A Dummies Guide to Milk Punch
The use of milk and cream in mixed drinks has a rich history, taking many forms throughout the ages. Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller reveal the three faces of the Milk Punch
The holiday flips and nogs have all been toasted. But we’re still not finished talking about mixed drinks with that moreish quality provided by the inclusion of milk and cream. Thing is, these days the term ‘milk punch’ can mean one of three drink styles.
In the last episode, we talked about a style of milk punch – or, more realistically, egg milk punch – that’s been around for a few hundred years under monikers such as Atholl Brose, Rum Flip, Beer Flip, Egg Nog and Tom & Jerry. But this was the heartiest style, containing egg and cream or whole milk, or both.
As the temperatures warmed, these tavern favourites were set aside in favour of lighter concoctions. Jerry Thomas, in his 1862 book, adapted recipes he discovered, such as White Tiger’s Milk.
Acquired from Thomas Dunn English, an American politician from New Jersey and a friend of author Edgar Allen Poe, this libation blends applejack and peach brandy with whole milk and beaten egg white. A finishing touch of ‘aromatic tincture’ and sugar made this a popular party punch, when it was made in bulk.
A more familiar form, Brandy Milk Punch, is a staple in the American South even today. It’s a house standard during brunch service at New Orleans’ Brennan’s Restaurant. Served as a comforting morning drink, the recipe has been personalised lots of ways over the decades. Swap cognac and aged rum for the classic Napoleon brandy. Switch to bourbon for a mapley edge.
In the hands of founder Dick Brennan’s son, Dickie, the humble milk punch was frappéed, in 2002, into the Bourbon House’s signature drink. The Frozen Bourbon Milk Punch quenches thirsts well into the Crescent City’s hot, humid summer thanks to the addition of a healthy portion of vanilla ice cream.
This brings us to the third style. Clarified milk punches appeared as early as 1763, when Benjamin Franklin provided his personal recipe to future Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin. The bite of the citrus and zest is quelled by ‘fining’ this brandy punch with boiling hot milk, which is filtered through a cook’s muslin, jelly bag, or similar cloth until the liquid runs ‘clear’. The skill is handed down from medieval times, when white wine was stabilised and made less astringent by filtering it with hot milk.
Variations on this theme were included in every edition of Oxford Night Caps, beginning in 1827, along with tips on bottling for future sipping by the university’s students and scholars. A simple white brandy milk punch flavoured with lemon juice was the basic recipe. The official Oxford Milk Punch was a grand affair, combining white brandy with oranges, limes, orange flower water and orange brandy shrub.
Head barman Leo Engel took the milk punch to new heights when he created the signature serve for the 1878 opening of London’s Criterion Restaurant. This shining glory not only paired brandy with two rums, but also sensuous spices and an extravagant pleasure – pineapple. (This made a recent revival on the drink roster at Mark’s Bar in Hix Soho.)
Clarified milk punches have made their way across the Pond once again, as Los Angeles bar Faith & Flower can attest. It serves a gallon per week night and two gallons per weekend night to the delight of downtown sippers.
We could carry on about the blessings of milk and cream incorporated into mixed drinks, but we think that the tradition speaks for itself, as it shows no sign of going away.
The skill is handed down from medieval times, when white wine was stabilised and made less astringent by filtering it with hot milk
The spritz exploded onto the scene a few years ago, driven by – and catapulting sales of – Aperol. However, there is so much more that can be done with a spritz. This is exactly what Ago Perrone at The Connaught is doing with his seasonal spritz line-up. This is a wonderfully fresh and balanced, full-flavoured drink.
It’s bright, citrusy and the pickled ‘apple blossom’ garnish is a Pickleback in white tie and tails. Stir 25ml dry gin, 25ml rhubarb and red fruits cordial, and 10ml Galliano Aperitivo with 60ml champagne. Pour into a wine glass filled with ice cubes and garnish with an apple blossom. We first encountered this drink as we were waffling between drink choices and Perrone suggested this as a bit of a palate and mind cleanser.
BRENNAN’S BRANDY MILK PUNCH
By Brennan’s Restaurant, New Orleans
Garnish: Freshly grated nutmeg
Method: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish
with freshly grated nutmeg.
120ml single cream/whole
milk blend (1:1)
60ml Napoleon brandy
30ml simple syrup (1:1)
10ml vanilla extract
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S MILK PUNCH
Adapted from a letter from Benjamin Franklin to James Bowdoin, 1763
Garnish: Optional lemon twist
Method: Zest the lemons and steep in brandy in a sealed Kilner jar for 24 hours. Strain the brandy into a basin. Add fresh lemon juice, spring water, grated nutmeg and sugar to the brandy. Stir to dissolve. Bring milk to a boil and immediately add to the brandy mix. Let the mixture stand for two hours. Strain through a jelly bag until the liquid runs clear. Bottle in clip-top bottles. Serve cold.
11 lemons, zested
2 litres brandy
480ml fresh lemon juice
1 litre spring water
1 freshly grated nutmeg
250g caster sugar
720ml whole milk
CRITERION MILK PUNCH
Anistatia Miller from Leo Engel, 1878
Method: Combine all but the final two ingredients in a large Kilner jar. Seal and steep for at least six hours or overnight. Add one litre hot milk and juice of two additional lemons. Blend. Filter through a jelly bag a few times until liquid runs clear, not cloudy. Bottle in clip-top bottles. Serve iced.
500g caster sugar
480ml aged rum
240ml strong green tea
140ml silver rum
20 coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
juice of 3 lemons
one pineapple, peeled, sliced and crushed
1 litre boiling water
(to be added last)
1 litre hot milk
juice of 2 additional lemons
This article was updated from one that was originally published in imbibe live magazine on February 24, 2022
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