Elsewhere in the country, ordering a thick, frosty beverage made from blended ice cream and milk is a fairly straightforward proposition: you ask for a milkshake. But in Maine (and pockets of the rest of New England), what you’re craving is historically known as a frappe (rhymes with “sap,” from the French frapper, “to beat”). Ordering a “milkshake” might get you milk and syrup beaten vigorously — still yummy, but a letdown if you were expecting ice cream. What’s tricky is that the distinction is applied inconsistently across the state and, furthermore, that some shops instead distinguish a shake from a frappe by using soft serve for the former and hard for the latter.
Which is to say, Mainers have a long history of making milkshakes complicated. Below, a few of our favorite (slightly complicated) spins on a classic summer treat.
We’re not the first to heap praise on Duckfat’s velvety flagship shake, made with ice cream from Westbrook’s Smiling Hill Farm, Tahitian vanilla beans, and crème anglaise. This knockout, custard-like concoction, served in an old-school stainless-steel mixing cup, is worth waiting in the inevitable line for. Other flavors at the busy East End sandwich shop are equally rich and subtle — next up, try the sea-salted caramel.
“Western,” in this context, means extra-thick, so the name’s redundant, but there ain’t no milkshake like a drive-in milkshake, and this paper-cup beauty is luscious, fudgy, and a real workout to pull through a straw. The 62-year-old Fat Boy uses ice milk, which has less butterfat, instead of blending milk and ice cream — surprising, given the name of the joint, but you’ll still feel fat after putting away 20 ounces.
New to Portland, this mini-chain got its start in New Hampshire, but the smooth-as-silk Grandpa’s Coffee shake is all Maine, thanks to a generous splash of Allen’s Coffee Brandy. Bartenders combine the sweet java liqueur — Maine’s bestselling spirit, virtually unheard of anyplace else — with vanilla ice cream and spiced rum (Portland was once a rum-running capital). Not that you’ll taste the booze — this one goes down dangerously easy.
Reportedly hard to find in actual Beantown, the Boston Shake is a rare beast, spotted sporadically across New England at your more venerable mom-and-pop dairy bars. Simple concept: a milkshake with a petite hot-fudge sundae plopped on top. You’ll need both spoon and straw, and the sundae melting into the shake allows for some adventuresome flavor combinations.
Awful Awful Malted Vanilla
Houlton Farms Dairy Bar, 131 Military St., Houlton. 207-532-2628.
98 Bennett Dr., Caribou. 207-498-8911.
792 Main St., Presque Isle. 207-764-6200.
Malt comes from barley, and barley comes from Aroostook County, where it’s a common rotational crop with potatoes — so if it’s a malted you seek, it seems appropriate to get one way up north. This 80-year-old family dairy uses milk and cream from Aroostook cows and offers a consistency so far beyond thick, it’s designated “awful awful.” Add malted milk powder to vanilla for a classic regional flavor that’s yeasty-sweet and addictive.