Milkshakes (aka milk shakes) are a thick, rich cold drink made with milk.
A good milkshake needs to be thick enough to give a little resistance at first when you try to suck on it (some say it should be thick enough to make you black out trying to suck it up.)
You can also buy milkshakes already made now in bottles in chiller sections of supermarkets.
Variety of ingredients
The base ingredients in a milkshake are milk, flavouring syrup and / or fruit.
The addition of ice cream varies by geography.
In New England (including Massachusetts and Rhode Island), there is no ice cream in milkshakes. In the UK, and even in New York City, a milkshake can be just flavoured milk, with no ice cream.
In the rest of the world, outside the UK and New England, people will get very cross if you try to serve them a milkshake with no ice cream in it. To them, without ice cream, it is just flavoured milk, which you ask for by specific name — e.g. chocolate milk, banana milk, strawberry milk, etc.
In New England, if ice cream is added, the drink is called something other than a milkshake. In Rhode Island, it gets called a “cabinet’, with the name coming from the name of the square cabinet that the mixers used to be in at soda fountain bars. In the rest of New England, the drink with ice cream is called a “frappé” or a “velvet.”
At home, you use a blender to make a milkshake. Purists insist, though, that you want a proper milkshake machine which blends and adds some air, but not so much air as to make it frothy. The introduction of some air helps to thicken it but also to make it light enough to suck through a straw. To get it right, they say, you need the kind of blender where the blending jug is held up into a blending blade on a spindle. This allows you to tilt the blending jug as needed while the blades are whirring. The blending jugs, usually stainless steel on the classic machines, can be referred to as “mixing cans” or “malt cups.”
More modern commercial milkshake machines have a container inside them, where the milk and ice cream are kept in a semi-frozen mix.
Classic milkshake names
Some classic names for types of milkshakes are:
- White Cow — vanilla;
- Shake One in the Hay — strawberry;
- Black and White — vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup (Massachusetts)
McDonald’s Milk Shakes
McDonald’s milkshakes were long rumoured to have no milk in them, because they just called them “shakes.” But while they have no ice cream in them, they do contain milk. They are made by mixing milk with the appropriate flavouring syrup and a shake mix of their own. The ingredients are mixed up in refrigerated cabinets and dispensed from there.
Part of the thickener mix contains carrageenan, a seaweed thickener, but then many foods do nowadays. The carrageenan also helps the frozen mix from turning into a solid block of ice.
The entire ingredient list for a McDonald’s milkshake is: whole milk, sucrose, non-fat milk solids, corn syrup solids, cream, guar gum, sodium hexametaphosphate, carrageenan, imitation vanilla flavour, cellulose gum.
Milkshakes used to actually be shaken by hand in a closed container. Blenders were not invented until 1922.
Milkshakes are sometimes called just shakes, as in “Vanilla Shake” or “Strawberry Shake.”
The word is often written as two words, as in “milk shake”. Major dictionaries disagree on whether it should be one or two words.