Drinking Buffalo Milk on Catalina Island

Two Harbors, Catalina IslandOn the mainland, you may never encounter it, but if you head to any bar on Catalina Island, you're likely to see Buffalo Milk featured on the menu. No, it's not what you're thinking. Businesses are not serving up milk from the island's population of roaming buffalo. Rather, it's a tongue-and-cheek-named drink that has been celebrated on the island for decades.

Buffalo Milk's origins trace back to the mid-seventies to Two Harbors, the island's small town on the western end. During winters, tourism was down, so bartender Michael Hoffler would experiment with new drink creations for servers at the Harbor Reef Restaurant. Then one day, he found the one that stuck. "It was quite a hit from day one," explained Ann Luchau, who was a server at the restaurant where it is still a menu item today.

Since then, the drink has traveled across the island and become a tourist favorite. As former local bartender, and now Avalon's visitor center manager, Samantha Prince describes it, it's like "a white russian gone island crazy." Variations may be found bar to bar, here's how Prince learned it:


In a hurricane glass...

half shot of creme de cocoa (dark or light)
half shot of kalua
half shot creme de banana
one shot of vodka

Fill rest with half and half, ice and blend. Top with whip cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. To make it a "buffalo bowl," add a floater (about a half shot) of patron cafe.

Photo by Flickr user MarkelConnors. It is used under a Creative Commons License.

About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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This is just another reason for me to get to Catalina for my first visit!