Yes, you should add liquor to your upscale milkshake.
When it’s my turn to put in my order at Hot Cakes, the line-out-the-door-popular dessert shop on Ballard Ave., I decide to roll the dice.
“Can I boozify a non-boozy milkshake?” I ask.
I expect to be shot down with a scoff—at my wanton request, or at least my audacious grammar. But the young woman across the counter doesn’t flinch.
“Sure,” she says. “Most people add Bulleit bourbon to the S’mores shake.”
Victory! Now “most people” includes me.
With its wood-hewn beams, cozy brickwork and warm lighting, Hot Cakes is a clubhouse for sweet tooths (sweet teeth?), serving a full selection of homemade cookies, ice cream sundaes, floats and milkshakes, plus the house specialty—molten chocolate cake baked into half-sized mason jars.
But the place has a racy side, too: Hot Cakes is a haven for under-cover drinkers. Nestled beneath the hand-drawn, wall-size menu behind the counter is a small but impressively stocked bar, the constituents of which are used not only for mixing cocktails but also for spiking otherwise innocuous concoctions. Hot Cakes offers a handful of “Boozy Shakes,” but, as I learned, liquor can be added to any shake on the menu.
Typically the S’mores is a virgin milkshake—or at least as virgin as a smoked-chocolate dairy bomb topped with a homemade, blowtorched marshmallow can be. I figure if I’m gonna sashay deep into the glycemic-caloric danger zone, I might as well add a shot of bourbon.
My companion toed the line and ordered from the menu. He asked for the Extra Dark Caramel, Espresso & Rye but was delivered a Drunken Sailor, with peanut butter, caramel and whisky. The mix-up was unfortunate for a couple reasons. For one, the Drunken Sailor was cloyingly sweet. And perhaps because it’s a standard menu item, it was not so drunken, rather light on the booze. A jaundiced shade of yellow, it was served in a classic milkshake glass with a black plastic straw.
My off-menu Boozy S’more, however, was as strong as a drunk uncle’s breath and way more pleasant to the palate. Between the smoked chocolate and brûlée-ed marshmallow on top, its sweetness was tempered by the bitter-roasted taste of open flame. Though the shake was well blended, the bourbon was pooled at the bottom of the glass, so every straw-suck was a whisky sip. Yes, whisky through a straw. With an ice cream back. Rich, complex and delicious, this was my kind of dessert.
As we finished our shakes, we peered around the room and took in Hot Cakes’ clientele.
“When was the last time you were in a room that was 90 percent women?” my friend asked. I couldn’t remember.
And he was right—a few dozen women of every age, size and color were packed inside Hot Cakes and spilling out onto the street. In pairs or in packs, they nibbled or sipped or slurped away at clever, comforting confections. Every one of which may have been boozified.
Photo by Miguel Edwards