Marvelous Milkshakes: A soda-fountain standard shakes off expectations

Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry. The holy trinity of milkshakes will always be soda fountain faves, but for those seeking a new spin on frothy frozen treats, a world of flavors awaits.

Frosty faves reach new heights
Last October, shake enthusiasts couldn’t wait to grab a stool at Pi in Kirkwood, where pastry chef Mathew Rice helped to launch a milkshake bar. For this summer, Rice has created two new shakes: Coconut Key Lime and Orange Vanilla Dream. The former is a liquid pie sensation of key lime juice, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and ground graham crackers blended with vanilla ice cream and then capped with a mountain of whipped cream, a sprinkle of shredded sweetened coconut and garnished with a lime jelly candy shaped like a citrus wedge, graham cracker pieces and Pi’s signature chocolate coin.

The Orange Vanilla Dream, made from orange juice and vanilla ice cream, “tastes like the Orange Julius drink you get at the mall,” said Rice, although he uses premium Serendipity vanilla ice cream custom-made to Pi’s request for two varieties of sustainable vanilla (rich Madagascar and intense Indonesian as opposed to extract from the limited crop of standard Tahitian beans), whereas the mall version uses powered milk and blended ice.

Numerous restaurants around town besides Pi serve the sweet ’n’ creamy frozen treats that Serendipity owner Beckie Jacobs and her crew churn out. But you’ll have to visit the Webster Groves shop to sample its over-the-top shakes.

The Lochness Monster is a yummy yet unsightly concoction made from two Serendipity flavors: Cake Batter and bright blue Cookie Monster, a cotton candy-flavored ice cream with Oreos and cookie dough. This duo of kid-happy flavors gets blended with Serendipity’s secret shake mix, hot fudge and sprinkles. Jacobs normally has a hand in Serendipity creations, but it was one of Jacobs’ high-school customers, Adam Rice, who invented the shake a couple of years ago. “I knew they could mix any flavors, and I figured it would probably be good because those [flavors] were ridiculously sweet,” said Rice, now a Serendipity employee. Consider the Lochness Monster one of Serendipity’s underground shakes: It’s not on the menu board, but everyone behind the counter knows how to make it.

With Take Me Out to the Ballgame, one of Serendipity’s newest flavors, Jacobs pays homage to her favorite sport. Essentially a frozen spin on Cracker Jack, this home run of a treat features caramel popcorn-flavored ice cream with a caramel swirl and butter crunch-coated peanuts. It’s scrumptious as a shake – good luck making it last longer than half an inning.

A dram adds glam
Grown-ups sometimes need something headier than Cracker Jack or monsters. For that, we looked to Mike Shannon’s, where executive chef Nick Zotos is featuring Mint Julep ice cream created expressly for the steak and seafood restaurant by the folks at Serendipity. You’ll find the ice cream paired with a hot brownie on the dessert list, but head to the bar and you can request a Mint Julep shake.

This Southern-inspired shake features Woodford Reserve Bourbon, a small-batch whiskey from Kentucky, which is combined with Serendipity’s light green ice cream, condensed milk, heavy cream and fresh mint, garnished with a crystallized mint leaf. At 45 percent alcohol, Woodford is fairly strong, but Zotos’ shake recipe calls for only half a jigger. “It’s just enough to taste it on the finish of the shake. It’s not overpowering, and it doesn’t have enough booze in it where it would put somebody over the limit.”

This isn’t the first time that Zotos has used liquor to rustle the shake family tree. At rapper Nelly’s Black and White Ball last year, Zotos added Crown Royal whiskey to a variety of shakes, including a chocolate malt shake with Whoppers candy and the crowd favorite, a pairing of the Canadian whiskey with Morello cherries.

Kota Wood Fire Grill in Midtown offers eight virgin shakes that can be combined with other liquors and served as adult beverages. Our picks? For some fruity summer flavor, we like Grand Flamingo, a sunny mix of Stoli vanilla vodka, Bacardi strawberry rum and fresh strawberries. Seattle Delight – mocha cappuccino, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur and Bailey’s Irish Cream served in a Martini glass rimmed with hardened chocolate – will keep Fox Theatre-goers wired during a performance.

Just down the road at The Fountain on Locust, adult ice cream beverages take up multiple menu pages. Since opening in early 2008, this art deco soda fountain has earned a reputation as the place to go for an ice cream Martini and was named in January by Trend Central as setting the national pace among ice cream saloons.

At The Fountain, you’ll find classic drinks like the Brandy Alexander and the minty Grasshopper served as thick ice cream cocktails, but you’ll also encounter unique shake-like elixirs such as Love Potion #9, which is spiked with decadent Chambord raspberry liqueur and Frangelico, blended with vanilla ice cream and served in a chocolate syrup-streaked Martini glass. Gin-lovers can get a kick from the Pink Lady, a pretty blend of gin, grenadine and ice cream. And those who want a palate refresher will love the tangy Limon Seduction, a mix of equal parts Italian limoncello and vodka with lemon sherbet and vanilla ice cream garnished with a sugared lemon peel.

“We are all about flavor here,” said owner Joy Grdnic Christensen, which is why she works exclusively with a dairy in Wisconsin to supply ice cream for The Fountain and why, apart from ice cream, the restaurant makes the rest of its ingredients in-house, including the candied orange peels that garnish the Orange Dreamsicle Martini made from vanilla-flavored vodka, Triple Sec, orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream.

Going global
In Brazil, a batida is a tropical cocktail traditionally made from fruit juice or coconut milk, sugar, crushed ice and Brazil’s national spirit, cachaça. You’ll find a variety of fruity batida offerings at Côco Louco Brasil in the Central West End. For something really unique, choose caju – the juice from the fruit (as opposed to the seed) of the cashew tree. Orange-colored caju juice is tangy like pineapple juice but without such acidity.

Vodka has gained popularity in Brazil, so at Bacana Brasil Churrascaria in Chesterfield, bartenders are using this spirit in the three batidas on the menu: strawberry, coconut and passion fruit. “Two ounces of vodka, fruit, ice, condensed milk. Blend it together and it’s ready to go,” said bartender Carla Moraes.

Likewise, the batida de mango and batida de coco at Yamanja Brasil in Benton Park also feature vodka.

If you really want to expand your horizons beyond the all-American shake, try one with the weirdest fruit we know: durian. This Asian fruit is so stinky it’s banned in public spaces in Malaysia, yet the malodor belies the sweet, custard-like flavor of the yellow lobes tucked inside a durian’s thorny shell. Durian tastes divine in frozen drinks like the tapioca drink served at Kim Son Vietnamese Bistro in U. City. This version of bubble tea is a blend of a quarter lobe of durian, crushed ice, sweetened condensed milk and simple syrup poured over jumbo gummy tapioca balls.

With so many rousing soda fountain flavors to choose from, what’s going to be the formula that tempts you this summer?