Bristol Milk - Gastro Obscura
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Bristol Milk

Teething babies and royalty were fans of this British city's signature sherry.

The Prince of Wales, who would later rule England from 1901 until 1910 as Edward VII, is said to have once remarked that Bristol “must have some damn fine cows.” His praise referred not to the city’s dairy products, but to its sherry, known as “milk sherry” or “Bristol milk.”

Sherry, however, is not British. Winemakers around Jerez de la Frontera, in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, are the exclusive producers of the style. In the 16th century, much of the United Kingdom’s imported sherry passed through Bristol, where it was often mixed into sweet, smooth blends. In The History of the Worthies of England, Thomas Fuller states that “such wine is the first moisture given infants in this city.” Thus, the name may be a result of mothers sharing sherry with their teething babies.

“Bristol milk” is a generic term. But the sherry known as “Bristol Cream” is a distinct creation from Harvey’s. The company, started by John Harvey in 1796, explains the name as such: After sampling their standard varieties of Bristol milk, an aristocratic woman tasted a rarer, darker, richer blend. Her review? “If that is the milk, then this must be the cream.” They named the product “Bristol Cream.” Sold since 1882, it is the most popular form of Bristol milk. Tasters describe the sherry as sweet and fruity, with a bit of hazelnut. It offers notes of caramel, prunes, toffee, and spicy oak.

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