Iced Milks….


Iced Milks….

Virgil Evetts

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with iced coffee.  My mother had a scandalously permissive attitude towards her children and grown up beverages- tea, coffee whatever pleased us. I think she was just glad we weren’t breast feeding anymore. Evetts children are famously early teethers .

Anyway, considering the examples mum set, she couldn’t really object to our precocious tastes. She trained me to wake her with strong, honey-sweetened tea every morning, and on many a summer’s day I was dispatched to the dairy with a jar of Moccona, and a note asking the obliging Mrs White to make her a coffee milkshake.  I was too young to be embarrassed by this palaver or to point out to mum that we owned a blender. I remember slyly sipping from the old fashioned giraffe cup as I trod home. And thus began a long and joyfully enduring addiction to cold milk and caffeine.

Visits to tearooms and cafes always involved [and do so to this day] a long, tall, cream-crowned iced coffee. This was iced coffee as it existed in the 80s; a filling, energising, and beguiling blend of bitter-sweet, creamy bliss. Every café worth its salt offered the drink, along with the slightly lesser,  but still perfectly decent, iced chocolate.

But something has happened in recent years to my beloved and humble iced coffee. It’s not the drink it used to be. Not in the hands of chi-chi city café owners anyway.  These days it’s as if iced coffee is a rendering of some ancient recipe, pieced together from fragments of pastel coloured 80s hieroglyphs. We know it involves coffee and ice, but the rest is anyone’s guess.

Lately I’ve been served alleged iced coffee made from coffee-flavoured syrup and trim milk (thin and medicinal), filter coffee and evaporated milk (curiously paint-like in both colour and texture), loaded with artificial vanilla essence (tastes like ants) and,  most puzzlingly, scalding hot with a couple of ice cubes dropped in as a sort of afterthought .  Iced coffee has even been the catalyst for me being firmly ‘invited’ to leave a café . To cut a long story short it involved a café manager’s stubborn refusal to make me an iced coffee because ‘that drink’s  old-school’ (maaan). My resulting,  and perhaps poorly pitched,  rant about his coffee making skills, political leanings and silly bum-fluff moustache led to the nearest exit being pointed out to me rather emphatically. What can I say?  I’m not a morning person.

But I’ve had some good experiences too, including memorable renditions made from freshly pulled espresso, milk and cream. Very nice, but it’s not quite iced coffee as  I remember it.

So how is it that we have forgotten how to make such as café standard?

Personally I blame New Zealand’s coffee culture. We have, in a few short years, dragged ourselves out of coffee hell, where a few big brands dominated the market with flaccid bags of what they claimed was coffee (but may well have been potting mix), and where white or black were the only real choices if you didn’t want your sexual orientation brought into question.  We are now informed consumers of the bean.   We care about the style of roast, the country of origin, the smugness of fair trade and the ethics of organic. And that’s before you get to any actual consumption. You can’t simply order ‘coffee’ (thank God), you need to specify; flat white, latte, macchiato, short black, corretto and so on and such like…

And therein, methinks lies the answer. We’ve become lost in the details. Iced coffee in its true old fashioned down-country tea rooms form, has largely been dismissed as too pedestrian and crude to be of any worth.

Similarly I fear milk shakes are starting to suffer the same fate. A local café I frequent (but really shouldn’t) doesn’t do them anymore, but you can have a frappe or smoothie if you like. I don’t.

Frappe, at least here in Auckland, usually means, ‘we’ve got a load of ice out back, right, and we need to move it, see?  So we’re going to grind it up with about a teaspoon of milk, a bit of sugar and maybe a squirt of coffee. Then we’re going to sell it to you for $5 a cup under some naff French name that we don’t know how to pronounce’.  FYI Frappe doesn’t rhyme with crap, but perhaps it should.

I can’t be doing with smoothies either. They always seem like the sort of thing rest-homes wiz up for residents who don’t do solids. They’re a bit like what happens when you mix up all the paints on the palette: you end up with green sludge.  

