Interview: Adam Ried of Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes

Today I’m extremely happy to have Adam Ried as the guest interview. Adam Ried has many titles, or should I say many jobs? First off he is the author of Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes, he writes as a cooking columnist for the weekly Boston Sunday Globe Magazine and Culinate.com, and he’s a kitchen equipment specialist on the shows America’s Test Kitchen and on Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen. Adam’s biography is a lot more in-depth, for more info visit his website bio.

The book Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes is no doubt about milkshakes: a modern twist on the old classic milkshakes. Modern creations like: cold buttered rum, orange blossom honey, maple-bacon… Not just modern creations, but shows us how to make the old fashioned ones too like: "Hal's Inauthentic Egg Cream", the "Rhode Island Coffee Cabinet" homage to the infamous Autocrat coffee syrup, and variations on the old "black & white" shakes.

(see my post and recipe for the infamous mocha-cardamom shake)


The book is laid out as first the finer points in key ingredients and equipment recommendations, basic shakes, vanilla shakes (salted cashew, vanilla honey sesame), chocolate shakes (coconut patty, chocolate-Guinness, chocolate-chipotle) tea and coffee shakes (ginger-chai, Vietnamese iced coffee), fruity shakes (bananas foster, avocado shakes), unconventional shakes (malted caramel, tarte tatin), and finally shakes from other countries with a bit cultural history like: licuados, batidos, cholado.... Within each chapter you get the basics of the shake and modern-kicked up ones as well; literally something for everyone, and a shake for almost every season.


Adam, I gotta be honest, when word got out that I was doing an interview with you, I got flooded with questions about your kitchen tech job at America’s Test Kitchen. Everyone wanted to know what were the best kitchen gadgets to buy and more importantly wanted to know how to go about getting a job as a “kitchen tech guru” at America’s Test Kitchen.

But let’s start with the book “Thoroughly Modern Milkshake”, what a great idea to come up with a ‘modern twist’ on milkshakes; taking the old classics and making them a hint better.
The one that caught my eye the most, and the first one I wanted to try simply because of the flavor-curiosity was the mocha-cardamom milkshake. What a truly delicious milkshake.

What made you decide to create a book of milkshakes?

I wish I’d been smart enough to have had the idea myself, but I must admit that I wasn’t. You mentioned that I write a weekly cooking column for the Sunday Boston Globe Magazine, and I had run a column on new wave milkshakes. A publisher saw it and approached me about a book.
The idea for that column came very late one night as I mauled a pint of chocolate sorbet in front of the TV. Chocolate sorbet has such a deep, resonant cocoa flavor; I’m not sure why, but it dawned on me to try it in a shake. Combined with coffee ice cream the sorbet produced a stellar mocha shake. So I decided to do a column on using sorbet to boost the flavor in milkshakes.
A friend who came over to sample the recipes sprinkled a little cardamom into his mocha shake, after the Middle Eastern custom of spiking coffee with cardamom. We both loved the combo, and the notion of giving otherwise familiar shakes fun little flavor twists was born.

I know you did a fair amount of research on the classic milkshakes to come up with this idea? Which ones, that you researched, didn’t make the cut into the book?

The classic flavors – vanilla, chocolate, coffee, strawberry and peach all made it in, some with several variations in fact. A couple of my more esoteric flavor ideas, however, didn’t pass muster.
For instance, goat’s milk in a shake turned out to a bad idea. I wanted to riff on the classic Spanish combination of membrillo with goat cheese, but no matter how I tweaked the formula tasters gave it the thumbs down. Eventually it morphed into the Sweet Guava and Crème Fraiche Shake. Also, at the suggestion of a friend who is a grain fanatic and expert, I tried to corral the toasty flavor of popcorn in a shake, which went nowhere.

Do you have a favorite milkshake?

This is a Sophie’s Choice sort of question! But the answer is yes, I do have a fave – Mocha Cardamom. Like many readers no doubt, I’m a chocolate fiend. I also love coffee (and anything flavored with it), and cardamom is among my favorite spices. To me, the three combined is like Nirvana. This was the very first shake I developed for that Boston Globe column


Are there any other “milkshakes” from other countries that you did research on that didn’t make it into the book but wish they did?

