Today in 1993 Rhode Island adopted coffee milk as its official state drink.

And in Rhode Island, coffee milk is kind of a world unto itself.

It’s a very specific drink.

I add milk to coffee, but that’s not coffee milk.

Neither is a latte or a cafe au lait, even though both involve milk and coffee (or expresso).

The drink known as coffee milk is a glass of milk with coffee syrup.

It’s like chocolate milk, only you use coffee flavored syrup.

Rhode Island had already been home to a lot of dairy farmers.

And in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the state saw a large number of Italian immigrants settle there.

It’s believed the drink came with them.

In the 1920s, companies started mass producing coffee syrups and coffee milk took off from there.

Adults and kids alike have been drinking the stuff for years.

Today there are plenty of syrups to choose from, classic brands and some new, artisanal producers.

And coffee milk is used in other ways too.

It sometimes serves as a barbecue sauce, or people can try a coffee milk milkshake.

The drink that’s sometimes known as a cabinet is a milkshake made to taste not like coffee, but like coffee milk.

Today in Whiting, Indiana, Pierogi Fest is getting underway.

Yes, they celebrate little filled dumplings, but there’s a lot more, including an annual tradition where people mark Pierogi Fest by dressing in their fanciest and/or wackiest clothes and mowing the grass.

What is coffee milk and why is Rhode Island obsessed with it? (WGBH)


A round of coffee milks for our Patreon backers, please!

Photo by spablab via Flickr/Creative Commons