What Is A Milkshake?

It really seems fairly obvious–Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines a milkshake as “a thoroughly shaken or blended drink made of milk, a flavoring syrup, and often ice cream.” In this day and age, though, there are a whole lot of options on almost everything, and milkshakes are no exception.

So, when does a milkshake cross the line and become an ice-cream treat? Is it when the shake is too thick to be sucked through a straw? Or, is it when there are enough chunks that you have to use a spoon? Who gets to decide if something qualifies as a milkshake? There are all kinds of variations on the theme of the standard vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The three basics are available pretty much anywhere milkshakes are offered. From there, you can venture down one path with fruit, down another with cookies, down another with candy bars, and down another with colorful things that only kids want to eat. 

At the fast-food chains, you encounter a whole specialized realm of milkshake options. This one has jamocha, that one has shamrock and egg nog, and another has what they call a Frosty (now available in chocolate or vanilla, by the way). Some offer optional mix-ins, and others stick with the basics only. Of course, that’s just the fast-food chains. Don’t forget the gas station/convenience store that has the milkshake stand where you pull the cup that has your preferred flavor, stick it in the machine, and push enough buttons to tell the machine how thick or thin to blend it. And then, there’s everybody else, down to the creative kid experimenting with the blender.

With as many ingredients as are available to the general public these days, especially during the summer months, the possibilities are, literally, endless! Anybody who has a blender, milk, and something to add some flavor can make a milkshake. If that person also has fruit on hand, the world of smoothies is open to him or her, as well. Ice cream is always a good help, but, as Merriam-Webster so kindly pointed out, ice cream is not essential.

If your creation is to be categorized as a milkshake, in my opinion, it needs to be able to, at least for the most part, make it through a straw while still in its intended frozen form. This, obviously, eliminates the commercial Blizzards, McFlurries, and that whole family of ice-cream treats from the ranks of the “shakes.” I would consider smoothies to be healthy cousins of milkshakes, with more focus on the fruit and less focus on the milk. A smoothie, for instance, can be a perfectly acceptable breakfast drink, one that even my parents enjoy without the least bit of guilt–a dieter’s substitute for the traditional milkshake.

There are so many possibilities and so little time. For me, the time concern is the life expectancy of my blender, which threatens to blow up, almost every time I try experimenting with milkshakes or smoothies . . . .

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