Milk, it does a body good. But it's also got a bit of a reputation as a drink for children. Certainly, it's not the sort of thing you'd expect one to order at a bar. Not if you want to be considered macho, tough, or someone to be feared or respected.
As to why bars might actually have milk available, some cocktails, such as White Russians, use it.
But some characters will do just that. They could simply be The Teetotaler, too young to imbibe alcohol, not in the mood for a stiff drink, or suffering health maladies that would make alcohol a problem for them. Or maybe they're ordering it for the youngest person on their team, to make a joke about their junior status. Whatever the case, they have ordered milk at an establishment better known for flammable Gargle Blasters.
- Black Lagoon:
- When she first appears in town, Roberta orders milk at the Yellow Flag, presumably having given up alcohol after becoming a maid for the Lovelace family. The next time she shows up, she demands a bottle of tequila.
- At the start of the Jane Greenback arc, when the Carnival of Killers is being assembled in the local tavern, everyone notices two of them (Lotton The Wizard and Claude "Torch" Weaver) have glasses of milk instead of beer like everyone else does. Lotton states he doesn't like the smell of beer, and Claude says drinking alcohol is against his religion.
- Galaxy Express 999: Tetsuro, looking for information about Count Mecha, orders milk at the bar on Heavy Melder. Though laughed at by the other patrons, the bartender tells Tetsuro he'll drink with him. Later, when Tetsuro is trying to retrieve his Cosmo Dragoon from some rough customers at the bar, Captain Harlock shows up. He, too, orders milk, but this time, no-one is laughing, and he forces it down the offending android's throat.
- Badass giant robot pilot Van of GUN×SWORD has as his drink of choice... milk. He does have an excuse, however — he Can't Hold His Liquor worth a damn.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo, when Passione's Squadra di Esecuzioni goes to a restaurant, Pesci orders milk instead of alcohol or espresso. He is the most inexperienced member of the team and displays a hesitant, meek, and cowardly personality.
- Parodied in Trigun when Meryl orders a banana sundae and Millie orders a fancy pastry with tea, causing the bartender to complain about them doing the gag wrong.
- In one episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Yusei, the protagonist, goes into a seedy bar somewhere in Neo-Domino City and orders a glass of milk so he can show the bartender a card he has gotten from another character as a message.
- In Asterix, Obelix drinks goat's milk when he's Drowning His Sorrows. He has beer at other times, but since he Does Not Know His Own Strength, he doesn't want to be upset and drunk.
- Lucky Luke:
- In "The Pony Express", the new recruits for the Pony Express are forced to drink milk in the saloon since their contract forbids them from drinking alcohol. This gets them mocked by the members of the Pacific Railway (the Pony Express' main competitor). Their leader, the station master, even forces William Russell, head of the Pony Express, at gunpoint to drink a bottle of whiskey. In the comic, he actually drinks it, while in the animated adaptation Luke shoots the bottle. In both versions, Luke then gets back at the station master by forcing him at gunpoint to drink a bottle of milk.
- In "The Tenderfoot", Luke deduces a bartender is teetotal by the fact he has a glass of milk and therefore that he hasn't, as he claimed, been drinking from the bottle of scotch behind the bar, and the one man who does drink it isn't really dead.
- A comic of The Simpsons focusing on Moe's tavern starts with Chief Wiggum ordering a glass of milk. It's then subverted when Wiggum reminded Moe what he actually meant, as "milk" was part of a series of code names under which he ordered his drinks.
- The Phantom:
- The Ur-Example is when the Phantom goes to town in the guise of Mr. Walker, to extract information. He will invariably visit the grungiest bar in the seediest part of Morristown and order milk. Nobody ever mocks him for it... more than once ("It is good for the bones" [starts breaking bones]). And they will always have a bottle handy. The Phantom is teetotal, which appears to go in the family.
- He is at one point revealed to have a drinks cabinet filled with 300+ years' worth of various vines and other spirits that have been gifted to the Phantoms over the years, still unopened because neither he nor any of his forefathers have ever touched any of it. His trademark drink is milk — which, no matter how seedy the bar he walks into is, they always have a bottle of somewhere.
- His now college-aged daughter Heloise is apparently continuing the tradition, with an amusing side-story detailing her college roommate's spectacularly failed attempt to drag her into a Girl's Night Out Episode, where her offer to buy her a beer was met with a completely straight-faced "I am not even in the mood for milk". Then a random Guy got grabby and a Bar Brawl started and she kicked their asses and she said that the next evening would be spent studying for their exams.
- A 2020 story had Her Father Kit Walker (The Phantom) visit her together with her mother Diana Walker, and they and Heloise and her Roomate Kadia went out for dinner. And it is casually shown that while all four of them was given Wine to dinner, both Kit and Heloise is shown covering their full glasses when they are offered a refill by their waitor.
