2022 Let’s Get Blitzen: Cocktail Advent Calendar – Day 24 – Milk Punch & Cookies. Santa loves his milk and cookies, but on this Christmas Eve he takes his glass of milk and turns it into the perfect cocktail, a juicy, rum-based clarified milk punch.
I’ve been enamoured with clarified milk punch for a while now. I can’t recall where I first sampled this crystal clear, batched punch but I remember the sense of wonder it instilled. The ingredients list on this style of cocktail is usually longer than your arm, often comprised of various spirits, citrus, and chilled tea, which are then combined with milk. But through the magic of SCIENCE the finished product is crystal clear and has a silky, creamy mouthfeel – it is transcendent.
This type of cocktail employs a technique in which the acidic ingredients are used to curdle milk, separating it into curds and whey. The curd clumps act as filters that trap particulates, so that when a cloudy liquid is poured through them in a large fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter it comes out clear.
Clarified milk punch (also called English milk punch) dates back to at least the 1600s, and enjoyed a rise in popularity in the 1700s. This style of drink was popular in the era before refrigeration, because once clarified (i.e., once the cloudy solids were removed) the drink could be stored for long periods. In his book Punch, historian David Wondrich suggests that the first written milk punch recipe, in which housewife Mary Rockett strained hot milk, brandy, lemon and spices through a flannel bag, dates to 1711.
If you have visited a fancy cocktail bar in the last 3 years, you’ve probably encountered a milk punch on the menu. The fine folks at Atwater Cocktail Club in Montreal churned out one of the most memorable examples I’ve tried, the flavour profile was inspired by peanut chicken satay and each sip was an explosion of lemongrass, Thai chili, and peanut. Another winner I enjoyed was from the Onda Cocktail Room in Lisbon where the talented bartender used equal parts whole milk and rice milk to create a flavour profile reminiscent of freshly baked Rice Krispie squares.
You may be wondering how an ancient cocktail like came to have a resurgence in the 21st century. Well, we have New York bartender Eamon Rockey to thank for its comeback. Rockey became an evangelist for the drink after encountering it around 2008 at Bar Pleiades. He would go on to make the drink at Eleven Madison Park, then Betony from 2013 to 2016, before launching an eponymous bottled version in 2018.
Crafting this Milk and Cookies Punch doesn’t take much hands on time but it does take quite awhile to strain. Patience is a prerequisite. For the best result, line a fine mesh sieve with a coffee filter and add in the punch bit by bit until the entire mixture is strained and all the curds are trapped in the coffee filter. Strain the mixture again through the same filter or use a new coffee filter if you want to speed things up.
Repeat the process until the mixture is crystal clear. If you’re in a bit of a rush, skip the coffee filter on the first strain and just pour it through the fine-mesh sieve to trap the solids. Clean the sieve and line with a coffee filter for the second (and any required additional) strains.
It’s critical that the finished product be free of milk solids to ensure it remains stable for as long as possible. This example uses chilled hibiscus tea to impart great colour and floral notes to the tart pineapple, warm baking spices, and the funky characteristic of the rum. Pernod rounds out the combination with its herbal, bitter flavour of black liquorice.
Join me on Instagram Stories at 5 p.m. Eastern for the final instalment of Virtual Happy Hour for the 2022 Let’s Get Blitzen: Cocktail Advent Calendar.
Milk Punch & Cookies
Santa loves his milk and cookies, but on this Christmas Eve he takes his glass of milk and turns it into the perfect cocktail, a juicy, rum-based clarified milk punch.
- ½ pineapple diced into 1” chunks
- 2 blood oranges zest and juice
- 2 lemons zest and juice
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 10 coriander seeds
- ½ cup brewed hibiscus tea
- 2 cups boiling water
- ½ cup St-Rémy Signature
- 1 cup Mount Gay Black Barrel Double Cask Blend
- ½ cup white rum
- ½ cup Pernod
- 2 cups whole milk
- Garnish: hibiscus flower in syrup
Add the lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, pineapple, sugar, and spices to a large mixing bowl (one with a spout is ideal) and muddle the sugar and fruit together. Add the hibiscus tea and boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the spirits and mix together.
In a separate large mixing bowl, add the whole milk. Then pour the punch mixture into the milk and stir. The mixture will curdle. Let sit for about 30 minutes and strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Clean the sieve and line with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, pass the mixture through the lined sieve to strain again. At this point the mixture should be almost entirely clear. If any cloudy bits remain, strain one more time. Transfer to bottles or jars and store in the refrigerator.
Pour into a rocks glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with a hibiscus flower in syrup.