Caribou: The unofficial drink of Winnipeg's Festival du Voyageur

It's never too cold for this drink

Festival du Voyageur
Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg. photo courtesy of Tourism Winnipeg

Cold weather can be shitty, like, really shitty, especially when that temperature dips below -20C. If there is one thing Winnipeggers are good at, though, it's making a cold winter hella fun. The now famous frozen river pop-up restaurant, RAW: Almond is a great culinary example, but they just wrapped up their seasonal service, so what's a guy to do now that it's still mid-winter in the heart of Canada? Here's one solution.

The Festival du Voyageur that's taking place Februrary 13-22 sees the Voyageur Park on the French side of Winnipeg, Saint-Boniface, turned into a winter wonderland that's thankfully sans-reindeer and Christmas tunes. Think of it more as a place where the Frozen characters could really get their eat, drink and party on, with larger-than-life ice sculptures, stages set for live music from a long lineup of Canadian musicians (including Elliott Brood and Buck 65), great French-Canadian food like tourtieres or pea soup, bannock, battered and sugared no-good-for-you BeaverTails and a lot more. It's one of the largest winter festivals in North America and the second largest in our country.

But, what's a great Canadian festival without a signature drink? A chilly, but fun outdoor event, calls for a quality, boozed-up beverage to keep everyone in a good mood. Thus, enter the Caribou.

Caribou (the drink)

Back in the day, this drink was pretty primal. It was comprised of the namesake animal's blood and whisky, and consumed to keep those Canadian hunters, gathereres or trappers out there in the middle of nowhere warm while they got their jobs done.

Today, Caribou is a lot closer to mulled wine (phew!) than it is to animal blood. The recipes vary, but it's basically a combination of three-quarter wine or port, along with a quarter brandy or whisky in a pot, heated and then sweetened up with some maple syrup. Other variations include different aromatics, like citrus peel, cloves or cinnamon, added during the heating process to infuse. (If you're not comfortable ad-libbing, check out the ridiculously straightforward recipe.)

Although it's served warm most of the time, at Voyageur, you can get this drink served to you in an ice cup. Pretty cool, right? No pun intended.

Minus one million, what? You won't care how cold it is after sipping on one of these.