Coffee Milk

Some states’ official state beverage seem exotic, like ‘Awa in Hawaii. Others couldn’t be more plain. Water in Indiana? Really? Water? Little Rhode Island has what I think is one of the most unusual and interesting state drinks. Coffee Milk.

Sampling Coffee Milk in Providence, RI (photo: Brent Petersen)

Coffee Milk origin story

You might be thinking that Coffee Milk is just coffee with milk added. However, that’s not it. Instead, Coffee Syrup is added to milk. Think of it like chocolate milk except instead of Chocolate Syrup, Coffee Syrup is added to the milk.

Coffee Milk probably originated in Providence, Rhode Island when Italian immigrants wanted to recreate the coffee sweetened with milk they drank in Italy. By the 1930’s, coffee milk was regularly served at lunch counters and diners.

Coffee Milk on the menu in Providence, Rhode Island (photo: Brent Petersen)

The Silmo Packing Company in nearby New Bedford, Massachusetts was the first large-scale producer of Coffee Syrup, debuting the product in 1932. Eclipse followed soon after with their version of Coffee Syrup, and in the 1940’s, Autocrat debuted their Coffee Syrup.

Autocrat purchased Eclipse in 1991, creating a Coffee Syrup monopoly in Rhode Island. Both products are still manufactured in the state. In 1993, the RI General Assembly voted Coffee Milk as the official state drink, beating out Del’s Frozen Lemonade.

Where to get Coffee Milk

Today, there are new, trendy Coffee Syups on the market. Some use a cold brew method by letting ground coffee beans sit overnight in water, later adding sugar. Others make syrup by running hot water and sugar through a coffee filter, like drip coffee. Another method is to make coffee and add sugar later.

Whichever method is used, the coffee and sugar is boiled down to create a syrup.

Dave’s Coffee is a good place to get Coffee Milk (photo: Brent Petersen)

Most diners, cafes, and coffee shops in Rhode Island will be able to make a Coffee Milk. My favorite spot is to get a Coffee Milk is Dave’s Coffee. They make their own high quality Coffee Syrup (you can even buy a bottle to take with you) and roast their own coffee beans. Dave’s can also make your Coffee Milk with plant-based milk, which is nice. Dave’s has 2 locations in RI, one in Providence on College Hill and another near the ocean in Charlestown.

Coffee Syrup is also available at practically any grocery store in Rhode Island.

Coffee Syrup for sale at a Rhode Island grocery store (photo: Brent Petersen)

How to enjoy Coffee Milk

Of course you can just order your Coffee Milk and that would be just fine. But, Coffee Milk is so popular, there’s other ways to enjoy it. One is a Coffee Cabinet. That’s a milkshake made with Coffee Ice Cream, Coffee Milk, and Milk.

Back in 2013 Narragansett Brewing Company made a Coffee Milk Stout. Why not?

My favorite way to enjoy a Coffee Milk is to add a little liqueur to it. Kahlúa is a great choice to add to your Coffee Milk. I also like a nice shot of bourbon or whiskey.

Addin’ a lil’ sumpin’ to the Coffee Milk (photo: Karen L. Campopiano)

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink.

Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms.

Author: Brent