LISTEN TO BOOMTOWN RADIO! “ALL the Music That Matters for the Generation That Created Rock 'n' Roll”

Whatever Happed to Malt Shops?

Back in the 1950s and early 60s, malt shops as well as malted milk were extremely popular all across America. Today, malt shops have virtually disappeared and malted milk is a beverage few below the age of 60 even remember let alone have ever tasted.

So what happened?

Malted milk was the creation of two English brothers who resettled in Racine, Wisconsin, James & William Horlick. In the early 20th century, they invented a compound of malted barley, wheat and powdered milk they trademarked as “malted milk.” The lads first marketed it as a nutritional baby food, but they were taken by surprise when older children and adults started to enjoy it as a soft drink.

Around the same time, ice cream parlors and soda fountains were springing up as a healthier alternative to bars and nightclubs. Naturally, the lack of alcohol (and the subsequent need to be of drinking age to use same) also meant those parlors & fountains became popular hangouts for teenagers. In the 1940s, jukeboxes became standard equipment for any self-respecting soda fountain. Those soda fountains added ice cream to malted milk and the “malt” was born. Its popularity continued to rise through the decade. As we moved into the 1950s, malted milk had become a real favorite, so many of the aforementioned soda fountains renamed themselves malt shops.

But as we moved into the 60s, a new trend in dining out would ultimately spell doom for the malt.

Once Ray Kroc began franchising McDonald’s restaurants, the writing was on the wall. While there were people who didn’t like malted milk, virtually everybody liked milkshakes (essentially the same thing, just minus the malt powder), so the McDonald’s menu, kept ultra-simple in its early days, only featured milkshakes and not malts.

The deluge of fast food joints that followed in Mickey Dee’s footsteps also copied their beverage menu, offering shakes but not malts. Until today, the malted milk is an item one has to look for. It’s still carried on the menus of some establishments, but there just aren’t many eateries willing to call themselves malt shops anymore. And we think that’s something worth crying in your milk over.

Pop Up Player

Latest Posts–Fads & Fashion

  • The Accidental Icon
    Do you know this woman? Before you answer, read this. This woman totally changed American pop culture without even trying. Her name is Kathy Kohner. She’s not a composer or a musician. She’s not an…
  • Who Invented S’mores?
    Simplicity in itself, graham cracker, slab of chocolate, and a marshmallow: Toast lightly (usually over a campfire or grill) and enjoy! But who had the bright idea to combine these elements into a tasty treat…
  • Days of Summers Past
    Here's our summer reading list:
  • Whatever Happed to Malt Shops?
    Back in the 1950s and early 60s, malt shops as well as malted milk were extremely popular all across America. Today, malt shops have virtually disappeared and malted milk is a beverage few below the…
  • Maximum Impact: The Miniskirt
    No other fashion trend quite represents the “swinging sixties” like the miniskirt! Hemlines had started to creep up as we moved from the fifties into a new decade, moving up above the knee for the…
  • Also Available on 8-Track & Cassette