By Jennifer Kornegay
In the dessert realm, milkshakes are fairly humble concoctions. They lack the fanfare of an expertly iced, lofty layer cake. They don’t require the skill that’s behind a flaky pastry or a perfect pie crust filled with rich custard or succulent seasonal fruits.
Milk plus ice cream plus a sufficient “shaking” (or stirring) motion to blend the two ingredients together equals a milkshake. It’s as basic as it gets. Until recently.
Enter “extreme” milkshakes. These incredible edible edifices are constructed with creativity and great care. The creamy milkshake itself is merely the foundation for myriad embellishments: multiple sauces and drizzles, bits of candy and crushed cereal, pillows of marshmallow fluff and whipped cream, entire wedges of cake or cookies precariously balanced on the edge of the vessel holding the shake’s liquid base.
These milkshakes have raised the bar significantly, elevating what was once just a simple sweet thing to a flashy, showy star. Here’s the scoop on a few of our favorite Alabama places for indulging in these crazy creations.
The Yard Milkshake Bar
Owners of Gulf Shores’ Island Ice Cream & Treats, Chelsea and Logan Green opened The Yard Milkshake Bar in 2017. The couple wanted to expand their ice cream business but knew that to stand out in the crowded beach scene, they’d need a unique concept.
“I had so many ideas on new ways to make ice cream interesting, and these milkshakes were one of them,” Chelsea says. “I instantly knew we’d found our niche in the ice cream industry.” The numbers prove her right. Last year, The Yard sold almost 90,000 milkshakes in Gulf Shores.
In addition to the original spot in Gulf Shores, there are locations of The Yard in Fairhope and in Panama City Beach, Fla., with a franchise location just opened in Mississippi and additional locations in the works. They all boast the same “over-the-top” appeal that brings in crowds who are happy to pay upwards of $13 for a single milkshake.
Chelsea shared why she believes they do, and how every customer helps promote the business. “Everyone loves ice cream, and when it’s as pretty as the milkshakes we make, people want to show it off,” she says. “Our shakes are known as ‘Instagram worthy.’ When someone posts their shake on social media, more people see it, and come in to get their own picture.”
They truly are a treat for the eyes. The Unicorn is a rainbow explosion of cotton candy, sparkling sprinkles, glistening marshmallow cream and an upside-down sugar cone “horn.” But when it comes to food, looks only go so far, as Chelsea explained.
“They’re visually appealing, but they also taste amazing.” According to several who’ve had The Yard’s best seller, the Cookie Dough Delicious, with cookie dough ice cream in a chocolate-iced jar dipped in chocolate chips and then topped with chocolate chip cookie dough and a drizzle of fudge sauce, this grand chocolate feast far surpasses the last part of its name.
Other varieties include Monkey Meets the Moose and Salted Caramel Cheesecake. “At The Yard, the milkshakes come first,” Chelsea says. “We spend hours coming up with specials and unique combinations that not only look great but taste great too.”
K&J Elegant Pastries & Creamery
Chef Kristal Bryant opened her bakery in 2013, and when she put extreme milkshakes on her menu in early 2017, she claims she was the first in the state to do so. “A customer had shown me an article about milkshakes in Australia called Freak Shakes that had all these elements. They were really cool, and I thought ‘How fun! I’d love to do those at some point,’” she says.
When she moved to a new location in February 2017, the space had room for tables and chairs, so she decided to add to her offerings. “There was no one in our area offering hand-dipped ice cream, so I decided we’d do that, and then I remembered the milkshakes, so we added them too,” she says.
She created the flavors, gave them names and sketched how they’d look. As soon as they were available, they were a hit. “When I first saw one, my reaction was just ‘wow!’. And it made me smile. I think that’s why others like them so much too,” Kristal says.
The Cookies and Cream milkshake with extras like an entire scratch-made brownie, a cloud of whipped cream and an ice-cream cookie sandwich all stacked on top is a jaw-dropping sight. “People see that come out, and they’re like, ‘Whoa!’,” Kristal says.
But it’s equally taste-bud-tantalizing, thanks to Kristal’s use of premium ingredients like Blue Bell ice creams and her own fresh-baked-daily delights. “I am huge on quality and consistency,” she says. “That’s what makes our shakes really special.”
The Mason Jar
Grab a booth at The Mason Jar and settle into its cozy country-style digs for a meal of Southern standards: country fried steak, chicken and dumplings and fried green tomatoes are popular orders. But most diners remember to save some stomach space for dessert. If they’re in the mood for one of this eatery’s extreme milkshakes, they know to set aside a lot of it, since the shakes earn the adjective “extreme” for the almost ridiculous number of toppings.
With its rather pedestrian name, the Peach milkshake seems tame. But when it arrives at the table with four other entire desserts jutting out of the top, the truth sets in. There’s an iced peach honey bun (that when peaches are in season will be traded for a ripe peach), a delicate sugar cookie, a sugar cone filled with warm peach cobbler and a vanilla cream horn. Finally, three gummy peach candies ring the straw that extends through layers of whipped cream into the milkshake studded with peach bits.
Owner Danny North explained how milkshakes became part of the Mason Jar’s offerings. “My wife Christie had the idea,” he says. “She thought we should do something different and special that would enhance our guests’ dining experience.” The shakes have done just that; the Mason Jar is becoming known for them. “People love milkshakes in general. But when you start jazzing them up with crazy toppings, it makes for a lot of fun for kids and even the adults,” Danny says.
A sense of whimsy is evident in the themes that inspire many of the shakes, like Birthday Cake, Mermaid and the Super Hero (complete with an Astro pop, Rice Krispie treat and gummy bears). “We put a lot of thought into each shake,” Danny says. “We also use a premium ice cream along with quality toppings. They’re all really good shakes.”
But Danny does admit to playing favorites. “My favorite is the Strawberry Cheese Cake,” he said. “We recently designed a Banana Split shake that’s really good too, though, so I may have two favorites.”