Spiked milkshakes fill the gap between happy hour and dessert, but sometimes the sweet, boozy hybrids can lean a little too hard toward the dessert side of the cross-breeding. That’s where these classic cocktail shakes come in. Based on some of our favorite classics—the Manhattan, White Russian, Mint Julep and Piña Colada—they evoke the taste of a craft cocktail while satisfying our need for delicious sugar. Sweet yet balanced, boozy yet soothing, these classic cocktail milkshakes are the best of both worlds.
4 Classic Cocktails Transformed Into Milkshakes
At Alamo Drafthouse, which combines dinner, a movie and drinks all under one roof, a spiked milkshake is the ultimate way to end a luxurious movie-watching experience. Vince Favella, beverage director of Alamo’s Brooklyn location explains that the chain wanted to incorporate aspects of the booming craft cocktail scene into the drinks menu without sacrificing the cinema's lowkey serving style, which allows servers to quickly supply libations to a whole theater without disrupting the movie. The solution was to transform classic cocktails into cocktail milkshakes.
Since Alamo Drafthouse drinks are customized for each location across the country, Favella went on the hunt for a New York-appropriate shake. He realized he could combine the White Russian (and Black Russian) with the iconic New York treat, the black and white cookie. “The black and white cookie is such a New York thing,” he says. ”It’s on Seinfeld and everything.”
With vanilla ice cream standing in for cream, and whipped cream topped with a black and white cookie crumble for garnish, the drink pushes the cocktail into super-rich overdrive. Alamo sources its black and white cookies from a local bagel shop, but you can find a respectable version at Whole Foods outside of New York. Loudly slurping up every last drop might annoy everyone in the movie theater (though it’s totally worth it), but feel free to enjoy this boozy treat as loud as you like when you make it at home.
The classic Piña Colada is already a rich and creamy tropical dream, so the next logical step for the boozy dessert masters at Brooklyn’s Butter & Scotch was to turn the blended cocktail into a full-blown milkshake. “I didn't know if it was possible to improve on the classic,” says Butter & Scotch co-owner Allison Kave, “but I must say, I think we did!” Kave explains that the shaked up version is even richer than the original because there’s no dilution from ice. For bonus points, the coconut ice cream makes the entire shake totally vegan, a rare feat for a bar with “butter” in its name. As for the cocktail’s own name, Kave points out that “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” much like this addicting boozy shake, is one of those tunes that gets stuck in your head no matter how much you might try to resist. (You’re singing it in your head right now, aren’t you?)
We can drink a Manhattan on pretty much any day of the year, but when a summer heat wave rolls in (or we’re just in the mood for something frozen), there’s only one way to beat the indomitable Manhattan: a Manhattan Milkshake. The milkshake combines our two greatest passions in life, staying true to the original cocktail’s bracing, booze-forward profile while incorporating sweet vanilla ice cream. Made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, ice cream and several hefty dashes of Angostura and orange bitters, and served in a bitters-streaked glass, this isn’t the type of dense shake that sits heavy on your palate. The dessert drink packs a surprising amount of pep, while remaining balanced enough to go down easy. It’s even served with whipped cream and a (maraschino) cherry on top. Just try not to drink it so fast you get brain freeze.
Since 1875, spectators at the Kentucky Derby have relied on the classic Mint Julep to keep them cool through the Louisville summer heat, but there’s an even more soothing remedy to a sweltering day: a Mint Julep milkshake. True mint ice cream is surprisingly hard to come by in most markets, so this chocolate-flecked version uses mint chocolate chip ice cream for an extra sweet take on the minty cocktail—and we’re not mad about it. Caramelly bourbon blends perfectly with the sweet, crisp mint flavor, while blended chocolate bits add a texture even more fun than crushed ice. Served in an exceptionally frosty Julep cup and topped with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and a mint sprig, the shake would surely draw envious looks at the racetrack, but you can don your best derby hat and enjoy one anytime the temperature rises.