- Inter Nos: The Himean soldiers all drink wine. The Otomeians prefer beer. Natsuki prefers milk. She gets some mild ribbing from Nao about it, but, having proven herself already in combat, no one actually questions her abilities at this point.
- Iron Wood: In a future much like Mass Effect, but where all humans have superpowers, it is mentioned at one point that one shouldn't make fun of a human drinking milk in a bar. Either they're strong and tough enough that liquor does nothing to them, or they're afraid of doing serious harm and/or property damage if they get drunk. Neither scenario ends well for Krogans picking a fight.
- Barnyard: At the party, the animals get drunk on milk mixed with honey.
- Alien Nation is something of a subversion, as the alien Newcomers can get Drunk on Milk... or, in their case, spoiled milk.
- In Back to the Future, George is about to approach his crush Lorraine at the Malt Shop. He needs Liquid Courage and heads over to the bar to order... chocolate milk. In this case, it's probably intended to indicate the relative wholesomeness of Hill Valley in 1955 and/or the fact that George is a somewhat wimpy dork.
- Catwoman: The infamous film adaptation has Halle Berry pouncing, meowing, and walking with a Supermodel Strut through Gotham city. In one scene, she goes to a club and orders a White Russian without ice, vodka, or Kahlúa. Even the bartender seems amused when he ends up getting her the drink, which is just straight-up cream.
- Destry Rides Again is probably one of the earliest examples. Destry walks into the bar, and the bartender guesses that Destry would order milk. Destry confirms.
- Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. While Doc Savage and his crew are at a party with Captain Seas, Johnny orders a glass of milk. His order shows how clean-cut he is.
- Throughout Eddie the Eagle, Eddie orders milk instead of alcohol when at a bar, much to the amusement of his hard-partying fellow athletes.
- Sheriff Geronimo of Final Justice orders a tall glass of milk while trying to pump the bartender for information, an act that earns him the ridicule of a tiny Maltese man who was standing nearby. This then leads to a massive Bar Brawl which Geronimo handily wins. While we never do see the Sheriff imbibe alcohol, his stated reason for ordering milk is that it helps to soothe an old gunshot wound, rather than teetotalism.
- In Inspector Gadget 2, Gadget tries to infiltrate Dr. Claw's operation by going undercover as a thug at a Bad-Guy Bar that Claw's been hiring henchmen out of. The cover begins to fall apart when our family-friendly comedy protagonist orders a "nice, tall glass of milk". When the other patrons react, he amends his order to "chocolate milk. Make it a double!".
- Leon from The Professional is almost always shown drinking milk as opposed to his manager Tony who does drink alcohol.
- In Sidekicks, Chuck Norris drinks milk... which automatically means milk is awesome.
- In The Three Stooges short "Punchy Cowpunchers", after Moe and Larry order their shots at the bar, Shemp orders a milkshake. When a cowboy at the bar spits out his drink in disgust, Shemp adds "... with sour milk!".
- Victor/Victoria: Exploited by King when he becomes uncomfortable with playacting as half of a gay couple, and goes off to a working-class watering hole to pick a fight, apparently thinking to reassure himself of his masculinity.
King: [to the barman] Milk.
Bystander: Cow's milk, or mother's milk, monsieur?
King: How about your sister's? [cue Bar Brawl]
- In one of the The Adventures of Samurai Cat books, Miaowara Tomokato goes into a rough bar and orders a saucer of milk. And gets it, though he needs to disassemble most of the patrons before being allowed to drink it in peace.
- A Clockwork Orange: Alex and his friends are too young to order alcohol, so they drink milk laced with drugs that make them super-violent instead.
- In Equal Rites, Esk, an eleven year old Child Mage, orders a goat's milk at a seedy tavern, and the bartender is about to say they don't have any, when he realises that something about the barrels behind him suddenly doesn't feel right...
- In Men at Arms, when most of the Watch are drowning their sorrows in beer, the exceptions are Detritus (whose differing metabolism means he gets drunk on molten sulphur), Nobby (who's gone for an Umbrella Drink), and Carrot, who orders milk. Carrot being Carrot, nobody questions or makes fun of this. (In his previous appearance, he'd tried a shandy [half beer, half lemonade] and hadn't liked it.)
- In one of the adventures in Incognito Mosquito Private Insective, the protagonist goes into a tough bar and orders a glass of milk. Realizing that it's a conspicuously un-tough drink order, he quickly adds, "Make it a double — and serve it in a dirty glass."
- Milk is the favorite drink of Archie Goodwin, the title character's right-hand man in the Nero Wolfe series. While he's not a complete teetotaler, the milk preference does subvert the hard-drinking private eye stereotype.