So as with art deco buildings,  and apparently oaks trees gifted by Hitler (happily residing in the grounds of Timaru boys high and surprisingly free of chainsaw attacks), I think there is a growing  pool of foods deserving of cultural heritage protection. If I had to elect a list of such threatened café drinks, it would definitely include the following:  

Iced coffee

Made with instant coffee, coldwater and full-cream milk poured over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, topped with a LOT of freshly whipped cream and finished with a dusting of cinnamon. Must be served in a tall, chunky glass. Tastes like childhood to me.

Iced Chocolate

I would occasionally sulkily settle on this if its sexier cousin was unavailable. Made with cocoa (never drinking chocolate), otherwise as above but finished with chocolate sprinkles. Has been similarly corrupted by silliness over time.  The mint and chilli flavoured version I encountered recently was particularly irritating.

The classic milkshake

Ultra-artificial, preposterously flavoured and superfluously lurid, milkshake syrup is a shining example of the wonders of industrial food technology. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than utterly fake and probably very bad for you. I love it for that honesty. My personal flavours of choice are…

  • Jaffa : tastes just like the sweets but is perhaps even more magnificently artificial. Not to be confused with J.A.F.A
  • Spearmint: the best choice for a scorching summer day. It has a subtle minty flavour and a pale green colour that wouldn’t look out of place on a school toilet block.
  • Creaming soda: I’ve never quite worked out what this one tastes like, possibly strawberry and vanilla, but I like it all the same. Apparently the manufacturers don’t know either as it’s colourless.

And finally, milkshakes, regardless of flavour, must come in one of those big old fashioned giraffe cups.

 Well that’s me anyway. But what about you, dear reader? Are you of an iced coffee persuasion or more of a milkshake sort of person? What floats your cold drink boat?

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27 thoughts on “Iced Milks….

  1. Thickshakes! No thin drinkable-wth-a-straw flavoured milk for me, thank you. Give me the stand-the-spoon-upright-in-it variety every time, please. What is that ice cream-like stuff they put in it that makes it so thick? The ‘Golden Arches’ get the texture right, now if I can just persuade the assistant behind the counter to put in a triple shot of chocolate syrup, I would be in thickshake heaven. Double heaven if it were to be offered in lime flavour. Coffee? Don’t touch the stuff, myself!

  2. Great reading Vigil
    I could only drink iced coffee if it had been made with instant coffee and ice cold water but no milk and certainly no whipped cream. Purely a dislike of cream, no other reason. Mine did, however, have an obscene amount of Tip Top vanilla ice cream all whizzed up with an extra dollop of ice cream to float my boat. Getting the coffee/bitter flavour was a balancing act so usually required two spoons. Such sophistication as a sprinkling of cinnamon was a bit out there for me back then but I didn’t mind a dribble or two of Coruba Rum. Must try this again one day. Fangs for the memory.

  3. does anyone remember Jamaican Punch served in coffee bars in the 60’s. It was icecream, coke and a red liquid. loved the flavour and would like to be able to make, if anyone knows what the red flavouring was.

  4. Creaming soda?? Got it. I think!! Correct me if I’m wrong please as that title is unknown to me.
    We used to call the Ice Cream Sodas. Take one bottle of Fanta or any fizzy pop of choice – but Fanta was very choice and coke was very choice too, pour into a tall glass and pour over the fizzy. Give it a stir with a tall spoon and Yahooo.. a glorious concoction to sip through a thick straw while waiting for the school bus. You had to be quick though as you couldn’t take the glass on the bus with you and quite a bit was sucked up through the nose. No plastic back then.

    Proper milk shakes were made with a splurt of some syrupy flavoured something, a scoop or two of complementary ice cream – if the dairy owner liked you you got two scoops if you batted your eyelashes nicely and filled up 3/4 with cold milk and whizzed up then the most important part…it was served in the metal container it was made in.

    Jaffa was either orange flavoured syrup and choc ice cream with icy cold milk and was a big hit. They didn’t come better.

