According to my mother, the jadeite green Hamilton Beach milkshake mixer my brother and I grew up with actually came to us via a Brooklyn luncheonette that our late grandfather, a bread delivery driver, worked for more than 50 years ago. My parents eventually inherited the machine, and after several decades and a handful of moves the retro-futuristic gizmo is still in their kitchen today.
While the mixer, which Hamilton Beach officially calls the DrinkMaster, can be used for everything from frothing milk to beating eggs, the machine is—to my mind at least—a milkshake maker, first and foremost. But why do we have dedicated milkshake makers when a blender can accomplish the same thing? What can the milkshake-specific “unitasker” do that the all-purpose blender cannot?
Milkshake machines whip up nostalgia
I asked my dad why he preferred the mixer to a blender for making shakes. He said it reminded him of the soda fountains and diners of his youth, having come of age in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
“It felt authentic,” he added.
Even for those who, like me, were born closer to the end of the 20th century, the machines still evoke distinct feelings of nostalgia.
“It made us feel like we were working in an old malt shop or soda shop,” Ingrid Fure, fellow DrinkMaster owner, told me over email. “Plus, you can’t have a malt without the stainless steel cup.”
A blender could never replace the classic Hamilton Beach mixer, which Fure’s family owned in the color “Almond White.” The milkshake machine is crucial for making malts.
The milkshakes have a better consistency
“There’s something about the consistency that a blender could never get right,” Fure says. “[the texture is] just thicker and frothier.”
There’s certainly some validity to this claim, at least according to a Chicago Tribune article from 2021 on the best home milkshake makers.
“While you can make a milkshake with a countertop blender,” the Tribune states, “a drink mixer delivers just enough blending power to create a thick shake without melting the ice cream.” The heat generated by a blender’s powerful motor can cause a shake to melt before it’s fully blended.
For Molly Bearman, who grew up with a machine by the brand Racine that was strikingly similar to our Hamilton Beach model, the experience of standing near the mixer as it worked is a visceral one.
“I love that it has a specific sound and smell when the motor runs,” said Molly.
Milkshake makers are a family heirloom
My family’s particular model 935 mixer, with its lanky, pale green body and shiny metallic head sporting an embossed Hamilton Beach logo, is apparently somewhat rare, according to a post on the site worthpoint.com. If you’re not a discerning collector of midcentury appliances, however, you’ll find plenty of viable, affordable mixer options on sites like eBay, where the default brand seems to be Hamilton Beach—though brands like Brentwood and ICEE also make their own machines.
I haven’t been much of a milkshake fiend since I was a kid, but just thinking about a frothy shake poured from that metal cup started to bring back the old craving.
“It’s yours!” my mother texted me the other day, when I asked her for more details on our mixer. “Your inheritance.” Better than jewelry, she joked.
My dad texted me a photo of our DrinkMaster posed next to a squeeze bottle of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, a common addition to our childhood shakes and another constant in my parents’ kitchen for decades. It’s always U-Bet, never any other brand. Just like the mixer itself, if it ain’t broke—well, you know.