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In the past few years, crystal-clear milk punches and milk-rinsed cocktails have cropped up at inventive cocktail bars and restaurants with ambitious mixology programs. These are not drinks made with milk, like New Orleans milk punch or a White Russian, but rather clarified with milk. The clarification process strips away the harsher aspects of the alcohol, resulting in a drink that has a soft, creamy roundness but is also clear.

While milk washing may seem like a molecular-gastronomy party trick, it was born of kitchen science dating back at least a few hundred years. In a letter he wrote in October 1763 to his friend James Bowdoin, a political and intellectual leader, Benjamin Franklin enclosed a recipe for milk punch.

The recipe below is more or less faithful to Franklin’s. It is scaled down to a quarter of the original quantity, and I’ve slightly reduced the sugar, which I found to be cloying. The result tastes like a lightly boozy brandied limoncello. Great for parties.

 


Benjamin Franklin’s Milk Punch Recipe

Serves 12-14

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups brandy
  • 11 lemons
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 4 cups water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 whole nutmeg + extra nutmeg for garnish
  • 3 cups whole milk

1. Remove peel from all 11 lemons with a vegetable peeler, taking care to remove only the yellow part of the rind. Add lemon peel to brandy and steep for 24 hours. Juice lemons until you have 2 cups of lemon juice (about 5 or 6 lemons). Reserve lemon juice in refrigerator until needed.

Using a microplane will ensure you get only zest and not the bitter white portion underneath.

2. When lemon peels have steeped 24 hours at room temperature, strain brandy and discard lemon peel. Add lemon juice, water, sugar and freshly grated nutmeg to brandy and stir well.

3. Heat milk in large pot over medium heat, taking care not to burn or scorch it. When milk is hot, turn off heat and slowly add in brandy mixture. Curds will form immediately. Let mixture sit 5 minutes, then gently stir. Let sit another 20 minutes, stir gently, then allow mixture to sit for another 1.5 hours, undisturbed.

Strain out and discard the milk solids, and what you’re left with is pure smooth goodness.

4. Strain punch through a jelly bag, coffee filter or pillowcase. A pillowcase is large enough that you can probably strain all of the punch in one go. If using a coffee filter or jelly bag, the straining process will need to be done in multiple batches. The coffee filter should be discarded and replaced when it becomes full of curd; the jelly bag should be washed between batches as needed.

5. Refrigerate punch until ready to serve. Punch should be served very well chilled (but not over ice, as it has already been diluted with water) and garnished with freshly grated nutmeg.  

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