Here’s what you’re ordering when you order a “malt.” 

By Corey Williams
August 22, 2019
Phill Thornton/Getty Images

Is a malt just a type of milkshake—or a different thing altogether?  

Malt vs. Milkshake

A milkshake is a dessert beverage usually made from milk, ice cream, and flavorings such as chocolate or fruit syrup. 

The first recorded use of the word “milkshake” was in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t used to describe the diner-friendly drink we know to day: The original milkshakes were made with eggs and whiskey, sort of like eggnog

WATCH: How to Make a Whataburger Dr. Pepper Milkshake

Over the next few decades, though, the ingredients changed—the eggs were swapped for ice cream and the whiskey for sweet syrups—and it became a wholesome, soda shop staple. 

A malt is a type of milkshake. The only thing that separates it from its chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry counterparts is the addition of malted milk powder. 

Invented by Walgreens employee Ivar “Pop” Coulson in 1922, malted milkshakes were actually among the first modern milkshakes. 

What Is Malted Milk Powder? 

Malted milk powder is evaporated powder made from malted barley (also used to make beer), wheat flour, and milk. 

It has a sweet, nutty, bready taste that is almost hard to describe to someone who’s never tasted it, but the powder delivers a subtle, rounded richness to treats. Malt is most commonly paired with chocolate flavors. If you’ve ever had Whoppers (those little chocolate-covered balls in the bright yellow box that you often see at movie theatres) or Ovaltine, you’ve tasted chocolate malt.

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