- B.A. Baracus, the resident Scary Black Man from The A-Team is a strict teetotaler and only drinks milk. This might be intended to indicate his softer side. The preference usually goes uncommented-upon because the rest of the team is used to it after all this time (enough that drugging it is one of their methods of choice for sedating BA in case they need to fly).
- Barnaby Jones from the show Barnaby Jones was a somewhat elderly private eye who always ordered milk in bars and restaurants, usually to the disbelief of the criminals he chased.
- The McPoyles from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are an incestuous, inbred family obsessed with drinking milk and keeping a warm temperate climate that often antagonizes the gang. They have tried ordering milk at Paddy's only to be outright denied and shooed away by Dennis and Mac. Their milk-drinking habits are used to portray them as off-putting, weird, and gross.
- The IT Crowd: In "The Final Countdown", Moss becomes part of an exclusive club for those who make it through eight episodes of the titular game show Countdown. The club is full of stereotypical Nerds showing off their arm candy. Moss, who is known for his awkwardness and dry wit drinks milk rather than alcohol, attesting to his vanilla lifestyle.
Moss: I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I've just finished my milk.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Hollow Pursuits", Guinan reveals that the neurotic engineer Reg Barclay goes to ten-forward, the bar, every evening, but all he orders is milk, specifically warm milk. Geordi says, "Seriously?", and Guinan replies that Geordi should try it because it helps you sleep.
- Wooden Overcoats: Rudyard strongly dislikes alcohol. Eric remembers this and offers him his preferred beverage of milk when the entire cast goes out drinking at the end of an episode.
- In Cytus II, Xenon is The Teetotaler. When he spends time with his friend Joe, who's a bartender, he orders milk instead of alcohol.
- Discworld: At one point, in order to get some information from a big, gruff, tattooed sailor with a pirate accent, you have to buy him a drink. When you ask him what he would like, he asks for a glass of milk... but then specifies milk from "the venomous she-bats of Re", served in a dirty glass. (It helps with his stress.)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Nords use "milk-drinker" as an unflattering epithet for people who can't handle alcohol.
- In Final Fantasy IV, a sidequest sees Cecil having to go to a bar and buy some time by talking with the barmaid. So, he orders a drink. What does newly-reformed soul-full-of-light Cecil order? Milk, of course.
- Final Fantasy Tactics: Milk is Ramza's drink of choice, too, prompting the bartender to comment.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask features a bar where only milk is served.
- Live A Live: Invoked in "The Wanderer" chapter (which takes place in The Wild West). Pike, an outlaw from the Crazy Bunch, decides to order a glass of milk for the Sundown Kid as a "friendly gesture". Should Sundown refuse, Pike will get angered and mock him with a claim that he "won't drink any milk that won't come from his mom's tits", and once Sundown responds to him with his own Your Mom insult, Pike draws his gun, and the two fight, thus kickstarting the chapter's main plot.
- Alfred J. Kwak: In one episode, Alfred has a dream in which he the people he knows are living in the Wild West. At one point, Henk orders a milk at the saloon, much to the surprise of the bar owner and the other patrons. He nevertheless sticks to his choice.
- Crossing into Drunk on Milk, in the Daria episode "Psycho Therapy", Daria convinces her father that milk will calm him down, and his copious drinking of it is treated like an addiction.
- The Flight of Dragons, After a recommendation by Peter Dickenson, the wizard Carolinus orders milk to help calm his ulcer.
- Justice League Unlimited. In the episode "Flash and Substance", Captain Cold orders milk, and when his fellow bad guys look at him he explains that his ulcer has been acting up.
- A bit of Hypocritical Humor on the part of the other rogues, who had placed equally innocuous orders (an Arnold Palmernote , a cherry cola, and a decaf soy latte) without anyone raising an eyebrow.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Pest of the West", SpongeBob's cowboy ancestor SpongeBuck walks into the Krusty Kantina (the saloon equivalent to the Krusty Krab) and orders a glass of 2% milk. He acts intoxicated afterward anyway.
- In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "Pirates of the Koopa", Mario and Luigi pose as pirates to infiltrate 'Blackbeard' Koopa's hideout. Luigi asks the bartender to "I'll take a milk." At their odd looks, Mario adds, "In a dirty glass!"
- Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: At the beginning of "Wags to Riches", an executor reads a will explaining the qualities of the dog who will inherit his late master's fortune, and as he reads, Spike acts out those traits in hopes that he will be the lucky dog. When the will mentions that the dog must be "sober", Spike appears uptight and holding a cup of milk... but when it also mentions that he should also be "one of the boys", and Spike immediately drowns himself in beer.
- In the Fifties, Pierre Mendès-France famously asked for milk to be served to pupils, to replace alcohols which were served at some schools, especially the ones where clean water wasn't readily available.