Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Do buffalos really produce milk?
In the immortal words of The Four Preps (1957), “26 miles across the sea Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me”. Technically speaking, Avalon sits 22 miles off the coast as the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island and has the distinction of being the southernmost city in Los Angeles County. While recently enjoying an island escape to this lovely destination for which we have William K. Wrigley to thank, various thoughts surfaced: wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on the beach? Why is Big Olaf’s gone? Where did the Buffalo Milk come from? Do Buffalo’s really produce milk? And where can one find the best Buffalo Milk on the island?
The tasty frozen delight was originally concocted over 40 years ago by a creative and experimental bartender working at the Harbor Reef in Two Harbors (12 miles up the coast from Avalon) and remains a popular favorite of residents and tourists alike. You will find this unexpectedly boozy treat on almost every cocktail list on Catalina but not likely ever on the mainland. For those of you adventurous enough to try it at home, the general ingredients are: vodka, crème de cacao, crème de banana, coffee liqueur, milk/ice milk/ice cream, topped with whipped cream and nutmeg.
For those that will be venturing across the sea any time soon, we made a fun family review in the quest for “The Best” and hope this may help guide the way.
Antonio’s Pizzeria & Cabaret: banana forward, creamy, good presentation with a weighty schooner glass, no chocolate. Very tasty but does not beat out other contenders.
Avalon Grille: best elevated presentation with dried banana chips topping a whip cream, nutmeg sprinkled swirl in a large collins glass, tasty well-married flavors, more creamy than icy, chocolate forward.
Blue Water Avalon: our favorite for a mid-afternoon treat, beachy and refreshing presentation in a medium-sized mason jar, pleasantly icy, well-balanced flavors, subtle banana, light nutmeg, no chocolate, award for booziest Buffalo Milk!
Buffalo Nickel: best hospitality at this family-owned restaurant and one of the fan favorites with an impressive thickness, well-blended mix of all flavors including strong chocolate, nutmeg, whip cream and banana. A true must for every island visitor.
Descanso Beach Club: best views and tropical ambiance accompany one of the absolute knockouts with overall taste and flavor. Ours were clearly made with love by Jose O. and topped the charts with a cool, creamy, perfectly balanced blend of all anticipated flavors including a boozy bottom layer of coffee liqueur and topped with dried banana chips. This beverage is so good you will forgive the unfortunate plastic cup.
Harbor Sands at Two Harbors (home of The Original Buffalo Milk): a competing favorite of the group, very creamy, milkshake-style, high nutmeg content but consistent and pleasant throughout, subtle banana, heavy chocolate flavor, base layer of coffee liqueur to round everything out with a boozy kick.
Maggie’s Blue Rose: heard from beachgoers that this was their favorite, we have no complaints but rank others in this list higher on the flavor spectrum. Unique presentation though with the cobalt blue on the glass.
Luau Larry’s: best price and bonus points for offering the latest night option for a Buffalo Milk nightcap but does not outrank other locations in overall flavor and blending quality. When at Luau Larry’s best to go with the tride and true Wicki Wacker!
As for the family etiquette debate on whether it is better to stir in the whip cream or leave it sitting on top, we leave it to any inspired readers to report back with field research results. Cheers!