You may have heard a character in an old timey movie or TV show sit down at a soda shop counter and ask for a “malt shake.” The character was then served something that looked a lot like a milk shake. Maybe you’ve seen malted milk shakes on a local diner or ice cream shop menu.
I recently tried a malted shake and was instantly hooked! But I was curious: what exactly is a malted shake? And what’s the difference between a malted shake and a regular old milk shake?
Start with a milk shake!
Coconut milk shake
These sweet, frosty drinks are very similar with one key variation: the presence of malted milk powder. Milk shakes are a blend of ice cream, milk, and flavoring (like a syrup or fruit). The ingredients are mixed together, resulting in a creamy, cool, drinkable treat with a wide variety of potential flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry.
A malted milk shake is simply a milk shake that is flavored with malted milk powder. If you love milk shakes, like most people do, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy a malted shake.
A Quick History of the Malted Shake
Malted milk powder was first developed as an infant formula supplement in the 1870’s by brothers James and William Horlick. But many people enjoyed the powdered beverage, including explorers, who found it easy to carry and calorie-dense. Horlick’s malted milk powder soon became a staple on pharmacy shelves.
Malted milk powder is then made from malt, wheat flower, and whole milk. It is blended together and then evaporated into powder from.
Cold malt in glass
It was in a Walgreens pharmacy in 1922 that Horlick’s malted milk was first added into a milk shake, along with two scoops of ice cream. The concoction became so popular that the shops making them even became known as malt shops. Timing of this creation and the malt shop itself was excellent as people were looking for alternatives to alcohol and socializing at bars due to prohibition.
What exactly is malted milk powder?
“Malt” is the name given to a grain, usually barley, that is sprouted by soaking in water, and then toasted before the grain fully germinates. Through this process, the starches in the grain are converted into various forms of sugar. Therefore, malt is often used as an alternative sweetener and it’s also a key ingredient in beer—it’s the sugars from malt that convert into alcohol.
The big question is how does it taste! You’ll be familiar with the taste if you’ve ever had a chocolate malt ball (Milk Duds or Whoppers). It has a toasted, somewhat savory, buttery flavor that I find adds a rich depth to the milk shake.
You can find malted milk powder today from manufacturers such as Nestle and Hoosier Hill Farm. You can also find flavored versions such as chocolate Ovaltine malt. You may even want to try to make a malted shake at home with your own blender and ingredients (I’m definitely doing this!). Watch this video for a tutorial:
Malt Shake Recipes
Here are some more recipes for you to try at home:
Basic Vanilla Malt Shake
This recipe from the Brown Eyed Baker is a simple one. It uses only four ingredients and with few other flavors in it, you will get a good sense of what a basic malted shake tastes like.
Basic Vanilla Malt Shake – Photo from browneyedbaker.com
Chocolate Malt Shake
Here’s a chocolate variation from Serious Eats for all the chocolate lovers! This recipe recommends using good quality ice cream for best results, and suggests putting the blender container into the freezer, so that the frosty glass will help keep the shake cool. Good tips!
Chocolate Malt Shake
Caramel Malt Shake
Most malt shakes are chocolate or vanilla. But if you want to try something different, the sweetness of caramel pairs well with the toasty flavour of malted milk powder, as in this recipe from Bromabakery
Caramel Malt Shake
Are you starting to see a trend? Making a malt shake is very simple and usually only requires a few ingredients and a blender. There’s no reason not to try!
Are there health benefits to malted shakes?
Fact: that malted milk powder was originally considered a health product. Wouldn’t it be great to have such a delicious treat that’s also good for you? But you might wonder if it really is a healthy choice.
Thanks to the malted grain, malted shakes do contain nutrients such as protein, riboflavin, folate, phosphorus, and other vitamins that aren’t present in regular milk shakes. However, malted shakes are also high in saturated fat and added sugar, which are not so good for us. Therefore, malted shakes are still best considered a treat.
Everything Old is New Again
Malted shakes, and malt flavor in general, fell out of vogue for many years. But as old-fashioned style burger joints like Sonic and In-n-Out burger expand and people look to the past to find inspiration for the next food trend, the old-fashioned aesthetic of the soda fountain seems poised to make a comeback.
Suddenly, malt flavor is popping up in bakeries and hipster diners. So keep an eye out for malted shakes at a trendy eatery near you!
Malted shakes take on a new taste in Chicago
This video takes a classic shake and turned into a unique drink. I wont be eating shake the old fashioned way again. Chicagos Famous Cake Shake is an example of an old world classic with a new age twist. Check out this video that shows how they changing things up. After seeing this, does the question “whats the difference between a malt and a shake” really matter?
How about you?
Have you ever had a malted shake? Let us know in the comments! And if you’ve never had one but you like regular milk shakes, it might be worth a try!
If you can’t find one at a local ice cream shop or diner, consider making your own. Get some malted milk powder and add it to your own milkshake recipe, or try one of the ones listed above.
So get blending and enjoy!