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My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Kelis 1
Since the dawn of time, humans have fought the laws of physics and pasteurisation in order to create the perfect blend of milk and shaking. To my knowledge, this battle has not yet been won, so I took it upon myself to search the world in the quest for the Ultimate Milkshake.
Even though I’ve been on this mission for more than twenty years, I have not found many milkshakes that reach a worthy grade. For this reason, I only list a few milkshakes here - the best of the best. The search has covered about 20 countries and consumed many hundreds (possibly thousands) of shakes. If you have a suggestion for a great milkshake, please send it to me.
At this point you might be wondering what it takes to make the perfect milkshake. Well, it is hard to quantify. I like my milkshakes heavy on the ice cream–almost to the point of requiring an industrial strength straw in order to withstand the amount of raw suction required to get the liquid from container to mouth. I also prefer if the flavour comes from the ice-cream rather than a syrup. I can’t remember ever having a great milkshake that used syrup for the flavour (they are usually way too sweet). If it is my first visit to the milkshake vendor, I start with a classic vanilla (preferably with the seeds of the vanilla bean visible). A repeat visit might have me branch out to chocolate or caramel, and then to the full flavour repertoire after that.
Ok, that’s enough dairy chit-chat. Let’s get on to the shakes.
Before we start, a quick discussion about one of my favourite milkshake locations. For some reason those wacky New Englanders call their milkshakes “frappes”. I overlook this affront to the art of blended milk because they make amazing drinks. Seriously, Boston could be named the milkshake capital of the world. Generally everything I’ve had around there has been exceptional (including Cambridge and Harvard).
One more thing about Boston: there is a damn fine chocolate milk available called Berkeley Farms. I’m not sure how they do it, but they’ve managed to blend together the two ingredients into a perfect mix.2 And while we’re on a chocolate milk digression, I was overjoyed to find Canada makes a customized brand of chocolate milk just for me!! 3
If you’re lucky enough to spend some time around MIT then make sure you check out Toscanani’s. It’s just up the road towards Central Square. The sign out the front says “World’s best ice cream”, which is a pretty big boast4, but they live up to it. They make fantastic milk shakes with a wide selection of flavours.
There is nothing better than walking through a hot, humid Boston summer to get an icy-cold milkshake. In fact, the Toscanini milkshakes are so good there is nothing better than walking through a freezing Boston winter to get an icy-cold milkshake. And if you can enjoy a milkshake when it’s -10C, then you know it is pretty amazing.
My recommendation: Vanilla.
Hint: get a frequent milkshakers card if you’re going to be visiting a number of times. And you should!
Emack and Bolio’s motto is “Ice Cream for the Connoiseur”, and they mean it. This is a mini-chain that is now open in nine states across the US. As you can tell by the menu shown here, they put the fun back into ice cream. Now you might say that the fun never left ice cream, but whatever, Emack and Bolio’s make great milkshakes and that is all I care about.
I’ve only been to the store in Roslindale, but I’m pretty confident the quality would be consistent everywhere. I’ve tried a few flavours and loved them all. I remember asking the staff what type of monster they used for the Monster Mash flavour and whether the grasshoppers in the pie were local to the area.
My recommendation: Chocolate Moose, but try them all
The Bobtail Ice Cream Company make fantastic ice cream, with some unusual flavours like pumpkin and cinnamon. Honestly, I’ve never tasted such great ice cream. They also have a few outlets where they’ll make you a milkshake.
Now any milkshake expert will tell you that a milkshake tastes best in a metal cup. Not only does it taste better, you usually get more to drink (those 50s-style glass containers aren’t enough to fill you up). Bobtail certainly delivered, with a metal cup that instantly started condensing water on the outside and was cold enough to give you a sore hand.
I visited the store in Broadway near DePaul University. I remember telling the staff about my quest for milkshake nirvana and how their creation had instantly made the list. When I visited about six months later they remembered me, a pleasant experience which made the milkshakes even tastier!!
My recommendation: Vanilla milkshake (as usual). For ice cream, try the Daley Addiction.
I’ve had a lot of milkshakes in a lot of places and the ones listed above stand out so much that I’m not bothering to mention the other contenders. Well, except one. I’d feel bad for not plugging a local shop - Rubee’s in Canberra. Their milkshake isn’t fantastic, but their “frozen custard”5 is awesome. Get a concrete. My favourite: chocolate with macadamia nuts.
I’m always on the lookout for milkshake recommendations. Please send them in.
In case you were wondering, I realise this song isn’t about the same type of milkshake. I expect there are many people searching for the ultimate in that field of milkshakes.↩
Although I have a good idea: To full cream milk add lots of chocolate, lots more cream and many helpings of pure evil.↩
It’s also a common boast. I’ve lost count of the number of places that claim to have the World’s Best Ice Cream.↩
As far as I can tell, frozen custard isn’t custard. It’s just ice cream with a bit more egg.↩