One of my first gigs as a food writer was at my college newspaper. I reviewed local restaurants and covered breaking news like: The campus diner now has milkshakes! There were half a dozen flavors: vanilla, chocolate, coffee, Nutella, blueberry, and strawberry.
But there was something odd about the chocolate.
It tasted less like chocolate ice cream—which I’ve never, ever enjoyed, don’t @ me—and more like a melted hot fudge sundae, or frozen chocolate milk. So I called the diner and demanded answers. Because our readers deserved the truth.
DID SOMEONE SAY HOT FUDGE SUNDAE?
Sure enough, the chocolate milkshake wasn’t, technically, a chocolate milkshake. It was a black and white, vanilla ice cream blended with chocolate syrup and milk.
The difference here is so small that some would argue there’s no difference at all. Google chocolate milkshake and you’ll find several recipes with that very formula: vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, milk. But the flavor is totally different than when you start with chocolate ice cream.
And, in my opinion, way better. Vanilla ice cream brings balance and contrast, like cream cheese swirled into chocolate cake, or chocolate cookies sandwiched with buttercream. It also makes room for retro additions, like malt powder, which turns anything it touches into gold.
It also gives you more control over sweetness. Making chocolate syrup is easier than schlepping to the grocery store, especially mid-heatwave when you’d want a milkshake most. And it’s the sort of staple that makes your fridge feel special. Keep around for weeks. Stir into hot coffee. Drizzle on gelato. Set out with strawberries.
I like to make mine with ultra-strong coffee instead of water, less sugar than you’d expect, and an un-shy amount of salt. The result takes itself very seriously, but swoons at the sight of sweet, milky vanilla ice cream. If you want to DIY here, too, I know just the recipe.
For bonus points, freeze your glasses before serving until they’re almost too cold to hold.
For the chocolate syrup
- 1 cup coffee, any temperature
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the black & white milkshakes
- 1/4 cup whole milk, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup, plus more for drizzling
- 1 pint vanilla ice cream
- 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
- 1 pinch kosher salt
What's your favorite milkshake flavor? Tell us in the comments!