The New Year is a time for celebratory imbibing, and we certainly don't want to miss out on an opportunity to enjoy a Wee Dram. Or two! You're right, of course, the blog missed the New Year by a few weeks. However, we are nothing if not ingenious, and if we can squeeze cows into virtually any topic then I'm sure we can find an appropriate New Year still waiting to be celebrated. Hence the yellow cow. Yellow cow? This is not photo-shopped! The cow is covered in turmeric, in celebration of Rongali bihu, also known as cow bihu, one of many New Year's days in the different Indian calendars. Most, including cow bihu, occur in March or April, so we have time to prepare. Choose your celebration with care though; Gudhi padwa celebrates the beginning of creation by Lord Brahma as well as the start of the new year, and requires that houses be thoroughly cleaned and then covered in cow dung. Yes, you read that correctly. On the subject of Brahma and creation, did you know that Brahman cattle were actually an American creation, crossbred from four Indian breeds. They derived their name from their ability to see you, whichever corner of the field you approach from. No, I made that up, although Brahma does have four faces and looks in four directions. As usual, we are drifting from the theme, and what is more, we have a problem. For a country with so many New Years to celebrate, India's often teetotal approach challenges the association with alcoholic reveling. So let us move to France, home of my favourite liquer, Cointreau. Muddle 1 part melted chocolate, 3 parts Cointreau, 1 part cream and a few sprigs of mint with crushed ice and what have you got? Of course, a "Boozy Moo", ideal for wishing everyone Bonne Année! Curiously, French New Year 2015 was also celebrated in very bovine style on the other side of the world, Melbourne to be precise, at Milk the Cow Fromagerie. Guests were encouraged to partake of "cheese grazing"! A quick plug. If you are ever in Østerbro, our own little corner of Copenhagen, visit La Fromagerie, where the cheese is superb and mention of my name might just get you a small discount from Christophe, cheese expert extraordinaire. Links between cows and alcohol extend beyond the New Year, I'm glad to say. Staying with a French theme, one really has to admire Alan Hayball, "square cow" artist for his Moolin Rouge, not to mention Cowbernet, and the very sparkling Mooet. If you're into stronger liquor, forget red cows. The UK, which has never totally accepted the Holstein dominance, still refers euphemistically to "black and whites", and so of course Black and White whisky comes to mind. Unfortunately the name refers to dogs, a Scots terrier (black) and a West Highland terrier (white). Not to worry, if we can't have whisky, vodka will have to do. Jason Barber, a Dorset dairy farmer and cheese maker, came up with the idea of using his waste whey as a base for fermentation and distillation, and very successful his Black Cow vodka has proved to be. To find the second half of the monochromatic partnership we simply need to cross the Atlantic, where Vermont White is another whey-based vodka with a cow theme. My favourite tipple is gin, so with apologies for rushing you about, it's back across the pond to Ballyvolane House in Co. Cork, Ireland, and Bertha. Bertha was a local White-Backed Droimeann cow who, when she died in 1993 was the world's oldest cow at 48. Her payback for producing 39 calves has now materialised, in the form of Ballyvolane's "Bertha's Revenge Gin", whey-based again. This sudden cult for fashioning alcohol from milk is actually less new than might appear, although in earlier times it was beer rather than hard liqour, and lactose was added to provide sweetness rather than "bang", since it was not fermented. I am talking about milk stouts, the best known of which was (and still is) Mackeson's. The term had a double meaning; milk stouts were promoted as nutritious products for breastfeeding mothers where "each pint contains the energising carbohydrates of 10 ounces of pure dairy milk". Perhaps wily mum believed that a few glasses not only energised her, but also had a calming effect on baby! If so, a recent Danish review* indicates she was probably going to be disappointed; alcohol consumption would need to be excessively high before the baby would receive a biologically-active tipple. Not to be outdone, the Japanese have recently re-invented milk beer. Sadly, they have resorted to the name Bilk, presumably unaware that the word means to cheat, trick or defraud. I hope you do not feel cheated, but have enjoyed our perambulation through bovine beverages hic! Where better to end than in one's local, which, if you live in Edinburgh, could perhaps be none other than the Boozy Cow. I'll drink to that!
*Haastrup MB, Pottegård A & Damkier P (2014) Alcohol and breastfeeding. Basic Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology 114:168-73