An Abridged History
Milkboy leans heavily into the positive associations most of us have with Swiss-made Swiss-style Milk Chocolate.
After all, milk chocolate was introduced in Switzerland in a collab between Henri Nestlé and Daniel Peter (two names well-known in chocolate circles to this day) in the mid-1870s.
Without knowing more specifically about the founding of the eponymous Milkboy dairy, it appears to have been roughly contemporaneous with the introduction of the first milk chocolate bars.
Launched in the United States less than a decade ago, the history of Milkboy dates back more than a century. Though the company is headquartered in Brooklyn (about 10 km as the crow flies from where I am seated as I write this, near the border of Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens), founder Emanuel Schmerling grew up in Switzerland in a family whose multi-generational business involved cheese and chocolate.
In about 2012, Schmerling purchased the historic Milkboy dairy, which had recently shuttered its barn doors. He used the brand, and its rich milk history, as the foundation for Milkboy Swiss Chocolates. Schmerling relocated with his family to Brooklyn back in 2014.
In the decade or so since, Milkboy has garnered attention and fans with its awards success, with five SOFIs (awarded by the Specialty Foods Association, the organizer of the Fancy Food Shows here in the US), and six from the Good Taste Awards in the UK.
Before I head into the review of the new Alpine Milk with refreshing Lemon and Ginger bar, I want to spend some time with the other bars.
“Finest” Alpine Milk
What makes Swiss Milk Chocolate? The milk, of course. All of the manufacturers are using roughly the same beans on roughly the same equipment. There are no special yeasts in the air (as in San Francisco sourdough) to make Switzerland special in that regard. What makes Swiss Milk Chocolate Special is Swiss milk. However, from the past-tense wording on the About page, it appears that the original Milkboy dairy herds are not the source of the milk being used in these bars. No worried, there’s lots. (I even spent a day directly experiencing this history back in 2008 when I was in Switzerland visiting Felchlin for their 100th anniversary.)
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of the use of hyperbolic language like “Finest.” No one ever markets they offer the world’s second-best anything or that they use day-old ingredients (only the freshest!).
All that out of the way ...
With 33% cocoa solids content (minimum) and 24% milk solids content (min) this bar represents everything there is to like about a classic Swiss milk chocolate. Creamy mouthfeel and melt, with the basic, solid, chocolate flavor typical for this style. overlaid with light caramel notes with all the varietal nuance and any other rough edge conched completely out and off. But varietal nuance is not something anyone is looking for when they seek out a classic Swiss milk chocolate bar like this one.
It’s easy to tell, and I can taste why, this bar has earned its awards.
Alpine Milk with Crunchy Caramel and Sea Salt
This bar uses the same base milk chocolate (33%/24%) as the “Finest” Alpine Milk bar.
Salted caramel is the world’s favorite chocolate flavor after plain. It’s always interesting (to me) when this type of inclusion – small crunchy bits – adds a rustic texture to a bar that is normally sought out for its creaminess and lack of other texture. After tasting the plain chocolate the texture and salt were a nice change, in part because it’s perceptibly less sweet than the plain Alpine Milk.
The balance of the caramel (not too sweet and not too dark) with the salt – there but not overpowering – make this a solid addition to Milkboy’s Alpine Milk lineup.
Alpine Milk with Roasted Almonds
This bar also uses the same base milk chocolate (33%/24%) as the “Finest” Alpine Milk bar.
The almonds are in the form of small pieces and so while they add a toothsome texture to the bar it is far less noticeable than the crunch of the salted caramel bar.
Who doesn’t like roasted almonds in milk chocolate? I am not among those. I am not the targeted consumer for this bar, and while I would not go out and buy it for myself (I prefer darker milks and would prefer pecans over almonds), I would not turn it down when offered and will definitely keep it in mind when gifting to someone I know who likes this type of bar.
White Chocolate with Bourbon Vanilla
This bar is comprised of 26% cocoa butter (min) and 27% milk solids (min). The milk component is a mix of whole and skimmed milk. The vanilla in this bar is ground, lending a pleasing visual texture to the bar.
Vanilla is the first thing that hits your nose and it carries through as the dominant flavor all the way through to the end. This, in combination with the milks being used, results in a bar with a lot more character than many white chocolate bars in broad distribution.
Compared with mass-market white chocolates from Nestlé and Cadbury? Well there is no comparison. This is a far tastier selection.
Alpine Milk with refreshing Lemon and Ginger
This bar uses the same base milk chocolate (33%/24%) as the “Finest” Alpine Milk bar. The ginger is candied and in small pieces (an inclusion like in the salted caramel bar) and the lemon is from essential oil.
The texture of this bar is somewhere between the crispy crunch of the caramel and the much softer bite/chew of the almonds. The aroma and the taste are dominated by the ginger with the lemon playing a supporting role that contributes to the light, bright, aromatic character that is high in the nose on the finish and in the back of the throat on the long finish if you’re paying close attention. The lemon is there in the sense it would be missed if it weren’t there, but it’s not calling attention to itself. For me, it would be more accurate to call this a Ginger and Lemon bar. But having said that I wonder if the order was chosen to be more appealing to American palates.
If what you’re in the mood for are interpretations of classic Swiss-style milk chocolates made in Switzerland, Milkboy represents a choc-solid alternative to the bigboypants brands. From what I can tell, the price ($4.99 for 100gr/3.5ozs) is roughly equivalent to what I see Lindt, Ghirardelli, Nestlé and other brands selling for in some retail locations in my NYC neighborhood.
The lemon and ginger combination is definitely different from the other four bars. This makes the bar stand out, and in a good way, in the Milkboy lineup. After tasting a few squares of each of the other bars, the Lemon/Ginger bar is everything any fan of classic Swiss milk chocolate bars could want – and is a refreshing change from conventional flavor combinations.
All Milkboy bars are gluten free, non-GMO, soy free, and certified Kosher. The company relies on Rainforest Alliance certification to support its claims of using sustainably sourced cocoa.
I am not suggesting that Lindt is manufacturing Milkboy; I don’t have enough information to reach that conclusion. However, Milkboy may have decided to offer up their own interpretations of those very popular bars for very good reason.
Leave them in the comments.