So, let’s start from the beginning. What one ingredient is basic to every milkshake? Pretty much, every milkshake uses–go figure–milk.
Milk seems like a common enough bare-bones sort of ingredient, but have you looked at the shelves at the grocery store recently? There are a whole lot of different colored lids in the dairy section, from Fat Free (is that still milk? or has it crossed the line and become whey?) to Whole, not to mention Half-n-Half, Whipping Cream, and the full-bodied stuff you get at the farm (you know, where the cows live . . . when you take the milk home and it separates into two layers if you let it sit for any length of time). With all those options out there, which one makes the best milkshake?
My personal opinion is that the thicker (okay, so the higher fat content) the milk, the better the shake. If you’re on a low-fat diet, you will, obviously, want to ignore this recommendation, but if you’re willing to cut back somewhere else, to enjoy premium creamy milkshakes, then go for the good stuff–whole milk, bare minimum! My preference is the stuff straight from the farm (use clean containers, get it from a high-reputation farm, use it all promptly, follow all sensible safety precautions), but that’s a little too thick for some people, and there’s a definite sweetness there, that bothers some people so very used to the results of the homogenization and pasteurization necessary for milk that’s traveling from farms to packaging plants to stores, before it gets to the consumer. I haven’t yet tried whipping cream for milkshakes, but I think I just might, next time we get some for a baking project . . . . I’ll let you know.
Okay, so that takes care of the milk. What about the other stuff? Go with common sense–the better the quality of the ingredients, the better the end result. For example, if you use ice cream, use the good stuff. A milkshake, if you want great flavor, is not the place to get rid of cheap leftovers from the party that don’t taste good by themselves. The exception to that rule, of course, would be if you’re going to make one of those fancy lots-of-ingredients milkshakes that have enough additional strong flavors to hide the flavor of the ice cream. In that case, go ahead and be frugal! Don’t get me wrong–I’m a major advocate of using leftovers, but there are ways to enhance them and ways to make them just taste bad. So, before you throw it into the blender, think through whether this particular ingredient will work well with the others, in its present state of freshness and quality.
All that said, there are a whole lot of milkshake recipes out there–dive in with good ingredients, and have a great time! Let me know if you come across an especially good blend.