You are currently viewing June 20: National Vanilla Milkshake Day 

June 20: National Vanilla Milkshake Day 

June 20th is the day we celebrate National Milkshake Day. You can have a plain ole vanilla shake or really celebrate with a Funfetti Milkshake or a Vanilla Freakshake. We show you how!

Where did vanilla ice cream come from?

Thrillist tells us, “The more you come to know about vanilla, the more it seems the age-old descriptor “plain vanilla” is meant ironically—like a big guy whose nickname is ‘Tiny.’ As the only variety out of 25,000 species of orchid that produces an agriculturally useful product, vanilla is literally unique—and it could hardly be more exotic: It’s one of the most complex flavors in existence (with more than 200 flavor compounds), it’s the second-most expensive spice in the world (after saffron)”.

(If you’re interested in the whole insane history of vanilla extract including ancient civilizations, piracy, and “a 12-year-old, child-prodigy slave with a starring role”, you have to check out their article.)

My favorite part of the story is where Thomas Jefferson added vanilla to his ice cream and made the earliest recipe for vanilla ice cream, which is now in the Library of Congress.

See right for ice cream recipe in Thomas Jefferson’s own handwriting. On the back of the paper is his recipe for Savoy cookies which he enjoyed with the ice cream. If you’d like to try Jefferson’s recipe for vanilla ice cream visit where they have an updated version as well.

Thomas Jefferson vanilla ice cream recipe
Recipe in Jefferson’s own handwriting.

What is the history of the vanilla milkshake?

The first known reference to milkshakes in print was in 1885 but it wasn’t the beverage we know today. It was an adult alcoholic beverage made of cream, eggs, and whiskey – more like an egg nog than a milkshake. By 1900, they didn’t include alcohol in the recipe, so milkshakes were called “wholesome drinks made with chocolate, strawberry or vanilla syrups.” But there still wasn’t any ice cream in them. They were shaken by hand with ice in a cocktail shaker.

In 1911 the industrial drink mixer was invented, and milkshakes were on the menu at soda fountains. People called vanilla shakes “white cows”. (I’m not sure why, maybe it was because they were served alongside the Black Cow root beer float. See our black cow recipe.)

walgreens retro photo

Walgreens store circa 1930s

walgreens In-Store Soda Fountain 1930s

Hankering for History says, “In 1922, Ivan “Pop” Coulson, a Walgreens employee, sought to improve on the company’s chocolate malt beverage. As a wizard at the soda fountain, Coulson was always mixing together concoctions. The original recipe was milk, chocolate syrup, and a spoonful of malt powder. However, with one added ingredient Coulson would shape form to a magnificently delicious beverage that would stand the test of time. Using ‘generous’ scoops of vanilla ice cream, manufactured in Walgreen’s own plant, it gave the malt beverage a thick consistency and a richer taste.”

Visit their website for more milkshake history, and to try Coulson’s original Walgreens recipe for Old Fashioned Chocolate Malted Milk.

Today, you can find the vanilla shake in almost any restaurant, fast food place, and even made at home.

Celebrate National Vanilla Milkshake Day by enjoying a vanilla milkshake.

Of course, the easy way is to buy one at any restaurant or cafe. But why not make your own. It’s so easy! Follow our directions for the most luxurious vanilla milkshake you’ve ever had. And as an added bonus, there’s a recipe for the Funfetti Vanilla Milkshake and how to create a vanilla freakshake, too.

easy vanilla milkshake recipe

Want to watch a movie with a vanilla milkshake in the spotlight while drinking yours?

movie night bucket list

Three adult movies that are oh so different, all with a vanilla milkshake featured to imply an important idea about the character who’s drinking it. Must-see famous movies to watch while enjoying your milkshake.

How did you celebrate National Vanilla Milkshake Day?

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