Yes indeed. At the beginning of the summer I did a Globe column on lassi, the Indian yogurt drink (I make mine with ice so they’re super cold and frothy, more like a thin shake). Now I wish I’d included more lassis and some of the other middle eastern yogurt drinks in the book. Some lassis combine sweet and savory flavors, such as grape with a tiny bit of cumin, which really intrigues me. When you choose lowfat yogurt these drinks are relatively low-cal and low-fat compared to shakes, and the tart yogurt makes them seriously refreshing in hot summer weather.

Did you travel to other countries to “research” their cultural version of milkshakes?

I WISH I had! I’ve spent some time in France and Italy and Mexico, all of which inspired shakes in the book, but I didn’t take any trips specifically for the book.

As with every guest interview I do, I’m always curious to learn about their taste-testers. Who were your taste-testers? Did Christopher Kimball partake in the taste testing?

Alas, Chris wasn’t one of my tasters, though his input certainly would have been welcome. I developed these recipes on my own time, so my friends and neighbors did a lot of tasting. Also, my sister is a professionally-trained and fabulous cook, and she and I worked on the recipes together, so her friends and neighbors were called to tasting duty as well. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to line up tasters. The words “milkshake tasting” seem to be pretty powerful.

What kind of blender did you use to create the milkshakes?

I used a bunch of blenders, maybe eight or nine, to develop the recipes, everything from Vitamix and Blendtec to Waring, KitchenAid, Cuisinart, Breville, Hamilton Beach, Oster and Magic Bullet.

malted caramel shake pg. 175

Your job at America’s Test Kitchen, I’ll only ask a few questions, since a lot of people want to know:

How did you land such a fun gig as a kitchen guru tech? Imagine all the new, fun toys you get to test? Who wouldn’t want that job?

My job at ATK, which was just plain old Cook’s Illustrated when I started working there a million years ago, resulted from a classic “right place at the right time” encounter. Totally by chance I met the features editor. We hit it off, and once I learned what her job was, I pestered her mercilessly.
My pestering resulted in a little freelance work, which slowly but surely snowballed into more and more freelance and finally a job. I was really lucky.
Originally I was not hired to do equipment testing, but somewhere along the line I did one story – I think it was on V-racks if I recall correctly – and it worked out well so the editor asked me to stick with it.

Do you get to eat all those recipes they create at America’s Test Kitchen? I can only imagine the leftovers there are pretty incredible.

Every day test cooks develop recipes for both magazines, multiple cookbooks, shows, web and blog outlets and special projects. The tastings come fast and furious all day long. All the leftovers are packed and placed in the “take home fridge” to which everyone from every team in the company can help themselves. Suffice it to say that the staff there is very well fed.

Which do you like better? Creating new recipes or testing new kitchen appliances?

The bottom line is that I love to cook. Since both recipe development and equipment testing necessitate cooking, I’m very happy doing both.

get-attachment (1)
peanut-molasses shake pg. 159

When you buy a new appliance or household item for your home, do you do a lot of research?

I do, and I’m very lucky to have access to such great resources.. But when I buy large appliances (I just remodeled my kitchen at home) I’m in the same boat as everyone else. Even after collecting and evaluating tons of information, making the choice and purchasing can feel like a leap of faith. It’s a whole lot cheaper and easier to replace, say, a coffee grinder that you don’t like than a fridge you’re not mad for.

I’ve always wondered what is the weekly grocery bill like over at America’s Test Kitchen? Any guesstimates?

I couldn’t begin to guess the weekly grocery bill, other than to say it’s hefty. Here’s an indication: When we shot the last season of Cook’s Country TV (which takes about two weeks), we bought 96 pounds of beef tenderloin for a single episode, and a total of 375 pounds of beef for the season. That was for just one of many projects in play during those two weeks.

Outside of kitchen technology and food researching and writing, are there any others hobbies you have?

I love cars, both classic and modern. I get to as many car shows and museums as I can.

When did you realize you were a foodie? Was there a certain event/moment?

Sadly I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes. I had always loved to cook, but it didn’t dawn on me that I might be able to make it into a career until I was in my late 20’s. And even then, it took a push from an office-mate. One Monday she turned to me and said something like “do you realize that every single Monday you come in with stories of all the cooking you did over the weekend? You should go to cooking school.” That comment turned on the light bulb in my head.

cholado pg. 180

Guilty pleasure?

