Review: Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes

Every weekend, I review a cookbook in an attempt to lend some guidance in a field that has become overrun. These days everyone is writing cookbooks and it is incredibly upsetting to buy a dud and have it sit on your shelf for years – staring at you, mocking your poor judgment.

I reviewed Bobby Flay’s new book a few weeks ago that was just a little bit about milkshakes, but “Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes” is all about milkshakes. It’s about 200 pages of nothing but ice cream, milk, sorbets, and a ton of interesting and different takes on an old fashioned treat.

When I got this book, I had one question and one question only: Do I really need a book only on milkshakes? By my count Adam Reid presents close to 100 different milkshakes in this book and that doesn’t even include all the slight variations that he offers. That’s a lot of recipes and more than many cookbooks offer these days.

The confession section

I have a few confessions to make before I really get into what this book has to offer. First, I don’t have a blender. Trust me it’s on my list, but for some reason I’ve just never gotten one. So, I can’t even make most of the lovely drinks in this book. Second, when it comes to milkshakes, I’m kind of a purist. I like vanilla. I’ve had a lot of different varieties, but honestly I like vanilla! I was skeptical therefore that I would find much in this book that would grab my attention.

History, ingredients, equipment

As with any cookbook that is on a particular subject, the author spends a few pages (about 40 actually) going over why he loves the subject so much. If someone is going to write a whole book on milkshakes, they better love milkshakes! Also, Adam happens to be kitchen equipment specialist for America’s Test Kitchen. When I finally do buy a blender, I’ll be taking his recommendation.

He also takes some time to discuss ingredients. He seems down to earth and notes that while he did his best in each recipe to pair perfect ice creams and sorbets with ingredients, at the end of the day, these are milkshakes! He encourages you to use whatever kind of vanilla you have on hand, for example. No need to necessarily go to the store just because one recipe calls for French Vanilla ice cream and you only have Natural vanilla.

The secret in sorbet

One of the more interesting things that Adam does in this book is use sorbets for flavor. He argues that sorbets actually have a lot more flavor than syrups which tend to just be sweet and one dimensional. I’ve never really thought about that, but I guess it makes sense.

This comes through in his first chapter where he talks about the basic milkshakes. The one that shocked me is the basic chocolate shake. Every time I’ve ever made a chocolate shake I just blend up chocolate ice cream. WRONG. His recipe calls for 7 scoops of vanilla ice cream and then just one scoop of chocolate sorbet. Very interesting concept. (For the chocoholics, he does offer a beefed up version that uses both chocolate ice cream and chocolate sorbet.)

Plain old vanilla

The first chapter in the book that really dives into some seriously original milkshakes is called Vanilla shakes because all of them start with a vanilla base. The final recipe in this chapter is also the best in my opinion which is the recipe for the Duckfat original vanilla milkshake. I’ve never actually tried this milkshake, but let me promise you that it will be the first thing I ever blend when I finally acquire a blender. It looks amazingly rich and delicious.

Chocolate, tea, and coffee

The next two chapters cover shakes that are based around these three things. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of any of these variations, but even still there were a few shakes that caught my eye including the Chocolate-Guinness shake (Beer is never bad.), the Ginger-Chai shake, and the Coffee-Hazelnut variation. I would give any of those a whirl, but if you happen to be into any of these three things, I have a feeling these chapters would give you some good ideas.

Fruity Shakes

This is the largest chapter in the book and with good reason. There are so many different kinds of fruity sorbets and herbs that compliment those sorbets that you get the impression when reading this chapter that the variations must be in the thousands. The list presented is just the best of the best.

Adam is also a big proponent of using spices and fresh herbs in shakes to accent some of the base flavors. This chapter takes full advantage of this using things like basil to accompany strawberry and nutmeg to a date and brandy variation.

The wild and crazy

For the adventurous shake makers out there, the last chapter in this book is just for you. A maple bacon shake? Sure why not. Chocolate Pretzel Concrete (frozen custard basically). And about 20 other pretty wild ideas. This chapter was a blast to read and I guess I would try a lot of the shakes in it if they were offered to me. I’m not sure I would go out of my way to make one though.

So, back to the $17 dollar question. Is a book just on milkshakes worth it? I think I can give it a maybe. Personally, I don’t make milkshakes enough for this book to be of any real value to me (except as an interesting read), but if you were a once a week milkshaker (and I know some of those), then this could be a solid book to add to your collection.

2 comments on “Review: Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes

  1. Great review! What a good idea to add sorbets, rather than syrups, for flavor. I'll have to try that. I was thinking the same thing as Lauren – it would be worth checking it out from the library.

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