    When they began pouring the milkshakes into other containers I lost interest. A shake needed to be icy cold and pouring into another container seemed to warm it up too much for my liking and sucked up the flavour somehow.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly about iced coffees. Done properly they are just devine and I craved them during my recent pregnancy.
    I recently had a bad iced coffee experience and I won’t go back to that cafe now. The drink they served up was so bitter that even the addition of chocolate syrup couldn’t sweeten it.

  6. Hmm! We have them often in summer. In a blender for each serving, a heaped spoonful of instant coffee(tsp or dsp depending how you like it), small tsp sugar, just enough boiling water to dissolve the coffee, handful of ice cubes, large scoop vanilla ice cream, top up with milk. Blend until frothy then top with whipped cream if you like, and maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon or chocolate powder.

  7. Creaming soda had/has a unique flavour of it’s own. Hard to describe. A pale cream colour, soft and sweet, with bubbles that seemed to melt in your mouth.
    It is so hard to find a good iced coffee. Spare me the ghastly, still slightly warm concoctions, often masquerading as iced coffee. What an insult. The best we have had in recent years were in Australia

  8. Wouldn’t you know it! I went to Thames the other day and stopped at McD’s for my regulation thick shake and the new flavour on the block is Lime. Still not enough squirts of syrup though :(
    Kerry, Cream(ing) Soda is a flavour of soft drink, not an Ice Cream Soda as you describe. It has a flavour very difficult to describe as it tastes like nothing else. It is a sort of ‘soft’ flavour. Oh, heck, now I’m going to have to Google it to see if I can come up with some answers.

  9. Virgil – no offence intended! I don’t regard milk as an adult food, and all that aerated over-sweetened artificially flavoured bloat-causing dairy made me go: Bleurghk! Each to his own.

  10. I too long for a good iced coffee, I got another yesterday, that tasted like it was make with a syprup, too sweet, but no richness.
    I prefer the espresso shot, ice cream, and milk – and some cream on top (so long as it is real cream, not Dairy whip – or other cream in a can – yuck!).
    I don’t think many coffee shops have icecream though, if anyone knows one that does on the north shore, I would like to check it out – actually, there is a new Movenpick shop in Hurstmere Rd, and they sell coffee, next time I am in there, I shall have to see if they will make me a realy good iced coffee. I find most places will make whatever I want, so long as they are not busy :-)

    Macdonalds machines mix the flavours automatcally, so the Macdonalds worker cannot put more syrup in. (although my son who works there says he tried that once, and it was foul, as the syrup is very strong, not like normal shake syrup).

    P.S. I really enjoy reading your columns virgil, I don’t always agree, but still find them worth reading :-)

  11. I wasnt offended at all Stephanie, I just didnt quite understand the onomatopoeia!
    My stomach actually agrees with you anyway- I’m a wee bit lactose intolerant but a big bit lactose intolerant-intolerant.

  12. Virgil, Its like your reading my mind. I love iced coffee and thick/milkshakes but its so hard to find a decent one. I have found a place that makes great thickshakes and they really are thick but its all the way over in Matamata and of course my favourite flavour is spearmint. Maybe you could explain how to make a decent iced coffee, then we could make them at home..

  13. I’ve always avoided the Golden arches milkshakes due to the persistent but highly unlikely rumours that they are thickened with either chicken fat or cow plasma [depending on which version you hold to]. I like my cow plasma neat.
    I’m more than little alarmed that there is a creaming soda called ‘Virgil’s’. I’ve yet to meet another human with my name. The other day I was strolling through the domain when I heard a woman shout ‘Virgil, Virgil come here!’ I turned around to see a large Labrador bounding towards its irritated owner.
    My iced coffee method is roughly 2-3 heaped tsps instant coffee, 1/4 cup cold water, 1 scoop vanilla ice cream, top-up with milk, and finish with freshly whipped cream [not that nasty gassy stuff in a can] and a little cinnamon on top. If I don’t have ice cream I add a little brown sugar.

