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This Make-Ahead Milk Punch Is Silky, Citrusy, and Nothing Like Eggnog

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Let's say you're in a weekend state of mind a little early this week—so what are you doing to celebrate Thursday? We partnered with Simply Organic to share spiced and herbed recipes for cozy gatherings.

The words milk punch may bring to mind something akin to eggnog, but it’s actually a cocktail that’s far from heavy or sweet, or those drinks that easily taste more like syrup than liquid. A staple of New Orleans drink culture, boozy milk punch is traditionally like a hand-shaken milkshake—cream or milk and vanilla kicked around with bourbon and/or maybe rum until it forms a frothy concoction. It's delicious in its own right, with a flavor profile just right for cooler weather even though it's served cold.

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No, this milk punch is nothing like eggnog.
No, this milk punch is nothing like eggnog. Photo by Mark Weinberg

But the milk punch I know and love, from places like Adele's in Nashville and Betony in New York, is light and bright, tangy even, laden with citrus and herbs or spices, and, yes, milk. And it's more clear, not creamy. It takes a bit of time, but it’s a lovely, leisurely Sunday project—one you can do haphazardly, while listening to a podcast (maybe this one?) or while someone else is chopping away for dinner.

The trick, at least to this rosemary grapefruit milk punch is to clarify the milk by bringing it just to a simmer, and then pouring it over a host of citrus juice to curdle the dairy—yes, that's the desired effect! After a few filterings, the milk curds sink lazily to the bottom, after which you can skim off the clarified punch base and then stash it in a fancy pitcher in the fridge for an impromptu (but festive!) gathering or just a quick glass during the week (it’ll last for 7 days when chilled!).

I've served milk punch two ways:

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  • If you've been diligent about filtering and saving only the clear liquid that emerges after the milk curds have settled to the bottom, drink it on its own, well-chilled. I've found enjoying it this way brings out lots of nuance in the flavor—and it'd be easy enough to ladle into tiny, pretty glasses for guests.

  • If you want something more emulsified and a little stronger, all you have to do when the base is ready is grab 2 ounces of the punch (if there's a little curd or cloudiness, that's okay), combine it with another 1 1/2 ounces of the spirit you used, and shake for 30 seconds. Then strain right over one large ice cube or several nicely-shaped ones into your favorite glass and garnish as you'd like.

Rosemary Grapefruit Milk Punch
Rosemary Grapefruit Milk Punch

This version, one I adapted from Betony's, convinced even one of the most non-gin drinkers I've encountered that they, in fact, might like gin. I went to town on grapefruit juice, and made a stovetop rosemary simple syrup to couple up with the citrus. Betony's recipe uses black tea, but I tried green tea to counter the extra pucker and compliment the rosemary's herbal sweetness. It's a refreshing pivot away from regular too-sweet or too-boozy punches—just right to start off or finish a holiday meal with.

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Rosemary Grapefruit Milk Punch

Fc9bc41a 56a6 4a99 9c78 58f26423f494  screen shot 2015 07 24 at 12.47.23 pm Samantha Weiss Hills
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Serves 16 to 18

For the rosemary simple syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried rosemary

For the milk punch and cocktail:

  • 3 cups brewed green tea, cooled
  • 3 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup rosemary simple syrup
  • 1 cup gin
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • Additional gin, to make each cocktail

Thursdays are like warm-ups for the weekend—so why not raise a glass a little early? We partnered with Simply Organic to share spiced recipes for festive, impromptu get-togethers. Head here to see all their spices, and get ideas for your #ThursdayMoments.


Our magical menu genie will plan your holiay feast for you.

Tags: simply organic, milk punch, grapefruit, rosemary, serves a crowd