Chefs and Bartenders Rediscover a Childhood Treat: Cereal Milk


D Sharon Pruitt/flickr

Often the most innovative culinary techniques or ingredients appear to be inspired new thoughts but are really just the old clothes of the past. Take, for instance, the emblem of molecular gastronomy: the foam. Using foam was once the height of "it" food and drinks. Yet using foam in drinks is (and was) certainly nothing new. Some of the earliest fermented beverages from our continent include chocolate-wine poured at a far enough distance from the cup to create an ethereal foam, which was then inhaled by the drinker.

Now, the more forward-thinking of the culinary world are discussing cereal milk. Yes, we're talking about the milk left over after you've eaten cereal. What, as a child, you would gleefully lift to lip and drain—red, green, or multicolored milk—sugary, thick, and sweet, unless you were denied that dulcet pleasure by health-abiding parents.

Working for the New York-based Momofuku empire, pastry chef Christina Tosi reintroduced the culinary world to this childish delight at Milk Bar. Martha Stewart then published Tosi's recipe, and it quickly made the rounds. Bartender Gina Chersevani of Washington, D.C.'s PS7's added her own variation—using Cap'n Crunch Crunch Berries—to her Sav U'R Cereal cocktail, which also incorporates bourbon and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram.

Recommended Reading

While I certainly respect the progenitors of this trend, and am a lifelong fan of cereal milk, the classicist in me balked. Then again, maybe I'm being just a touch insincere. If they'd used cereal milk in classic cocktails, I'd be more willing to come to cereal milk's defense.

Wouldn't you know it, they did.

One of my bartenders at the Columbia Room, J.P. Fetherston, introduced me to a recipe that is purported to have originated in the 15th century—the Atholl Brose—which is the drinking version of a Scottish breakfast, cranachan. Brose is essentially a cereal water, made by soaking oats in water. To that you add honey, Scotch, and sometimes cream. The result is rich, sweet, and grainy, more suitable for dinner but certainly reminiscent of the most important meal of the day.

So rather than being ahead of the curve these culinary innovators are actually very far behind, in a good way. Just think of it as vintage chic.