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Chain milkshakes ranked: Shake Shack, Wendy's and more

Anytime is the right time for a milkshake. From the first sip to the sad last slurp, a milkshake is a treat — even when it gives you brainfreeze. One of the few drinks that requires both a straw and a spoon, a milkshake stirs the senses and builds anticipation. We watch and wait as a blender stirs its frosted metal sleeve, with ingredients like chocolate syrup, cookies and cream and salted caramel for added decadence.

Though it would be tough to find a bad shake, ingredients make all the difference — even at the chains. Here's how they ranked in a recent taste test.

10. Burger King vanilla

10. Burger King vanillaPerhaps the most vague ingredient
Credit: Johnny Milano

Perhaps the most vague ingredient list, “vanilla sauce” is blended into “soft-serve” for a shake finished with “sweet whipped topping.” In reality there are more than 40 ingredients that make up a shake — but no vanilla and no milk. It’s $3.39 and 580 calories for a 12-ounce shake.

9. Five Guys malted vanilla

9. Five Guys malted vanillaFor a spot with
Credit: Five Guys

For a spot with the greatest fries and a respectable fast-food burger, the milkshake here tastes like an afterthought — even if you go for the semi-exotic cherry, peanut butter or coffee shake. As for the ingredients, it’s listed as “Five Guys shake base,” to create a 12-ounce, 670 calorie shake for close to $4.

8. Wayback Burgers junior coffee

8. Wayback Burgers junior coffeeWith "Stay Puft Slime"
Credit: Johnny Milano

With “Stay Puft Slime” in limited release in addition to chocolate, strawberry and orange cream, Wayback isn’t short on flavors. It’s also the chain that just last year offered add-ins like Slim Jims and Peruvian cricket powder, for added protein, of course. Stick to basics with a junior coffee milkshake for around $4 that’s 590 calories and tastes a bit like coffee-flavored shaved ice.

7. Sonic banana

7. Sonic bananaA super-banana-flavored shake claims real bananas
Credit: Johnny Milano

A super-banana flavored shake claims real bananas as well as “sweet banana flavor” for 640 calories. The shake varieties and super intense flavors make Sonic Drive-In a standout. A 12-ounce shake is less than $3.

6. Wendy's chocolate Frosty

6. Wendy's chocolate FrostyThe first Wendy's opened in
Credit: Wendy's

The first Wendy’s opened in 1969 with the chocolate Frosty as the lone shake flavor. It took until 2006 for the company to shake things up by introducing vanilla. No matter the flavor, this is the lone shake that, for a few moments, you can eat with a spoon, since it falls among the most solid of the shakes. A medium classic chocolate Frosty is 460 calories for 16 ounces and costs less than $3.

5. Chick-fil-A cookies and cream

5. Chick-fil-A cookies and creamOK, so the cookies
Credit: Johnny Milano

OK, so the cookies and cream bump this one into the top five. And it’s the most decadent of the four flavors on Chick-fil-A’s shake menu. Clearly not real ice cream but trademarked, “icedream,” the shake is weirdly addictive: perhaps as worthy of fandom as the chicken sandwich, despite that the ingredient list is very, very long. It’s 660 calories for a small one that’s under $4. Like the Sonic milkshake, it displays whipped cream and an actual maraschino cherry.

4. BurgerFi black and white

4. BurgerFi black and whiteThere's a romance to
Credit: Barry Sloan

There’s a romance to the black and white, whether we’re talking about the cookie, the cocktail or in this case, the custard shake. It’s also very distinct-looking, chocolate syrup drizzled into vanilla custard like an art project. The result is a 12-ounce drink that’s 880 calories and costs just under $5. And it’s entirely drinkable — too soft for a spoon.

3. Smashburger salted caramel

3. Smashburger salted caramelHäagen-Dazs ice cream propels this
Credit: Smashburger

Häagen-Dazs ice cream propels this shake to the top, combined with irresistible salted caramel that tops Oreo, Butterfinger and the standard flavors. At 890 calories, the 12-ouncer costs just under $5.

2. Bobby's Burger Palace pistachio

2. Bobby's Burger Palace pistachioWith 11 ounces of
Credit: Johnny Milano

With 11 ounces of vanilla ice cream, the pistachio milkshake at Bobby’s Burger Palace is dense, with the color of actual pistachios — a faint green hue. In addition to pistachio paste that’s added as it’s made, there’s a half cup of milk in the mix of what turns out to be a 12-ounce shake that’s just over $5. Though the company isn’t transparent with calorie counts, a guesstimate is upward of 700 calories.

1. Shake Shack chocolate

1. Shake Shack chocolate shakeThe shake better be
Credit: Yana Paskova

The shake better be good at a place named for them. And it is: with straight up chocolate custard spun at a high speed for a thick but drinkable shake. It’s also among the most expensive, at around $5.50 for a standard-sized shake that’s 740 calories. Want to bump it up? Check out the calendar for featured shakes, which occasionally features an entire Mast Brothers chocolate bar.

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