That’s easy… Cheez Doodles. Puffed or crunchy. Full fat or low fat. Orange or white. It doesn’t matter…. I love them all.

Food(s) you won’t eat?

Though I jeopardize any credibility I may have as a food person by admitting this, I hate blue cheese. Also I’m not fond of most commercial sourdough breads, breakfast sausage or truffle oil. And pepperoni equals instant, debilitating heartburn. Never touch the stuff.

When you cook at home, what’s your best dish?

Among the dishes that I make over and over and over again are Basque Piperade with eggs, Italian Tonnato sauce as a dip for just about anything (including my index finger), Greek Avgolemono soup, all kinds of frittatas (my favorite is Tortilla Espagnola, but any frittata is a great vehicle for leftovers); gumbo (I did a Cook’s Illustrated article on it years ago and never stopped making it), and a simple cardamom sour cream cake that I love. And for years and years, when there’s nothing in the house I make something we call simply Tuna Pasta – a big shot of extra virgin olive oil with lots of garlic, a little hot pepper, canned tuna, parsley and lemon juice over pasta. Somehow I am never without those ingredients…. they’re a baseline.

Favorite food person?

Too many to name! Of course, all of the talented, experienced, fun people at ATK, both now and in the old days, many of whom are among my most treasured friends. I love Mark Bittman’s voice, knowledge, and approach to food. John Willoughby (Doc) and Chris Schlesinger, Steven Raichlen, Claudia Roden, and Cheryl and Bill Jamison are all authors whom I trust implicitly. David Lebovitz and Diana Henry are also way up there. My sister Amanda is one of the best natural cooks I know. And of course the late Julia Child, who is on everybody’s list of influences, is on mine, too. She was one of my three childhood heroes, along with Dr. Seuss and my uncle, who was a well-known automotive journalist.

Is there a book 2 in the works?

I have to step on it and finish the proposal!

Thank you so much Adam. I love that you love Cheetos!
For more information on Adam please visit his website
And you can also follow him on Twitter @modernmilkshake

Adam was kind enough to giveaway two of his books.
To enter, simply leave ONE comment, telling using what kind of milkshake you'd like to see "kicked up a notch".

Please have a valid email address in your signature line and/or the comment.
Drawing ends 8/8/2012. Good luck!


  1. I'm a sucker for a classic vanilla or strawberry milkshake. Even if I don't win I may have to snag a copy of the book to see what Adam does with those flavors.

  2. Jeannine DiBart8/1/12, 11:21 AM

    I'm crazy about caramel- would love to see Adam's take on anything with it! Great interview- thank you!

  3. I love a black and white shake, but with hot fudge, would love to see what Adam has done with those in his book or could do!

  4. what a great interview :) after your last post i'm thinking blueberry cheesecake milkshake... too much?

  5. I second the caramel comment!

  6. A birthday cake/funfetti type of shake!

  7. vanilla and fruit plus something extra special.
    I so want this book, the caramel shake above is drool worthy :)

  8. I would probably like to see an interesting mint or oreo milkshake :D

  9. I love fruit plus chocolate, but I love the idea of a cheesecake milkshake. kan_o_linsay@yahoo.com

  10. a play on black raspberry...maybe a purple cow milkshake


  11. Chocolate and peanut butter milkshakes are the best. k.navarretebeckett@comcast.net

  12. I've been on a plum kick lately. Is there such a thing as a plum milkshake? Can I have it?

  13. Banana milkshake! Can have so much fun Elvis, Foster or tropical maybe!

  14. wow. mocha cardamom has my name ALL over it!

  15. Definitely Oreo!!!

  16. would love to see an interesting, innovative take on a banana milkshake!

  17. banana pudding milkshake, please. :)

  18. Chocolate-Peanut Butter. (Or maybe it should be chocolate, because "chocolate peanut butter" is already kicking it up a notch. :] )

  19. I would love to White Chocolate and Macadamia nuts kicked up a notch! I would love this book!

  20. How about a boozy shake..like vanilla bourbon!

  21. A milkshake that involves strawberries and cookies!! :D One just can't go wrong with that ;)

    Email: Yulary@web.de

  22. Anything with strawberry ice cream (my fave)


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