A coffee cabinet is an ice cream-based beverage found almost exclusively in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, consisting of coffee ice cream, coffee syrup, and milk. The ingredients are mixed in a drink blender or milkshake blender.
In recent years, it has become more difficult to find an authentic cabinet, but many Rhode Island creameries still serve them, including Delekta's Pharmacy in Warren, and the Original Vanilla Bean in South Kingstown. Newport Creamery, a chain of family restaurants found almost exclusively in Rhode Island, serves a variation of cabinets made with ice milk under the brand name "Awful Awful". A cabinet is often referred to elsewhere in New England as a frappe.
As with downcity, the etymology of this term is unknown. One common, but unsubstantiated explanation is that the soda jerk or pharmacist kept the coffee syrup in one of the polished wooden cabinets behind the counter.
An alternate etymological theory, also unsubstantiated, derives from the distinctive accent local to Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Similar to the more famous Boston accent, this accent tends to drop r. For instance, "car" is pronounced "cah" in both Boston and Rhode Island. "Carbonate" (soda water) may be pronounced more like "cabinet", suggesting that a "cabinet" beverage may have originally referred to an ice cream float.
- Peter W. Smith, New England Country Store Cookbook, (iUniverse, 2003), pg. 146 ISBN 0-595-25396-2, ISBN 9780595253968 (accessed November 26, 2008 on Google Book Search)
- Ryder Windham, You Know You're in Rhode Island When..., (Globe Pequot, 2006), pg. 9, ISBN 9780762739400 link (accessed 1 December 2015 on Google Books); "Know-it-alls would have you believe that the drink's inventor kept his blender and/or coffee syrup in a cabinet, but try finding evidence of this..."