Shakes are, by definition, the perfect hybrid of ice cream and milk: a creamy, frozen and frosty glimpse of heaven transported via straw. And depending on where you’re ordering — and what you’re ordering — modern-day milkshakes can make those dinky plastic-lidded cups passed across the counters of so many chain eateries quiver in fear. Whether you’re a purist who prefers the classic trifecta of flavors or you’re a creative who loves to blend outside the lines, there’s a shake with your name on it. But we must warn you — you might find that most of these Panama City Beach milkshakes rest well outside the domain of a straw. You might very well need a spoon or a fork.
The Yard Milkshake Bar
The mission is to power up your taste buds at this local spot and that's the reason for the 28 shake flavors gracing the menu at The Yard Milkshake Bar, a gourmet shake shop where the sole focus is, you guessed it, milkshakes. And while their mixologists might have predesigned shakes down cold, their extensive list of 50 insane and gravity-defying toppings — such as chocolate-dipped bacon, a waffle, a slice of cheesecake, a doughnut, an entire cupcake, as well as nine types of cookie dough (made in house) — mean that their 28 base flavors of premium Hershey’s ice creams can be combined into customized shakes so numerous that they would give a statistician pause. Served up in massive Mason jars printed with The Yard’s logo, every shake is an experience you’ll remember by way of the souvenir vessel you get to take home — but those flavors will doubtless be something you’ll never forget. Since opening the Panama City Beach location in early 2018, They boast signatures such as “The Unicorn,” with its enchanted purple-and-white sweet cream ice cream swirled with sweet and sour cherry and blue raspberry rainbows bedazzled with star-colored lemon flakes, blended thick and served in a marshmallow cream-dipped jar adorned with rainbow-colored sprinkles, whipped cream, clouds of cotton candy, a sour rainbow and a sugar cone “unicorn” horn. Or maybe you’re in the mood for the “Cookie Dough Delicious,” an explosion of cookie dough ice cream served in a jar rimmed with chocolate icing topped with a mountain of chocolate chips, whipped cream and a colossal scoop of edible cookie dough. The shakes at The Yard are anything but ordinary. And if you’re familiar with the pop charts of the early 2000’s, you’ll appreciate the name, as their milkshakes most certainly do bring all the boys (and girls) to The Yard.
Gulf Coast Burger Co.
Off-the-wall is the name of the game at Gulf Coast Burger Co., whether you’re talking creative burgers that push the limit or milkshakes so weird and colorful you’ll wonder who comes up with these things. Gulf Coast Burger’s shakes shake up the dessert scene with flavors such as the sugar-packed “Sugar Rush,” a vanilla base loaded with Fruity Pebbles and festooned with an enormous lollypop, some Nerds Rope, Airhead Extremes, and cotton candy … then topped with a cherry. Love Reese’s peanut butter cups? Order the peanut-butter-chip-and-Reese’s-cups packed “Peanut Butter shake,” which is topped with a smattering of Cracker Jacks. For cookie monsters, the “Cookies & Cream” offers up a shake thick with cookie crumbles garnished with not one but two oversized cookies and a chocolate drizzle. Since opening in the fall of 2017, Gulf Coast Burger Co. has defined itself as a burger and shake shack on steroids. They’re so big and bold, their creamy concoctions of craziness are known as Cat-5 Shakes. And while you can certainly order a classic shake reminiscent of an old-time soda fountain, the fun twists they put on their shakes likely will tempt you to the dark side —their spiked shakes make this kid-like indulgence anything but child’s play.
Marble Slab Creamery
If you’re looking for scratch-made ice cream to shake up your day, Marble Slab Creamery has your number. From favorites like Cookies ’n Cream, Cookie Dough, Strawberry Shortcake, Cotton Candy, Snickers and Coffee, Marble Slab starts with a base of their freshly churned, small-batch ice cream to create a shake worth busting your diet for, offering your choice of additional mix-ins from more than 65 options of fruits, nuts, candies, sauces and cakes. Since opening in 2012, Marble Slab’s PCB location has been chillin’, and owner Vic Patel has kept his team of creamers creating everything from shakes and smoothies to sundaes and ice cream cakes that pair perfectly with Great American Cookie Co.’s fresh-baked selection of cookies, cookie cakes, and brownies. Served up with a stunning display of garnishes and toppings, these massive shakes might not give you brain freeze, but they’ll certainly freeze you in place with an array of flavors and colors.
Thomas Donut & Snack Shop
There are, of course, the steadfast shake-makers who stand not on the strength of odd-ball mix-ins and gargantuan garnishes, but on the simplicity of their old-fashioned formula: milk plus ice cream. That traditionalist method still appeals, as one can easily see from the happy faces of those enjoying a shake from Thomas Donut & Snack Shop. Using a base of premium vanilla bean ice cream to make their vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cherry, butterscotch, peanut butter or caramel shakes, Thomas widens their menu of flavors with their ability to create shakes or malts from any of the 36 varieties of premium quality ice creams, frozen yogurt, sorbets and sherbets they serve in the shop. Originally just focusing on its namesakes when it opened in 1971, Thomas Donut & Snack Shop expanded its offerings in 2015, building the ice cream shop that gave even greater appeal to an already flourishing family-owned business. Since then, this crew has handily proven that “old fashioned” is definitely still in style.
In the face of battle, the biggest and the oddest may certainly have their advantage — after all, whose eyes don’t roll in their head at the very thought of a milkshake so monstrous in size that it requires two hands to manage, decorated with cookies, candies, and cake with enough sugar rush to power an entire kindergarten class? The sheer decadence is awesome in its lack of apology, its ingenuity, and its creativity and boldness. And whether you heed to the siren call of that over-the-top sugar rush or stay true to the purity of a classic, a milkshake is a treat by any standard, a break from the routine to indulge in a bit of nostalgia for those childhood days gone by.