This is an old recipe that I learned from my grandparents, which they learned from an owner of an Inn in Krkonoše mountains in Czech during their skiing holidays. During the winter, most of his guests have been up since the early morning skiing in temperatures way below zero. Those who have been enjoying the winter activities often stopped by his inn for some refreshments by the fireside, before they headed back to their accommodation.
The owner of the inn, therefore, offered them his special drink called Bear's milk to not just warm them up but gather some strength so they could get back home safely. Bear’s milk was a family recipe, which was passed on generations but its ingredients were no secret, so the owner would gladly share the recipe with his guests as he knew they would always come back.
Bear's milk consists of three simple ingredients: milk, honey, and rum. As a child, I learned this simple drink on skiing holidays with my grandparents, of course, I was only allowed the non-alcoholic version, but started coming back to the original during cold, frosty evenings when I got older.
The ratios are optionable so you can adjust the drink to your preferences, but my favourite version of the recipe is this:
250ml of whole milk 3 tbsp of dark rum 1 tsp of honey Cinnamon stick (optional)
Warm up the milk until your favourite hot drinking temperature. Dissolve a spoonful of honey in it by stirring and add the rum as the last ingredient. Stir and taste so you can decide if your milk needs a bit more rum upgrade.
About the ingredients
Whole milk – This is the whole essence of the recipe. Whole milk naturally contains more fat, which will give you more energy but also will make the drink richer. Using milk with lowered fat content will make this drink a bit more watery, which is not ideal.
Moreover, drinking whole milk and consuming whole dairy products (=meaning not skimmed or low fat) as a part of a healthy diet in healthy people has been proven to be rather beneficial due to the amounts of vitamins and minerals which are more present in the whole dairy options (Soltani and Vafa, 2017).
The trend of lower-fat dairy products started growing in the '60s (Willett, 2011) as a part of dieting trends as the lower fat results in lower calorific content. However, recent science shows that consuming whole milk products contributes to the prevention of various diseases including obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and metabolic syndrome (Soltani and Vafa, 2017).
Honey – Well known self-preserving goodness, which is mainly used as a sweetener but brings so many other benefits. In connection with this beverage, I would like to mention its anti-inflammatory properties (Farkhodned et al., 2017), which help your immune system to protect you.
I would recommend using honey from your local beekeeper as some honey on the supermarket shelves tends to be rather a mixture of honey from different locations or a mixture of syrup and honey, which may not bring you all the benefits.
Rum – Believe it or not, moderate consumption of alcohol can also be a part of a healthy diet. Many cultures mention in their folklore that alcohol can boost your health, but at the presumption that it is a part of a balanced diet. There is also some evidence that hot rum-based drinks can help you prevent common cold (Barrett, 2018).
Cinnamon – This is an optional ingredient, as I like when the milk gets mildly infused by the cinnamon stick. Cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar which means that it will aid your energy level to be more sufficient and act as a prevention of blood sugar-related diseases in the long-term (Ariga et al., 2012)
Alternatives – If you fancy making this lactose free or even vegan option (no honey), you can knock up a version of Bear’s milk using non-dairy milk, just make sure you are choosing one of the thicker creamier options. When it comes to honey, you can substitute with a syrup. To preserve the spirit of this drink giving you energy, I would recommend choosing syrup which is higher in glucose rather than fructose which is easier for your body to be used as an energy source (Luo et al., 2015).
Ariga, T., Honma, N., Hosono, T., Jia, L., Seki, T. and Shen, Y. (2012). Beneficial Effects of Cinnamon on the Metabolic Syndrome, Inflammation, and Pain, and Mechanisms Underlying These Effects – A Review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 2(1), pp.27-32.
Barrett, B. (2018). Chapter 18-Viral Upper Respiratory Infection. In: D. Rakel., Integrative Medicine, 4th ed. Elsevier.
Farkhondeh, T., Samarghandian, S. and Samini, S. (2017). Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy Research, 9(2), pp.121-127.
Luo, S., Monterosso, J., Page, K. and Sarpelleh, K. (2015). Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(20), pp.6509-6514.
Soltani, S. and Vafa, M. (2017). The dairy fat paradox: Whole dairy products may be healthier than we thought. Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 31(1), pp.740-742.
Willett, W. (2011). Eat, drink, and be healthy:The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. Simon & Schuster.