No, seriously, it was made official in 1993. If you’re from anywhere outside America’s smallest state, or aren’t dining buddies with any Rhode Islanders, you may be scratching your head, because we are not talking about coffee with milk. We are talking about coffee milk.
Coffee milk is kind of Rhode Island’s answer to New York’s egg cream. The combination of sweet coffee syrup and milk is enjoyed at all hours of the day, and no brand is as ubiquitous as Autocrat Syrup. Autocrat showed up on the scene in the 1930s, shortly after the launch of their main competitor, Eclipse. The decades-long rivalry came to an end in 1991, when Autocrat purchased Eclipse, and the company still produces both labels to this day. It also produces a third brand, Coffee Time Syrup, whose label design we love and which it sells mainly to markets outside Rhode Island. They’re all the same formula ― corn syrup, coffee extract and colors ― and we suspect they taste generally the same, though Coffee Time is advertised as having a stronger coffee taste than the others. Rhodies? Care to weigh in?
But the drink may soon be known in even more markets. Trader Joe’s just started selling their own version of coffee syrup, made with cane sugar, water and coffee.
They say it’s the perfect mix-in for a traditional coffee milk. The recommended ratio is two tablespoons of syrup to eight ounces of milk, according to What’s Cooking America.
So, what does coffee milk taste like? Think chocolate milk with a hint of coffee. Actually, just think really sweet milk with a hint of coffee. Or, imagine that you let coffee ice cream melt and then you poured it over ice. If you like coffee just a little bit, and also happen to have quite a sweet tooth, then coffee milk is definitely for you.
A version of this post previously appeared in 2013.