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It is, simply, milk flavored with coffee syrup—just as chocolate milk is flavored with chocolate syrup. In fact, because it’s so sweet, coffee milk almost tastes like chocolate milk, except with a subtle coffee flavor. But coffee milk is the state drink of Rhode Island (since 1993), so you shouldn’t leave the state without trying it. According to The New York Times, it likely originated with diner and drugstore owners who served leftover coffee grounds with a whole lot of milk and sugar, thereby creating a drink impossible not to love.
The first coffee syrup came out of Warwick in 1938, from a brand called Eclipse; today Autocrat is the leading producer, having acquired Eclipse and another company, Coffee Time, over the years. Considering the drink’s delicious sweetness, pleasing in such a childlike way, and the types of lunch-counter establishments that traditionally serve it, coffee milk reminded us just a little of our beloved New York egg cream. But this drink is Rhode Island through and through. Also, it’s definitely more sugar than caffeine, so look elsewhere for an actual java fix.
Where: One of the best occasions for drinking coffee milk is while eating a hot wiener, the regional style of hot dog around here. Olneyville New York System (multiple locations including 20 Plainfield St., Providence, map), family-owned since 1946, has just the right old-school lunch counter.
When: Mon-Thurs, 11am-2am; Fri-Sat, 11am-3am; Sun, noon-2am
Order: A simple coffee milk, sweet and creamy and utterly satisfying. It weirdly complements a hot wiener “all the way” pretty damn well.
Good to know: If it’s decadence you’re after, you’ll want to find a coffee cabinet, which is essentially a coffee milk blended with coffee ice cream, making it more milkshakey. Newport Creamery branches are a good bet for those.
Alternatively: Find it at most other hot-wiener joints, like Wein-O-Rama (401-943-4990; 1009 Oaklawn Ave., map) in Cranston, or buy your own Autocrat syrup at any grocery store and makes this Rhody treat at home.
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