Despite an intense engagement with cocktails, regular reading in contemporary and historical bar handbooks as well as various online magazines, blogs, etc., there are always things you did not really try to do or simply had no points of contact with. That’s exactly what Milk Punches were for me. But now I have changed that – and I am very delighted!
Basically, a Milk Punch is a kind of historical technique that is similar to fat-washing, where milk is blended with spirits, an acid source and various other ingredients (based on the classic punch category). The resulting coagulated flakes, called caseins, bind the turbid substances from milk and also from the added punch and can be filtered out through a filter cloth or a coffee filter. What remains is a transparent “Milk Punch”, which has become noticeably milder thanks to this technique. Its peculiarity of taste is surprisingly different from the original punch before it has come into contact with the milk.
The cocktail historian David Wondrich locates the origin of the Milk Punches in the 17th century, where the British writer Aphra Behn enjoyed them. The essential intention of this technique of preparing a drink has probably been to soften the sharpness of the alcohol, which, thinking about the quality of historical boozes, was certainly a comprehensible idea. As we know from the history of the cocktails (because to soften down bad quality alcohol has also played a role in the evolution of cocktails) it can result in something quite enriching.
A Milk Punch is usually much milder to drink than, for example, an Old Fashioned, a vermouth cocktail or a classic Negroni. I would rather compare it to drinking wine, although the alcohol content and aroma profile can nevertheless differ significantly.
To make a Milk Punch yourself, you need a little more patience, but it is not really that difficult. Also, it is not necessary to heat the milk before preparation, it also works well with cold milk, if you pay attention to a few things: The base drink is classically a punch, but it also works with any acid-laden drink, so you can almost make a Milk Punch of any sour recipe you like. In addition to spirits and acid sources there is also a classic source of sugar. And in most classic Milk Punch recipes you’ll find a certain proportion of components that further reduce the drinking strength: water, juices, teas or the like. This component and the additional liquid do not require any previous shaking or stirring on ice, as this would only further dilute the cocktail. Rather, the finished Milk Punch should be cooled in a fridge after the filtration process and should stay drinkable for a few days. So when it comes to Milk Punches you can “pre-mix” with a clear conscience. If you stick to a ratio of 4 parts punch to one part milk, you basically have everything you need to know. Oh, one more thing: the punch is always poured into the milk, not the other way around. But the individual steps can also be read off the recipe below. Since it can also be worthwhile to prepare it in larger quantities due to the time the process takes and also because you need a certain amount of milk, so that the flocculation works well (and because due to the filtration process some total volume is lost), I have measured the quantities in the recipe a bit above the usual amounts. I recommend to see it as a loose recommendation for ratios rather than a strict recipe. So if you want to do more, go grab the calculator or skillfully do mental arithmetic.
In fact, I would – without hesitation – serve the drink I’d like to show you today to a white wine drinker and tensely wait for the reaction. Although I am not a well-prepared wine expert and the gentle sommelier may forgive me that I put today’s cocktail in the vicinity of a rather sweet white wine, but in terms of taste it remembers me of white wine aromas. Although there is also something different happening in the glass (I’m not necessarily saying “more” than a good white wine has to offer) which is very hard to describe. You have to try it! The cocktail is called Cherry Blossom Milk Punch.
Recipe “Cherry Blossom Milk Punch”:
8 cl Citadelle Extreme Gin N° 2 Wild Blossom
2.5 cl Faude Feine Brände Sauerkirsche (sour cherry eau de vie)
1 cl Guignolet de Dijon (alternatively Cherry Heering)
4 cl freshly brewed Japanese cherry blossom tea
3 cl mint-ginger syrup (see below)
3.5 cl lemon juice
approx. 7 to 8 cl of cold whole milk (do not use fat-reduced milk!)
Mint ginger syrup: First add sugar to a mortar with a roughly equal amount of fresh mint leaves, about a third of peeled ginger slices and one lemon zest which you have taken with a potato peeler. Use the pestle to grind everything into an herbal sugar of greenish color. Then mix with boiling hot water in a ratio of 1:1 in a pan and let it simmer until it reduces a little bit. Finally, strain the finished syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container and refrigerate.
Preparation: First mix all ingredients except the whole milk in a mixing glass without ice (!). Then pour the milk into another glass and pour the content of the mixing glass onto the milk. Stir with your bar spoon for about 30 seconds, the milk should already flocculate. Leave for about 30 to 60 minutes. Then place a coffee filter on a fine sieve and pour in the milk-cocktail mixture and catch the transparent liquid dripping down in a container. This process may take a while, but in the end you will have your transparent Wild Blossom Milk Punch. Refrigerate until cold and that’s it.
Garnish: cherry blossom (I didn’t have one) or brandied cherries
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online.