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".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."
The history of the electric blender, malted milk drinks and milkshakes are interconnected. Before the
widespread availability of electric blenders, milkshake-type drinks were more like eggnog, or they were a
hand-shaken mixture of crushed ice and milk, sugar, and flavorings. Hamilton Beach's drink mixers
began being used at soda fountains in 1911 and the electric blender or drink mixer was invented by
Steven Poplawski in 1922. With the invention of the blender, milkshakes began to take their modern,
whipped, aerated, and frothy form. Malted milk drinks are made with malted milk powder, which contains
dried milk, malted barley and wheat flour. Malted milk powder was invented in 1897 by William Horlick as
an easily digested restorative health drink for invalids and children, and as an infant's food.
The use of malted milk powder in milkshakes was popularized in the USA by the Chicago drugstore
chain Walgreens. 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 (milk, chocolate syrup and malt
powder). 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.
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. In 1937, the Denton Journal in Maryland stated that "For a 'frosted' shake, add a
dash of your favorite ice cream." In 1939, the Mansfield News in Ohio stated that "A frosted beverage, in
the vernacular, is something good to which ice cream has been added. Example par excellence is frosted
coffee—that hot, tasty beverage made chilly with ice and frosty with ice cream."
1940s and 1950s
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 had neon light
signs, checkerboard-patterned linoleum floor tiles, chrome barstools, vinyl booths, formica counter-tops
with coin-operated jukeboxes, a board of daily specials, a counter top donut display case, and
prominently displayed behind the counter, a shining chrome or stainless steel milkshake mixing
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. Soda fountain staff had their own jargon, such as "Burn One All the Way"
(chocolate malted with chocolate ice cream), "Twist It, Choke It, and Make It Cackle" (chocolate malted
with an egg) "Shake One in the Hay" (a strawberry shake) and a "White Cow" (a vanilla milkshake). In
the 1950s, a milkshake machine salesman named Ray Kroc bought exclusive rights to the 1930s-era
Multimixer milkshake maker from inventor Earl Prince, and went on to use automated milkshake
machines to speed up production at McDonald's restaurants.
In the 1950s, milkshakes were called "frappes", "velvets," "frosted [drinks]", or "cabinets" in different parts
of the US. 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 1952, the Newport
Daily News in Rhode Island contained a "Guide For Top Quality ICE CREAM SODAS CABINETS MILK
SHAKES", which shows the use of the term "cabinet" in print. An article from 1953 in the Salisbury Times
(in the state of Maryland) suggests that shakes can be made in a jar by shaking well. The article states
that by adding four large tablespoons of ice cream, the drink becomes a "frosted shake."
In 2006, the US 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.
In the 2000s, milkshakes began being used as part of the new trend of boutique-style "spa dentistry,"
which aim to relax dental patients and reduce their anxiety. Spa dentistry uses aromatherapy, massages,
music playing through headphones to reduce patient's tension. At the end of the a filling or root canal in a
spa dentistry treatment, patients are given an icy milkshake "...to soothe mouth soreness and delay the
desire for heavier foods while the effects of the anesthesia dissipate."
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 US census started
measuring this in the 1970s. The shift means the burger, fries and milkshake ideal evoked by the
sitcom Happy Daysis losing its hold on the American appetite." Instead, US consumers are going out to
casual dining restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden and the Outback Steakhouse.
Despite the downturn in family restaurant business, the US sales of milkshakes, malts and floats rose
11% in 2006, according to the industry research firm NPD Group. Christopher Muller, the director of the
Center for Multi-Unit Restaurant Management at Orlando's University of Central Florida states that
"milkshakes remind us of summer, youth — and indulgence", and "they're evocative of a time gone
by". Muller states that milkshakes are an "enormously profitable" item for restaurants, since the fluffy
drinks contain so much air. The market research firm Technomic claims that about 75% of the averagepriced
$3.38 restaurant shake in 2006 was profit. An executive from Sonic Drive-In, a US chain of 1950sstyle
diner restaurants, calls shakes "...one of our highest-volume, revenue-producing areas".
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. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported
that chefs from "hipster hangouts and retro landmarks" are using "macerated farmers market
strawberries, Valrhona chocolate and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla" to make new milkshake flavors.
Other novel ideas offered in LA-area restaurants include milkshakes made with toasted pecans, saffronrose
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.