  14. I have to say that my partner and I are both big iced coffee fans and here in Hamilton there are lots of places that do them well. Also the famous cafe in Mokau on SH 3 is very good.
    But good doesn’t come cheap – up to $6 in some places.
    I like Nippy’s iced coffee in tetrapak but is made with UHT milk so is a little thick and paint like.
    What about an affogato? That’s a shot of espresso over a scoop of vanilla icecream….. yumm!

  15. There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that Macdonalds Milkshakes contain chicken fat or any other nonsense – LOL (but it was a clever rumour for their rivals to spread!).
    I find they often are off in their syrup mix though, as the machines need regular recalibration, and some days they are better than others, I have pretty much given up on them myself.
    Wendy’s new chocolate Frosty, which is actually a dessert, you are supposed to eat with a spoon, (but we prefer a straw and to give it a few minutes to soften enought to suck throught straw) is was really nice – although I only had a few tastes from my sons, and things always taste better when they are someone else’s.

  16. Virgil,
    I have been trying iced coffees! Everywhere I go now I ask how they make them. The variation is amazing. Here’s five.
    1. Golf Club Café at Omaha. Shot of espresso on ice, milk and ice cream blended in the milk shake machine. A scoop of ice cream into the mix and cream on top if you want. Delicious, but they take forever to make it.
    2. Coffee to Go, Parnell. Lots of ice, espresso poured over and then milk. A scoop of ice cream on top and cream if you want it. I found I drank the milk mixture before the ice cream vaguely melted because of the ice, so when I got back to work I poured in the contents of the coffee plunger and some milk from the fridge and enjoyed the coffee taste all over again. Not my first choice though.
    3. Columbus, Museum. I’m not sure about the coffee but it is probably a shot of espresso over ice. Milk poured over that and cream on top. No ice cream. A vaguely coffee flavoured milk drink.
    4. Coffee bar near George Courts in Newmarket. Coffee flavoured milk (probably the one you can buy at the supermarket) poured over ice. Whipped cream if you want it. I didn’t so I got coffee flavoured milk with ice! They call it iced latte.
    5. Old fashioned lunch bar in Ashburton. Run by your Mum. A shot of coffee and chickory essence, milk and a scoop of ice cream blended in the milk shake machine. Another scoop of ice cream on top and cream if desired. It really tasted of coffee and was thick and creamy. Unfortunately I don’t live at Ashburton!

  17. Virgil , I have just had this exact conversation with friends. We have been to a concert at the Civic theatre on Saturday and were so hot we went to the nearest coffee(fast food type not cafe) where we ordered iced coffee. We were shocked to be served what amounted to be a cold long black with ice cubes! Bring back the ice cream I say! When I was a teenager( just yesterday) Smith & Caughey’s iced coffees were to die for.

  18. I make my own iced chocolate at home every day with Milo.

    3 tablespoons of Milo in about 200ml of boiling water. Add about 100ml of fresh cream. Top with ice and wait for it to get all icy cold. YUM!

  19. My mum used to make iced coffee by filling a tall glass with vanilla ice cream, so that the scoops held each other up, with reasonable spaces in between them, then adding a bit of milk, then filling the spaces with cooled percolated coffee. Was quite bitter, but the sweet icecream balanced it out really nicely, particulary where the coffee froze onto the icecream and formed little bitter crystals. Decadent? Absolutely…

  20. You are so right about Smith and Caugheys iced coffee. They were THE achetypal version I was thinking of. Mmmm cold milo. I used love that after school. Ovaltine was even better. Most of it would form a semi crunchy sort of raft on top of the milk. God, i could go one of those now!

  21. This blog always makes me so homesick :-) …yum childhood milkshake..definately sparemint…and do any of you remember a flavour called Protein Cream..a sort of combination of creaming soda and caramel…as for Iced coffee…I used to do a version..a shot of espresso poured over iced milk..not milk with ice…but milk that has been put in the freezer and crunched up when it starts to freeze..whizz in the blender pour over some vanilla icecream in a tall glass top with whipped cream served with a tall spoon and straw