Here’s How to Make Michigan’s State Cocktail at Home
By Brandon Wetherbee,2023-05-30
Memorial Day has come and gone. It’s unofficially summer, and officially time to enjoy some summer cocktails. The Illinois state cocktail is Jameson Irish Whiskey. That’s really it, which is not exactly summery. The state cocktail of Michigan is a Hummer, but what exactly is that?
A Hummer, the drink, is a simple concoction with only three ingredients — well, three ingredients if you do it the correct way. We spoke with Victor H, the beverage director of London Chop House in Detroit, about the proper way to make what’s essentially a boozy milkshake. “I’m reasonably known for my Hummers,” he told us.
The Hummer originated here in the late 1960s. Legend has it Farouk Elhaje invented it at the London Chop House, but some say that Jerome Adams created the drink at the Bayview Yacht Club, also in Detroit. Both places are still serving the drink. “It’s a very conflicted history of who actually came up with it,” Victor says. “But I’ve been making them for about 25 years now, and I think I’ve got them down to a science. The two guys that are co-credited with creating it unfortunately have passed, but I knew them both pretty well and both laid claim to it — and both also said that the other might have been one who created it.”
“Simplicity is what I really like about it,” adds says. It’s how to use those simple ingredients that make it something special, and any extra ingredients are what separate the two “original” versions. Ice is really the biggest debate. The Chop House version does not include ice, but Bayview Yacht Club’s version does.
“Absolutely, unequivocally — no ice,” Victor says. “Ice is like a cheat. If you ordered your favorite milkshake and got a bunch of ice chips in it, you’d be pissed.”
Even though the three-ingredient drink has been around for more than 50 years, it’s not exactly well known. Victor has a pretty good guess on why that is. “There’s no garnish,” he says. “It’s a tan-colored milkshake in a glass. It doesn’t have a whole lot of sex appeal.”
Another reason the cocktail hasn’t exactly spread far and wide is what’s in it and how it’s made. “The two drinks that a bartender is never thrilled to make are something that uses a blender and something that you have to light on fire,” Victor adds.
The Hummer isn’t ever on fire, but it does require a blender and ice cream. Those reasons keep it off the menu at one of Chicago’s best cocktail bars. “When we develop a recipe, or come across a great classic, the first question we always ask ourselves is: ‘How can we serve it during the busiest hour of our busiest day?’” Billy Helmkamp, founder and co-owner of The Whistler, says. “And ice cream cocktails are tough to do well and quickly.”
Helmkamp is far from alone in avoiding ice cream-based cocktails. Victor understands why most bars stay away. But he also understands why people who have them once want more. “It is simple, but it’s so good and you find yourself craving them again,” he says. “It’s a drink that people carry with them. It’s a nice treat.”
Regardless of who created the drink, it’s still lovingly served in a few places throughout Michigan and even one near The Whistler in Chicago. There’s the London Chop House and Bayview Yacht Club, obviously, but there’s also Buddy’s Pizza, the place that created Detroit-style pizza. And if you can’t make it to the mitten state, The Pink Squirrel in Logan Square has it on the menu.
Victor’s recipe is both simpler yet quite a bit more detailed than what you’ll find if you’re Googling “Hummer recipe,” so we included it below so you can try it at home this summer.
- 1.5 oz. Kahlua
- .5 oz. Castillo Silver Rum
- 3 scoops vanilla ice cream, preferably a brand like Blue Bunny
- Add the Kahlua, rum and ice cream to a blender. The ice cream, nothing too high fat or fancy — hence the Blue Bunny — should not be scooped but sheeted out. Victor uses an ice cream paddle when making the cocktail because “if you scoop a nice, tight scoop, the blender is going to work that much harder and break the drink down and give it a watery base.” He also advises not scooping extremely frozen ice cream.
- Blend on a low speed. You’re looking for low speed and high torque. The goal is to get “a nice, thick drink. The true test of a good Hummer is if the straw is standing up tall.”
That’s it. No garnish, no ice, no expensive rum. “It’d be a waste putting a good sipping rum in, and that rum would be more of the flavor than you want it to be,”Victor says. “Kahlua is definitely the dominant flavor.”