Booze52

Classic Cocktails from A-Z: Milk Punch

By • December 13, 2012 • 3 Comments

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Some things just go together -- and the obvious accompaniment to food is drink. Welcome to Booze52, in which we explore all manner of libations, from A to Z, that do much more than just wash down a meal.

Today: A time-tested sibling of eggnog to have on standby this holiday season.

December is a time for wassail and revelry. As a noun, wassail refers to mulled or spiced wine. The verb, however, calls for us to “drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way.”

And so I apply this verb quite readily to the tradition-steeped milk punch, a dairy-meets-liquor drink that once warmed many a frostbitten medieval peasant and his lady. The drink has stayed loyal to the holiday season, a no-fail companion to gingerbread, plum pudding and all manner of wintry treats.

Any kind of search on milk punch will reveal that Benjamin Franklin practically owns the brand, having sent a famous recipe to his friend James Bowdoin back in October of, oh, you know, 1763. Milk punch is historically akin to a posset -- milk combined with an acidic liquid like wine or citrus, which curdles the milk. Palates in the Middle Ages may have sipped this merrily, but I prefer a smoother approach. (But we've accounted for you all -- find variations to please any taste below.)

Here it is: a spirited combination of rum, brandy and splash of water, all stirred into a sugar base and layered with good, creamy milk. It’s a close cousin of eggnog, sans the eggs. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t trim a tree without some kind of rum-spiked beverage standing by.

Holiday Milk Punch 

2 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 ounces brandy
1 ounce aged rum
¼ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons half-and-half or heavy cream
Ice
Ground nutmeg

Put sugar in a small bowl. Add water, stir until sugar is dissolved. Add rum and brandy. 

Combine milk and cream; place in shaker with some ice. Add rum mixture and shake well. Strain into an Irish Coffee glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg and enjoy.

Save and print this recipe here.

You're the bartender -- want to bend the rules? Here are some variations: 

• Citrus or no? Even a small amount of lemon juice makes the milk curdle up a bit, which, when strained, will help stabilize your punch (great for larger groups and punch bowls). 

• Want a little extra flavor? A splash of almond or vanilla extract adds another layer to the drink.

• Some like it hot, but most like it cold. If you plan to serve it punch-style in a bowl, chill it down with a large ice ring. If you are huddled and shivering by the fireplace, warm the milk gently on the stove, add the rum mixture (no need for the shaker), and omit the ice.

• Serve a crowd. To drink like they did in the days of old, try this recipe. It requires 24 hours of steeping and several rounds of straining to remove the milk curds, but die-hard punch drinkers will appreciate your efforts. (If you go for it, make sure you tell us all about the results!) 

Photos by James Ransom 

Tags: booze52, milk punch, holiday, recipes, cocktail, punch, drinks

Comments (3)

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over 1 year ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hooray, hoorah!!! Disclaimer: I am a Louisiana gal but even with that said, milk punches ROCK!!!

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over 1 year ago Marian Bull

Marian is an editor at Food52.

Ooh, I want mine with vanilla.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Associate Editor of Food52.

Wassail, indeed.