Today I will highlight a few different trends in dairy from around the world and here at home in the states.
First, in March in Central New York, you may find a seasonal treat on store shelves that at first glance, may be cause for alarm but fear not, the milk has not gone off. It’s mint milk, colored green and flavored with mint to celebrate the Saint Patrick’s Day holiday.
Byrne Dairy which is based in Syracuse, has been producing the milk since 1976. They stock their own line of convenience stores and a few independent stores with the minty milk starting in late February and ending after the March 17 holiday.
Local folk look forward to enjoying the green, minty milk, and it’s now part of their tradition. It’s a beverage that — unlike other green beverages enjoyed on St Patties Day — can be loved by all ages.
Now we move on to Barcelona, Spain and those who frequent the bars there, where the popular drink is Panther Milk or leche de pantera. This dangerous cocktail was created in the ’20s by the Spanish Foreign Legion and featured condensed milk, gin, and water or ice. Rumor has it that General Jose’ Millan-Asray asked a famous local bartender to create a cheap, simple cocktail that could be made and served by his soldiers anywhere they might be stationed, but others say it started with injured soldiers who were confined to infirmaries (with medical-grade alcohol) as a painkiller and then upgraded once they returned to their unit with whatever alcohol they had on hand.
Decades passed and panther milk largely disappeared only to e resurrected in the ’70’s by college kids. In the mid-seventies, a former Spanish Legionarre opened a bar and called it La Barretina where he mixed up vats of the old favorite and students flocked to the not-so-new cocktail which was cheap and came premade.
Later, a bar across the street called Tasca El Corral, jumped on the bandwagon and developed a less potent, more palatable pink version. And although that particular bar has since closed, the spot remains popular decades later. Nowadays, the drink may be made up of gin, brandy, fresh milk, and condensed milk, the top dusted with cinnamon. It might be pink or white, but rest assured, if you order the pink version, don’t expect to learn the secret behind it.
Finally, we must discuss the much loved by those in New Orleans and elsewhere: The Grasshopper.
Originally, the recipe was a trio of ingredients — Creme de menthe, creme de cacao, and heavy cream, shaken and strained, and it came out around the same time as other favorites, The Hurricane, and Sazerac during the 20th century.
Some bars added ice cream to the mix to take it from cocktail to dessert. After the Prohibition period, the drink gained popularity all across the south and by the 1950’s it even inspired a namesake pie made from minty, fluffy chiffon in a cocoa cookie crust.
Upscale bars in America offered new versions of the popular drink updating it with brandy, bitters, absinthe, and Fernet-Branca.
Historians can’t well document the early recipes because of the alcohol ban in the ’20’s, but suspect that it was still served in speakeasies through that period, and that waiters in the French Quarter slipped the spirits into The Grasshoppers from their aprons.
Today, the ingredients may differ, depending on what bar you get it in, but if its minty, creamy, and green, people will still know it as a Grasshopper.