Serious Eats: Drinks
How to Make English Milk Punch
The Super Bowl is arguably the biggest party of the year and an unofficial national holiday. We fill up carts with wings, chips, and booze—plus the supplies to build a guacamole stadium. Inevitably in my house, the drink decisions are left up to me. No one knows what I will make—including me—until I suddenly stumble upon something that sparks my curiosity. So what's on the menu this year? Milk Punch.
Often when people hear the words milk punch, their minds immediately jump to that quintessential morning drink made famous in New Orleans called the Brandy Milk Punch. While that drink deserves its place in the pantheon of greatness I want to introduce to you a wholly different animal: the clear English Milk Punch.
Its origins date back several centuries. According to David Wondrich, the concoction was first mentioned in William Sacheverell's 1688 writings about the Scottish island of Iona. 17th century English dramatist and spy Aphra Behn extolled the virtues of milk punch throughout her writings, but then the concoction seems to have disappeared again until the mid 18th century, when, Wondrich tells us, "it suddenly, for whatever reason, became all the rage."
But what exactly is milk punch? Possibly the most famous recipe for this punch is Benjamin Franklin's from 1763, although the oldest-known recipe is Mary Rockett's from 1711. Franklin's recipe has something in common with two old forms of drink: the posset and syllabub. Posset is a British hot drink made with curdled milk and spices. Syllabub is an English drink in which milk and sugar is slightly curdled by the addition of wine.
How does all of this relate to my milk punch? Essentially, English milk punch is made up of two distinct parts that are combined. The first part is a rum, sugar, and citrus juice mixture. Then, hot milk and spices are added and allowed to infuse until the milk curdles.
Wait a minute—did he just say something about curdled milk? Seriously? And you want me to drink it and serve it to my guests?
I initially had the same reservations. But after mulling it over I finally decided to make a Rum Hibiscus version from Drink in Boston and I couldn't get enough. The curdled mixture is strained through a fine mesh strainer and several layers of cheesecloth—so the final result isn't gross-looking at all. I promise.
The end product is delicious—lightly sweet, silky, translucent and positively baffling. There are layers of flavors with the spices interplaying and dancing on the tongue.
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What is the weirdest drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) you've drunk that was surprisingly good?
About the Author: Jeff Lucas enjoys gadgets and exotic spirits. When it comes to food and drink he'll try anything at least once. You can follow his cocktail musings on twitter @the_mixlab and his blog at themixlab.wordpress.com