What’s the Difference Between Milkshakes and Malts?

Ask a server at any 1950s-style diner to explain what their malt or malted milkshake really is, and you'll hear all sorts of answers. Regardless, you'll probably like it if you're already in the milkshake camp.

A milkshake is a glass of blended ice cream, milk, and other mix-ins or flavorings.  A malt is a special kind of milkshake that includes the addition of malted milk powder. You add the malt after you've mixed your shake, according to CTL Foods, a Colfax, Wisconsin-based company selling malt powders, syrups, and slushes. The malted milk powder enhances the flavor of the ingredients, giving you a sweetish, richer-tasting malt.  One rounded teaspoon per shake is enough. You can add it to any flavor of milkshake to enhance the experience.

The first recorded use of the term "milkshake" was in 1885, when it was described as a sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink with eggs, whiskey, and more, served both as a tonic and as a treat.  By 1900, people thought of milkshakes as wholesome drinks with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla syrups.

The milkshake made it into the mainstream when in 1922, a Walgreens employee in Chicago, Ivar "Pop" Coulson, took an old-fashioned malted milk (milk, chocolate, and malt) and added two scoops of ice cream. That concoction caught on quickly, becoming part of pop culture (ha!) for teens socializing at malt shops by the 1930s.

Malt, the stuff inside Whoppers — you know, those chocolatey balls you buy (or lust after and don't buy) at movies theaters — is a sweet syrup or powder made from barley, or other grains, that has been steeped, germinated, and dried. Malted barley is used to make beer. So … when you're eating something that has malt in it, it's kind of like you're eating beer. Cheers!

Malted milk is malted barley, wheat flour, and whole milk evaporated into a powder. Some flavors of Ovaltine contain malt. Carnation also makes a malt mix, in chocolate and plain flavors. Any of these can be added to ice cream or baked goods for that grainy-sweet malty taste. You can buy pure dry malt online, too.

Look for malted milk powder, the key ingredient in malted milkshakes, next to the powdered chocolate milk and other drink mixes at your local grocery store. Or if you have all the other ingredients, just make a milkshake. We wouldn't want to leave you hanging. It's still drinkable ice cream. And ice cream is good.

Try some of our milkshakes and malts.

1. Chocolate Malted Milkshake

Chowhound

Look for Hershey's Whoppers, which should look familiar if you've ever ordered food at an American movie theater concession. Or try other brands. They're critical for upping the awesomeness of this shake. Get our chocolate malted milkshake recipe.

2. Grasshopper Milkshake

Chowhound

It's minty fresh but with a chocolate infusion with a little booze to smooth things over. This is no children's shake, but it may make you feel playful. Get our grasshopper milkshake recipe.

3. Stout Chocolate Malt

Chowhound

Grab your favorite stout or porter beer for an adult milkshake full of rich and malty overtones. To achieve this, buy some malted milk powder. Get our stout chocolate malt recipe.

4. Oatmeal Cookie Milkshake

Chowhound

Have you ever looked at your oatmeal cookie and thought, "This is good, but it would be even better if I could drink it …"? No? Well, it's a good idea, proved by this recipe. Vanilla ice cream, crunchy cookies, cinnamon, and caramel — clearly a great idea. Get our oatmeal cookie milkshake recipe.

5. Drumstick Milkshake

Chowhound

Milkshakes have more flexibility than we give them credit for. If you miss the lovely, honeyed, crackling crunch of the sugar cone, you can have that plus drink your shake too. Roasted, salted peanuts contrast the sweetness of the fudge so it's not too cloying. Get our drumstick milkshake recipe.

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