Adult milkshakes may not be new to the market, but operators are taking them in exciting new directions. Building on a trend that went mainstream in the wake of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews’ successful 2012 rollout of beer-fueled milkshakes, many operators have been focusing much of their adult beverage menu development on adult milkshakes. Bars and restaurants are developing spiked frozen drinks that stand out on the menu, making them irresistible to adventurous drinkers, particularly those with a sweet tooth. Beyond milkshakes, operators are also experimenting with spiked slushies and juice pouches. The simple preparation of these frozen drinks also allows for a lot of creativity through flavor combinations, spirit choices and presentation.
The indulgence factor of milkshakes is equally as important with their spiked counterparts. Often being served with both a straw and a spoon, these alcohol-infused shakes are doubling as both a filling beverage and dessert option. Like traditional shakes, most adult milkshakes combine a thick vanilla or flavored ice cream with sweet ingredients like chocolate syrup, caramel or cookie pieces. Adult shakes are also spotlighting a wide variety of spirit options, such as whiskey, vodka and rum. Many options also feature a complementary creamy liqueur like Kahlúa, RumChata or Baileys, which can add extra indulgence to the already heavily cream-based beverages. We are also seeing operators, particularly those of beer-focused venues, offer up guests the option of making any of their local craft beers into a float with the addition of ice cream. This is an easy and affordable way to not only add some fun to a menu, but also expand upon the ever-growing craft beer trend.
Spiked shakes not only serve as a novelty on adult beverage menus, but also remind guests of their childhood. Bartenders are creating grown-up milkshakes in traditional varieties like spiked root beer or creamsicle floats, reviving guests’ memories of the drinks offered at old-school diners and malt shops. On top of featuring these vintage flavors as inspiration, adult milkshakes are also being presented in nostalgic ways, such as in classic milkshake glasses, milk bottles or even Mason jars. Operators are also tapping into guests’ milkshake memories by topping off these drinks with traditional whipped cream and cherries.
Some operators are letting these adult milkshakes inspire new interpretations, such as alcohol-infused slushies and juice pouches. In addition to its draft beer floats, for example, San Diego’s Soda & Swine offers specialty Champagne Slushies, featuring vermouth, cava, lemon, bitters and a choice of grenadine or raspberry flavoring. The fun factor associated with these drinks is instrumental in their appeal to consumers looking for an out-of-the ordinary cocktail.
Some noteworthy adult milkshakes:
- Mud Pie Adult Frappe, Wahlburgers—made with coffee liqueur, vanilla vodka, crème de cacao, coffee ice cream and crumbled Oreo cookies
- The Salty Jim Boozy Shake, The Original Dinerant (Portland, OR)—made with bourbon, salted caramel and vanilla ice cream
- Cinnashake, 25 Degrees (Chicago)—made with housemade cinnamon whiskey, RumChata, graham crackers and vanilla ice cream
- Grasshopper Adult Milkshake, Ted’s Bulletin (Washington, DC)—made with Kahlúa, crème de menthe and vanilla ice cream