What Are Concretes And How Are They Different From Milkshakes?

Everyone knows concrete is that rock-hard stuff that buildings and sidewalks are made out of. If you've never been to a frozen custard stand, you might be surprised that there's an edible type of concrete out there. While sidewalk concrete is scorching on a summer day, frozen custard concrete is always cool, sweet, and ridiculously delicious. 

The long menus at frozen treat stands — especially small, local spots — sometimes feature dessert names so clever and unique that it's not always clear what the items actually are. That's true for concretes, too, which are sometimes assumed to be just a regional variety of a thick milkshake. They're actually quite different than milkshakes.

Milkshakes are meant to be drinkable and can be made with everything from ice cream to frozen yogurt to ice with heavy cream. The amount of milk or cream added determines whether the frozen drinks are thin or thick. They're served in tall cups, glasses, or metal tumblers, sometimes with a spoon, but always with a straw. 

Concretes, on the other hand, are meant to be eaten because they're really, really thick — so thick that cups of concrete are served upside down. Concretes are also strictly made with frozen custard, blended with lots of mix-ins like candy, cookies, swirls of sauces like chocolate or caramel, or fruit.

Without milkshakes, we might not have concretes

If you're thinking that concretes sound a lot like certain desserts at certain fast food chains, you're correct. McDonald's McFlurries and Dairy Queen's Blizzards also feature swirls of candy and cookie chunks in a creamy, frozen base. However, not only does the frozen custard base make concretes unique, they've also been around a lot longer.

The invention of the concrete is credited to Ted Drewes Sr. who, after sampling frozen custard in the Midwest, opened his namesake frozen custard shops in St. Louis, Missouri, in the 1930s. In 1959, his son Ted Drewes Jr. was working at one of the shops when a customer asked for the thickest milkshake they could make. Drewes Jr. made him one so solid that he served it upside down and told the customer, "There, is that thick enough? It's just like concrete." The name stuck and concretes became a signature treat at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard shops decades before Blizzards and McFlurries made their debuts.

Today, a dozen different concrete flavors are available at Ted Drewes, including s'more and strawberry shortcake, and are still served upside down. Concretes are also on the menus of other frozen custard stands and chains like Culver's, Rita's, and Andy's Frozen Custard. Some custard shops also sell concretes under a different name: Arctic swirls.