Ever Heard of a 'Coffee Cabinet'?

Pop vocabulary quiz! A “coffee cabinet” is: A) a piece of furniture in which you store your coffee, your trusty coffeemaker and all the other coffee-related paraphernalia you never use but are certain you will someday; or B) a milkshake-like beverage people drink in Rhode Island.

OK, so maybe the correct answer is: C) both. But B) is the one everyone seems to be talking about at the moment.

Media outlets including NPR, Eater and What’s Cooking America have recently gushed about a regional beverage made with ice cream, milk and coffee syrup that Rhode Islanders apparently love — and that the rest of us probably would, too, if we tried it.

Given all the admiring talk, here are a few things to know about this little-known New England delicacy:

1: It’s often made with a brand of coffee syrup called Autocrat, a coffee extract company based in Lincoln, R.I., and founded more than a century ago, in 1895.

2: It likely evolved from Rhode Island’s official state drink, coffee milk, which traces its origins back to the 1920s and is made with only two of the coffee cabinet’s three ingredients: milk and coffee syrup.

3: As for the name, in Rhode Island milkshakes are called “cabinets” — possibly “because blenders used to make the drink were often stored in cabinets,” Eater posits. (This theory was also put forth by NPR.)

4: You can make them yourself, in whatever state you live, as long as you can get your hands on some of that coffee syrup, in addition to milk and ice cream. And, of course, you can. The Internet has made thirsty Rhode Islanders of us all.

Photo courtesy of @ivyriya

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