Most everyone knows that citrus makes milk curdle. So why would anyone create a cocktail with both citrus and milk?
Back in the 18th century heyday of clear milk punch, it was how a lot of people who entertained served their guests. Large batches were made ahead of time and served out of a large punch bowl. Voila! No mixing cocktails during the party.
However, some folks, such as Charles Darwin, would bottle his batches for later use; a number of bottles were found in his cellar after his death in 1882.
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What’s interesting about the process of making this English style of milk punch is that the flavor possibilities are endless. The earliest known recipe is credited to Mary Rockett who combined brandy, sugar, water lemons and scalding hot milk. Once the milk is added, the curds separate from the whey and the combination looks like nothing anyone would want to drink.
However, once the mixture is strained multiple times, you are left with a mostly clear liquid that takes on hints of color from whatever ingredients you put in.
In states where infusing liquors is legal — Idaho is not one of them — many modern bartenders are concocting a dizzying array of punches that contain tea, exotic fruits, cereal, savory herbs and even beer and port wine, along with numerous spirits and liqueurs.
If you are up for a fun weekend kitchen project, crafting your own brand of clear milk punch should be a fun adventure, and one that will make your next dinner party unforgettable.
The following recipe is a basic approach that was created by an inventive early American named Benjamin Franklin. You’ve heard of him, right?
Due to state law, Kevin Hopper cannot serve this version of milk punch at Capitol Bar on State Street. A non-alcoholic version that can be combined with the spirit of your choice? That can be done.
Ben Franklin Milk Punch
Yield: 40 servings
3 cups brandy
3 cups aged rum
2 cups lemon Juice
4 cups filtered water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups whole milk
1 whole nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
Peel the lemons and peel off the white pith. Discard the pith and combine the peels with the brandy and rum. Set aside overnight.
Juice the lemons. Strain the lemon peels out of the brandy and rum. Add the lemon juice and sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Add grated nutmeg, star anise and a broken up cinnamon stick.
Bring milk to a boil. Add the rum, brandy and lemon juice mixture to the hot milk and stir to melt any remaining sugar. Turn off the heat. At this point, the milk will curdle, and it won’t be pretty. Cover the pot and let the mixture cool for two or more hours.
Grab a lot of cheesecloth and start straining the mixture, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Let this sit overnight in the refrigerator. The remaining solids will sink to the bottom. Strain again, but this time, use a coffee filter and have a lot of patience. Once all of the solids have been strained off, you will have a clear milk punch that you can bottle and store perpetually. Or find a punch bowl, a giant ice block and call your friends over.