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[Comments] (1) Decision Procedure For Milkshake Quality: Some restaurants serve good milkshakes; others just put them on the menu. If you order a milkshake will it be worth the calories? It's easy to find out with this decision procedure that's a lot simpler than the decision procedure for hot sauce quality.

  1. Does the restaurant serve more than one flavor of ice cream?

The reason this is important is that good milkshakes are made out of ice cream that's the flavor of the milkshake. Bad and mediocre milkshakes are made out of vanilla ice cream blended with flavored syrup. This is in defiance of the Fundamental Theorem of Ice Cream Flavoring, which is that you flavor your ice cream while you're making it and not afterwards.

You can apply this decision procedure by looking at the dessert menu and seeing if they ever hint at the possibility that ice cream might exist in more than one flavor. If you're at a fast food restaurant there is no dessert menu, but come on! Fast food restaurants are the classic case of a restaurant with bad milkshakes--they pull vanilla ice cream out of a soft-serve machine and add syrup to it, right in front of you. You can't even pretend it might be good.

NOTE: Unlike the hot sauce procedure, which has been confirmed dozens of times since publication with no known failures, this decision procedure goes to press with a known flaw. In-N-Out Burger flagrantly violates this decision procedure (you can actually see the syrup in its finished shakes), but its shakes are pretty good.

The only thing I can think of is that if you start with good vanilla ice cream, you can make a decent shake out of it by adding syrup. The decision procedure explains the fact that you can't even get a good vanilla milkshake at a restaurant with only vanilla ice cream by assuming that if you don't care enough to get multiple flavors of ice cream, you don't care enough to get good vanilla ice cream either. I guess this assumption doesn't hold for In-N-Out.

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Posted by Nick Moffitt at Wed Feb 25 2004 19:33

Good ice cream and good syrup, that is.

There's a grand old ice cream shop on Russian Hill that used syrup with vanilla ice cream in the production of my malted milkshake. They used malt flakes from a can, instead of malted milk.

It still turned out delicious. I think they specifically use a syrup that has real sugar.

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