As Notable peruses the patios and cocktail lists of Calgary this summer, it only made sense to stop in at Milk Tiger. This establishment has been pouring tried and true classics like the Manhattan and the Tom Collins long before the cocktail craze ever caught on here in town. Since the beginning of Milk Tiger, some five years ago, the bar has been quietly working with a handful of others to create a sense of community and to start a dialogue about what goes into making great cocktails.
Milk Tiger is an unassuming watering hole located just a few blocks from all the hustle and bustle of 17th and you could easily miss it if it weren’t for the small white tiger perched above the doorway. When you walk into the bar, a long corridor that is sparsely decorated greets you; the drinks here are stiff and the staff is exceptional.
Perhaps a little like the bar itself, Nathan Head, one of Milk Tiger’s co-owners, is a humble and straightforward guy who takes a very simple stance on his bar’s role in Calgary. To Nathan, the bar ethos is as follows: Play dirty rock n ‘roll and serve good cocktails. Milk Tiger is the antithesis of the beer halls that are currently dominating the bar scene in town and offers a completely different experience. There is a real humanity to this place that seeks to serve all walks of life in the neighbourhood. You never know who you might sit next to when you pull up a bar stool here.
When the bar first opened, the inspiration for making cocktails wasn’t about re-inventing the wheel. Instead, it was about paying tribute to the classics, being historically accurate and putting a signature on those drinks. From there, everything just evolved as it became apparent that people had a genuine interest in good cocktails and the following grew. Nathan recently described the local cocktail scene as the ‘Wild West’. Alberta not only has access to a bottomless variety of booze out on the market, you also see some of the more obscure and unusual spirits come into the province that you just wouldn’t be able to acquire in other provinces. You combine that accessibility with clientele who are willing to pay $18 dollars for a cocktail and from there you will just see the cocktail scene continue to grow. As Nathan mentioned, there are a lot of restaurant and bar staff coming in from other cities and they are just amazed by what they see being poured at the bar tops of Calgary right now.
With the growing popularity of cocktails, there is also a desire to make the whole process of pouring cocktails more artisanal. These days, there is more care and consideration for the products going into each drink, along with an appreciation for each ingredient and the story behind that particular gin or bottle of bitters.
While all the cocktails on Milk Tiger’s menu are worthy of sipping, the Moscow Mule is always a safe choice for first comers and certainly a perfect choice for the summer months. We asked Nathan for his recommendation, but he was unable to pick just one. As he put it, “All the cocktails on the menu are like my children, which I all love equally.”
The patio at Milk Tiger may be small, but it’s still a great place to people watch or lure in friends passing by. The pairing for these cocktails? Good conversation with friends, unwinding from a busy day at work and appreciating some good music. Make sure you stop in at Milk Tiger at least once this summer.
1410 4 St SW, Calgary, Alberta