Watch our Education Coordinator attempt to make this Canadian Cocktail:
If you were to ask me a few weeks ago if I’d ever had moose milk, I would have rolled my eyes and assumed you were trying to crack a joke about Canadian stereotypes. Of course, we don’t milk moose. We don’t ride them either. Both sound like good ways to get into a fight I will definitely lose. However, I have since learned that while the milk of a moose is not a common trade good in Canada, “Moose Milk” is a part of Canadian culture.
I also learned that milking a moose is actually possible. Apparently, moose cheese made in Sweden can sell for about $1,000 US a kilogram. I’m still not trying it.
Canadian Moose Milk isn’t the kind you use to make cheese. It’s a cocktail, associated with the Canadian military, that is also referred to as “high-propulsion eggnog.” The basic recipe involves mixing together a massive amount of liquor, cream, sugar, egg yolks and often some kind of coffee product – making enough to serve a whole soldier’s mess.
Today, Moose Milk is most often served at New Year’s levées, events on New Year’s Day across the country, usually held by the Governor-General, a lieutenant governor, or a military establishment, but communities and other institutions have them as well. Community and Municipal levées are receptions where the public can celebrate the new year and pay respects. They are usually subdued events with refreshments and the sharing of best wishes. Though it is my understanding that when Moose Milk is served at military festivities it can get a bit more raucous.
My favourite fact about this drink might just be that when it’s served, people say that “the moose is loose,” as in “the moose is loose in the cafeteria, go grab some.” It paints quite the mental picture.
The exact origins of this cocktail are a little hazy – perhaps the result of too much Moose Milk. It was definitely a popular drink among Canadian soldiers during World War II and gained quite a reputation among Canada’s allies as well. It may very well have originated in the 1940s, but it may have a much older history. One thing we know for sure, it is definitely Canadian.
One possible history for Moose Milk is connected with the history of the New Year’s levée. The term “levée” actually comes from a practice conducted by French monarchs as early as the 16th century, when they would permit courtiers to attend them as they dressed. Over time “levée” became a term used in France and England for a reception held by the Monarch. In New France, governors would host levées on behalf of the King or Queen, which were often held on New Years Day, leading to the Canadian connection between the New Year and the levée.
At these receptions, wine, cheese and other refreshments from France were provided for the guests. However, the wine did not often taste that good after months at sea. Maybe it didn’t travel well, or maybe they just shipped over the cheap stuff. Regardless, by the time it was served it was often cloudy and sour. So to make it taste better, other ingredients were added, like alcohol and spices. This concoction was called Le Sang du Caribou, or Caribou/Moose Blood.
When Canada was under British rule the British officials continued many French Canadian practices including the levées but they changed up the recipe for this drink. They used whisky instead of wine and mixed it with goat’s milk, nutmeg and cinnamon, creating an anglicized version of the beverage, now known as “Moose Milk.”
Of course, there are other possible origins as well. One story claims that during World War II a Flight Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force made it up as a beverage to serve to female guests that didn’t like beer or whiskey. Or it was just a way to use a military mess’s leftover alcohol.
While the cocktail doesn’t appear to be too well known to Canadian civilians on the west coast, the Canadian Military is still known for its Moose Milk, and after tasting it I can see why. I don’t imagine it lasts too long at a party.
But don’t take my word for it – have a go making this yourself!
The idea is to use up whatever liquor you have left, so creativity is key! The version we’re sharing is very scaled-down and doesn’t include eggs, but if you want to have a go at one that does, you are just a quick internet search away. There are about as many recipes for Moose Milk as there are moose in Canada, so you won’t have to look long to find one you like. Just remember to drink responsibly.
Be sure to share on social media whatever you create and tag the Sidney Museum.
Adapted from Atlas Obscura’s Recipe
Serves 2 generously
- 1 cup cold coffee
- 1 cup cream
- 1.5 cups vanilla ice cream
- 2 oz liquor (we recommend rum and/or whiskey, but feel free to get creative)
- 1 oz coffee liqueur
- Nutmeg and/or dark chocolate shavings for garnish
- Pour all the ingredients except the garnish into a large bowl and whisk until completely blended and a froth has formed on the top.
- Add a bit more alcohol, if it feels right.
- Pour into a glass and garnish with the nutmeg and/or dark chocolate shavings.
- Serve immediately.