Namesake of 1950’s hangouts and a classic American beverage, malted milk is a combination of malted barley, wheat flour, and whole milk, with the liquid evaporated away. After the English brothers William and James Horlick relocated to Wisconsin in the mid-1800s, they set out to develop a malt-based health food for infants and invalids. The duo, dubbed the Horlicks Food Company, soon invented a formula fortified with powdered malt called “Diastoid.” Although the name didn’t stick, malted milk caught on with Antarctic explorers, who included the Horlicks product in their rations for its high caloric content and resistance to spoilage. Back in more hospitable climates, soda fountain customers discovered that malted milk just tasted great, stirring it into milk and chocolate syrup. The drink got even better when a Walgreens employee named Ivar "Pop" Coulson threw in a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream, creating the “Horlick’s Malted Milk” that prefigured the popular drinks of today.
While some myths about malted milk’s health benefits persist (sleeping aid; appetite suppressant), most of us treasure it as a sweet mainstay of diner culture. Beard House chefs are using it to inject a little Americana into desserts this fall: Mohan Ismail is saucing his caramelized banana custard cake with a malted crème anglaise, while Amanda Moreno is doubling the dosage in the form of malted milk chocolate mousse with caramel corn and Ovaltine ice cream.