I can still smell the old drugstore in the tiny town of Wyoming, Iowa where we used to go for summer visits at my great-aunt Margery’s home. She made the best cookies in Iowa, but I don’t recall her ever making us milkshakes, probably because all we had to do was take a short walk into town and plop down on the hand-crafted wooden stools at the soda fountain and order one for a quarter. The aroma of the old drugstore was a mix of medicinal capsules with a whiff of “City of Paris” eau de cologne thrown in for good measure. But when the milkshake was set down before you, all you could smell and taste was the ultra creamy chocolate or vanilla milkshake. That’s how I think of milkshakes – until now.
Author Adam Ried introduces milkshake modernization. It’s like the old familiar vanilla and chocolate have gone a little ballistic. Imagine toasty sesame oil and some honey in a vanilla shake, or rum and salted cashews. For chocolate, add some chipotle and almond, or mango, chile, and lime. Also in that Iowa drugstore, we used to buy Mary Jane candies with its sublime molasses and peanut butter flavor, which is also another flavor of milkshake. You can really go a little ballistic and add fresh sweet corn and basil to a vanilla shake. I like fruity shakes and there are many to chose from – cantaloupe-lemon, bananas foster, blackberry-lavender, or raspberry-rose. Or how about a maple-bacon with that grilled steak you made for dinner. There are endless, fascinating flavor combinations.
Milkshakes have certainly come a long way since 1885, the year they were first referred to in print. Milkshakes then were considered both a tonic and a treat since they contained a shot of whiskey along with the milk, ice, sugar, and egg, then shaken by hand. Somewhere along the way, malted milk started merging with milkshakes, especially after the invention of the Hamilton Beach Drink Mixer, which marketed to the popular drug store fountains. Next came the electric blender that whipped the milkshake into an even smoother product. In 1922, a soda jerk from a Walgreen’s drugstore soda fountain in Chicago decided to add ice cream to the mix, and people waited in long lines to taste the new concoction. Next came the “multimixer” in 1936 which could mix five shakes at once. Paper cups were used for the shakes, and were sold to the stores by a salesman named Ray Kroc. He was impressed with this new mixer and convinced the inventor to sell him the rights to the machine. Kroc later met Dick and Mac McDonald who ran a small chain of hamburger stands, which of course became McDonald’s. The original McDonald’s only sold burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
There are more than 100 shake recipes in the book, and Ried will convince you to go beyond the traditional shake. He has perfected the old favorites and invented countless new ones. My guess is that my great aunt Margery would have put something like rhubarb in hers since she grew massive amounts of it in her garden. It came as no surprise when I found a strawberry-rhubarb shake in the book. Remember that milkshakes are not just for kids. Try the chocolate-Guinness shake and you’ll never go back to vanilla again. Just don’t let your kids drink that one….