Why The Best Summer Drinks Are Milkshake Cocktails

Summer weekends are made for hanging out in the backyard with friends and family. Luckily, it’s also the easiest time of year to put together a party that’ll please everyone. The menus of cookouts, BBQs and picnics are filled with fare that’s easy to put together and elaborate decor can’t compare to the pretty setting created by perfect summer weather. A few Mason jars of inexpensive blooms, a couple strings of lights and maybe a few citronella candles just serve to enhance the perfect atmosphere of the outdoors.

In fact, it’s such a lovely atmosphere that it’s no surprise that guests tend to linger into the evening at summer gatherings. At some point, it gets a little too hot (and a little too buggy) to stay outdoors — that’s when the “after party” starts inside your home. “An after party for a BBQ is a great relief to guests in the extreme heat,” says Seri Kertzner, Chief Party Officer of Little Miss Party in New York. “Set up board games, after dinner cocktails and desserts inside or in a cooled off sunroom for all of your guests to enjoy after a long day in the sun.”

Instead of the traditional bar set-up with hot-weather favorites like margaritas, introduce your guests to one of the season’s trendiest party ideas: The milkshake bar. These creative cocktails combine ice cream with the usual milkshake mix-ins (chocolate sauce, strawberries, etc.) and a shot of a not-so-expected spirit or liqueur. Some favorite combinations: Vanilla and bourbon (a favorite of Kertzner); chocolate, peanut butter and bourbon; chocolate, mint syrup and vodka; vanilla, strawberry and vanilla-flavored vodka; or chocolate, caramel and Bailey’s. The options are endless!

Read on for a few tips for putting together the perfect milkshake bar for your party:

1.) Stock up on supplies

Depending on the size of your glasses and the appetite of your guests, you’ll need about 1 cup (8 oz) of ice cream per milkshake. Standard ice cream cartons are around 48 ounces, yielding about 6 milk shakes. To keep your milkshake menu simple, opt for vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. You’ll also need milk (you’ll use approximately 1/2 cup per milkshake). Then, pick up anything you’d use for a sundae party: Bananas, cherries, nuts, whipped cream and traditional ice cream toppings (peanut butter, strawberry, butterscotch and caramel are crowd-pleasers). Tip: Expand your horizons with a few bottles of gourmet syrups, like Torani, Monin or Da Vinci.

For your cocktails, you’ll blend in 1-2 ounces of a spirit or liqueur per milkshake. Bourbon, liqueurs (like Bailey’s, Kahlua and Chambord) and flavored vodkas are the best for mixing with ice cream.

three fancy glasses with purple, orange and yellow sugar rims

One of our favorite ways to decorate the milkshake glasses are by rimming them with sprinkles. Finally, add an unexpected touch to your bar by offering a fun over-the-top garnish, like cookies, munchkins or mini cupcakes.

2.) Prep ahead of time

You won’t spend the evening scooping ice cream, thanks to this make-ahead tip! The night before your party, portion out scoops of ice cream (half vanilla, half chocolate) and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Then, freeze until ready to use.

Before your guests arrive, prep your bar by placing your blender out on the counter. Then, line up your toppings in trays. Round up your spirits and liqueurs, placing in a tray as well. If there’s room in your freezer, take a moment to frost your glasses by dipping them in water before chilling.

three milk shakes

3.) Assemble with ease

When you’re ready for milkshakes, line up your ingredients in order: A baking sheet of vanilla and chocolate scoops, then your toppings, spirits, milk, blender and glasses. Take “orders” quickly by piling the ice cream and toppings into a measuring cup as guests pick them out, pouring over the spirit of their choice, then dumping it all into the blender. As you blend, add milk to achieve the desired consistency. In between milkshake flavors, give the blender jar a rinse; then repeat.

close up of a milkshake with a purple sugar rim

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