Fiction, and Kelis’s catchy rap song “Milkshake” off her album Tasty. These odes to American culture past and present remind us that this thick, creamy beverage is a symbol, not only of American casual cuisine, but us as a young nation.
Milkshakes we drink today are ever-evolving. Old school fans will go for chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, but now this creamy beverage is offered in every sweet flavor under the sun. With the milkshake continuing to evolve we wonder what the future holds for this frosty concoction. Will the original recipe see a return? or maybe we have only scratched the surface with different flavors and textures. Either way, there is no denying a cold milkshake is the perfect cure to a hot day.