New Hampshire Slanguage: Frappe

New Hampshire natives, and others in New England

prefer to call a milkshake, a “frappe.”  It is one of my favorite “slanguage” words.  I first wrote about the origin of this drink in 2006 and recently decided to revisit the origin of the frappe.

The word itself appears to be either French or Greek in origin, and became popularly used in New England around the late 1800s into the early 1900s.  This exactly matches the time frame in which New England experienced a great influx of immigrants from both the countries of Canada (many of whom were French-speaking) and from Greece. These newly arrived families quickly found jobs at the many mills that had sprung up all along the Merrimack valley in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

I thought that perhaps these French and Greek immigrants brought the drink to New England.  I was wrong.  They didn’t!   The usage of ‘frappe’ in New Hampshire may have originated in Philadelphia.  James Parkinson of Philadelphia was a food inventor, famous throughout the 19th century, who specialized in ice cream treats.   In the 1840s he became a restaurateur.  He created sorbets and frozen ices using alcohol. In 1850 he created the Champagne frappe à la glace made with sparkling wine and Champagne-flavored water ice. Literally, this means “Champagne hits the ice.”   (So to you folks who recently are trying to claim that a Greek soda fountain owner invented this, so sorry he didn’t.).

Later, in places outside of New England a frappe came to mean a blended, iced coffee drink with milk added. Eventually it became a name for any blended milk or ice cream-based drink, usually with a flavored syrup added. Often a straw is an accessory used to drink down to the last drop.

Frappes were very popular in the early 1900s when Soda Fountains were a mainstay.  Types of frappes advertised in the 1902 Boston Globe included mint, ginger, and peach. The 10 May 1907 Harrisburg Daily Independent newspaper promoted some new “Fountain Frappe Drinks” with exotic names and good prices: Buster Brown 10c, Ping Pong 15c, and Honey Dew 5c.

Today a mixture of cold milk with syrup or flavoring, either stirred or mixed in a blender, is known as a MILK SHAKE.   Only the version where ICE CREAM is added is called a FRAPPE.  Please do not confuse the two.

Frappe Trivia: In Rhode Island a frappe is called a CABINET.  MacDonald’s first menu did NOT offer frappes – they were triple thick shakes.


P.S. Did you know that the the first soda fountain patent was granted to Samuel Fahnestock in 1819.

– Yankee Magazine: The Difference Between A Frappe and a Milkshake

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