Coffee milk is a drink consisting of coffee-flavored milk, similar to chocolate milk; however, instead of chocolate syrup, coffee syrup is used. It is the official state drink of Rhode Island in the United States of America.
Coffee milk was introduced to Rhode Island sometime in the early 1930s. It came about from creative diner and drugstore operators trying to attract new customers with new and innovative drinks. One of these operators, the identity of whom has been lost to history, sweetened leftover coffee grounds with milk and sugar. This created a molasses-like extract that became popular. Coffee milk became a favorite among Rhode Islander and Southeastern Massachusetts residents, and created a demand for this coffee syrup. The demand was so great that, in 1993, it beat out Del's Lemonade as the official drink of Rhode Island.
In southeastern parts of the U.S. region of New England, it can be found in the dairy case of stores right next to other flavored milks such as chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, and is often found on the beverage menus of diners throughout the area.
The drink is difficult to find outside of the New England region, however, and travelers requesting it are often mistakenly served coffee with milk. One well-known brand of coffee syrup is "Autocrat", which also produces the Eclipse and CoffeeTime brands of coffee syrups, is based in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Recently, the syrup became available as far south as Florida, but under different packaging. It is branded as "Coffee Time" syrup - still made by Autocrat in Rhode Island.
- The 1930s. Coffee milk was introduced to Rhode Island.
- 1932 The Silmo Packing Company of New Bedford, Massachusetts, began marketing a more refined version, called "coffee syrup," under the Silmo name.
- 1938 Eclipse of Warwick began marketing a more refined version of what was being made and called it "coffee syrup." Their slogan was, "You'll smack your lips if it's Eclipse."
- The 1940s Autocrat of Lincoln began making their own mixture of corn syrup and coffee extract. The slogan that Autocrat coined was, "A swallow will tell you." Both companies, Autocrat and Eclipse, would vie for the coffee syrup business for almost fifty years afterwards.
- 1991 The rivalry between Autocrat and Eclipse ended with Autocrat buying the Eclipse brand name and secret formula. Both labels came to be produced by Autocrat and made available in stores.
- 1993 After much political debate, the Rhode Island State Legislature proclaimed coffee milk "The Official State Drink of Rhode Island" on July 29, 1993. The Providence Journal-Bulletin newspaper covered the story.
- RI.gov. "State of Rhode Island website "Facts and Figures"". Ri.gov. Retrieved 2011-11-28.
- "TITLE 42, State Affairs and Government, CHAPTER 42-4, State Emblems, SECTION 42-4-15". Rilin.state.ri.us. Retrieved 2011-11-28.