A chocolate and a strawberry milkshake on a heart table

What could be better than a cold beverage that includes ice cream? Not much. But there are different ways to make and enjoy them. Some variations of dairy-based drinks, such as smoothies, frappes and floats, are sometimes confused with malts and milkshakes. While malts and milkshakes are now considered two different beverages, there was a time when they were just about one and the same.

The History of the Milkshake


Believe it or not, milkshakes first appeared in writing in 1885 as an alcoholic beverage that contained eggs and whiskey. Then, in 1922, two things happened that changed the trajectory of the milkshake. A Walgreen’s employee, Ivar “Pop” Coulson, took malted milk (Horlicks) and added two scoops of vanilla ice cream, changing the way that the beverage was enjoyed and making it more available to the masses. Secondly, Hamilton Beach invented the electric blender, making it easier to whip up that delicious frothy drink.

By the 1930s, the milkshake became an American staple in malt shops, and they were available with strawberry, chocolate or vanilla syrup. Dairy Queen soon became first in the fast food category to add milkshakes to their menu. But the production of milkshakes kept evolving, and in the 1950s, Ray Kroc ‒ a milkshake machine salesman ‒ bought the rights to a “milkshaker,” which eventually led to faster productions of the now much-loved drink. At that time, the milkshake was available in different versions: velvet, cabinet and the very thick-style version, concrete. You could enjoy them at places such as Woolworth’s, lunch counters, diners and drugstores that sold fountain drinks. Eventually, Horlicks was removed from the recipe, and we were left with what we now know as the classic milkshake, which is simply ice cream and milk.

Modern Day

They are readily available at fast food chains, restaurants, diners and, of course, Dairy Queen with fancy ingredients ‒ like caramel, peanut butter and cookies ‒ added to the classic recipe. Most recently, the milkshake has made a similar return to its original iteration of alcohol being added to the mix. You can now find boozy shakes at restaurants and bars.

Malts: What’s Old Is New Again

Similar to a milkshake, a malt, which is basically how milkshakes were made originally, is made with malted milk. Malted milk is a powder created from malted barley, wheat flour and whole milk. The flavor is buttery with a hint of caramel... think Whoppers. To make a malt, blend malted powder, ice-cream, whole milk and flavored syrup together.

The Creation of Malted Milk

Malt was originally thought to be a restorative drink or tonic that was brought to our shores by a British pharmacist, James Horlick, and his brother, William. They created the J & W Horlick’s Food Company. Though the drink was originally called Diastod, it eventually was trademarked in 1887 under the moniker malted milk. As Prohibition started to take hold, in 1922, Coulson’s creation had people lining up to indulge in their malteds. You can still buy malted milk in stores and online.

Try this recipe to make a malt or omit the malted milk for a regular shake.

Classically Delicious Vanilla Malted

Total Time: 4 minutes | Prep Time: 1 minutes | Serves: 1


  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup vanilla ice-cream
  • 4 tablespoons malted milk powder (Horlicks or Ovaltine)


  1. Place ingredients in blender.
  2. Blend for 10‒20 seconds or until creamy.
  3. Serve in a tall glass with whipped cream on top.


For the chocolate version, add 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup and chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla. You can also make it boozy by adding 1 ounce of Irish cream.