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Caribou - the Beverage

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Caribou is a traditional Quebecois beverage which has become an integral part of Quebec City's annual Carnaval. While it is available in a commercial form from La Maison des Futailles, there are a great many variations mixed and available in Quebec.

According to The Great Terminology Dictionary of the Office quebecois de la langue fran├žaise, Caribou is a mix of red Port and alcohol which is enjoyed at various winter festivals such as Carnaval, dinners or sugaring-offs1. The name is of Algonquin origin2.

The Office quebecois de la langue fran├žaise is, however, a quite stuffy outfit. Caribou is more than just souped-up Port, although Port and brandy are always at its heart. Sugar, honey, maple syrup and mineral water (regular or bubbly) go into the mix, which is then poured into hollow walking sticks at the Carnaval and, when the sticks are emptied, everyone is a Bonhomme.

Caribou's blend of ingredients is a reflection of Canada's history. Port, the 'Englishman's wine' since the time of William III, and brandy, preferably Cognac, represent Britain and France, Canada's two founding European nations (also known as the Two Solitudes). These feuding national flavours are softened, sweetened and united by a dollop of maple syrup, the contribution of Canada's First Nations, without whom the British and French would never have penetrated past the banks of the St Lawrence. Other ingredients may be added according to taste and ethnic background.


Recipe? Who needs a recipe? Port, brandy and maple syrup (or some sort of sugar). Isn't that enough? The coureurs de bois didn't have a recipe. They had imagination. Look in the cabinet; see what you've got. Make your own Caribou and impress your friends. Or visit Quebec City during Carnaval and enjoy Caribou like the Quebecois enjoy it.

Okay, if you really need a recipe

The following is a recipe that has been developed and refined over a considerable number of weeks by an experienced panel of one.

  1. Stir gently together in some sort of drinking vessel:

    • 16 drams Port (Ruby or Tawny, depending on the depths of one's taste and pocket book)

    • 12 drams Brandy (French or Greek, depending on the depths of one's taste, pocket book and national affiliation)

    • Six drams Canada No. 1 Maple Syrup3 (no substitutions please.)

  2. Consume.

  3. Go dance with whatever in your vicinity most resembles the Michelin Man.

1The big party which usually accompanies the manufacture of maple syrup and maple sugar.2Caribou is also used to describe a rather large beast of the deer family. A picture of the beast is available here.3'The Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors the safety and quality of maple syrup and ensures producers meet federal standards. These standards include three grades of maple syrup with 5 different classes of colour: Canada No. 1 (extra light, light, medium), Canada No. 2 (amber) and Canada No. 3 (dark).' - Quote from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website

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