We kicked off holiday party season last night with a work party at my colleague’s house. This is something we’ve just recently started to do, and I think it’s a great way to celebrate and spend time with co-workers and their families outside of work. These parties tend to be a mix of catered main dishes and potluck appetizers, desserts, and drinks. And surprise, surprise, I signed up to bring a cocktail. I spent a fair amount of time trying to find an easy to make large batch cocktail that would be seasonally appropriate, and I finally decided on a classic clear Milk Punch. I should warn you, when I first described this drink to one of my co-workers she was appalled. I think her exact words were “that sounds disgusting”. But don’t let that scare you because this is a seriously delicious drink, and it’s definitely NOT a creamy milk drink a la a White Russian or a New Orleans style Milk Punch, this is a clarified elixer. If you didn’t know the name of this drink you would have no idea that milk played any part. Seriously, in no way does this taste like milk.
To be fair to my co-worker, the first time a Milk Punch was described to me I thought it sounded bizarre and possibly disgusting as well. But I was out at a favorite cocktail bar and the drinks weren’t on my tab, so I figured it was worth a try. And I’m so glad I gave it a shot because it’s really kind of amazing. This is a cocktail that has apparently been around since the 1600’s and was very popular in the colonial days. Apparently even Ben Franklin was a big fan and had his own recipe. There are endless ways of making a Milk Punch, but in the end you’re always left with a drink that is clear and tastes almost velvety smooth. Milk Punch can be made with a variety of alcohols, though I’ve chosen to use rum in this version. Essentially you flavor alcohol, then add citrus and simple syrup, and then add milk that you’ve heated up. Yes, the milk will curdle, and yes, it looks and sounds disgusting. But don’t give up because once you strain out the curds you’re left with a clear drink with multiple layers of flavor that is worth all of the time you’ve put into it. The earl grey, cinnamon, and cloves in this version make it taste just like winter. Perfect to serve at a party, or just keep it in the fridge for yourself- this drink will last for months. I think it was a hit at the party, and even my disgusted co-worker loved it. If she loved it, you’ll love it. Give it a shot!
Makes: about 15 servings
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 bottle (750 ml.) white rum
- Peeled rind of 1 orange
- Peeled rind of 2 lemons
- 2 Tbsp loose leaf Earl Grey leaves
- 2 cups simple syrup
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
- 2 cups fresh whole milk
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan until sugar fully dissolves. Let mixture cool.
In a large glass or ceramic bowl or pitcher, combine the rum and the orange and lemon rinds. Cover and let sit for 24 hours*. Add the Earl Grey leaves and let sit for 4 more hours. Strain the rum mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl or pitcher. Add the cooled simple syrup and lemon juice and stir well. At this point you can refrigerate it until you’re ready for the next step.
When ready for the final steps, add the cinnamon and cloves to the rum mixture and stir well. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan until it reaches 180 degrees. Add the hot milk to the rum mixture, stir, and set aside for 1 hour. The mixture will curdle, but don’t worry, this is normal. After an hour, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, and then strain again through a cheesecloth. Don’t move the cheese curds to help the mixture, you want them in the way to help filter the liquid. The liquid will strain quickly at first but will then slow down. Just set it aside until it’s done. Your final liquid should be clear, if it’s not, strain it again.
Store the punch in a tightly covered pitcher or container in the fridge for up to 2 months. Serve cold, straight up or on the rocks. Enjoy!
*If you don’t have time, just infuse the peeled rinds and the Earl Grey together for 4 hours. It will still be delicious.