Ever heard of “Panther Milk”? What about “Pink Panther Milk”? Maybe not… well you’re missing out on a classic spanish tavern drink with loads of history. “Leche de Pantera” (Panther Milk) is a well-known drink all throughout Spain. In Barcelona we find this common tradition in the bars of Carrer de la Mercè.
Let’s go back nearly one hundred years to the 1920s and you’ll find that the Spanish Foreign Legion is responsible for this notable leche de pantera. Legion Founder General José Millán-Astray wanted a drink that was easy to produce and could be served in ‘any situation’. With time spent in some of the harshest environments, the drink needed to have a good shelf life and be easy to reproduce. The tale goes that the general approached legendary barman Perico Chicote at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid, to forge such a beverage. While the idea of Chicote solely aiding in Panthers Milk’s creation makes a great story, skeptics discount the Perico Chicote story and claim that Panther Milk evolved from within the Spanish Foreign Legion itself, when soldiers confined to infirmary beds would discretely mix medical-grade alcohol with condensed milk to ease their way towards recovery.
Apparently, Panther Milk fell into obscurity for decades until college kids started drinking it again around 1975, when the bar La Barretina (then a hot spot, now long gone) began serving leche de pantera. But his leche de pantera was too strong. La Barretina was right across the street from la Tasca El Corral. Cayetano Casco, owner of Tasca El Corral, didn’t like the method of La Barretina.
So he decided to make his own. He didn’t want to compete with his friend, so he made his pink! And there you have it… the famous “Pink Panther Milk” of Carrer de la Mercè was born. Far less powerful and much more pleasant.
The recipe is a closely guarded secret…but we can say that it is a gin and milk based beverage. Modern Leche de Pantera is often served in a small glass, ice cold and for true authenticity in presentation, with the top of each glass dusted in powdered cinnamon. You can also order by the bottle and share, a great way to line the stomach before hitting the town! It is well worth a visit to the wonderful Carrer de la Mercè, the old bodegas which line the street have hardly changed over time.
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