Milk Punch

It’s easy to think of this old chestnut of a drink as a lazy man’s eggnog — I do, in a fashion. But this relic from mixology’s mesozoic era has enough of its own character to deserve attention and respect, especially at this time of year.

Now, I’m sure there are a number of people who read the headline and then moved on, grimacing at the thought of mixing the stuff your mom was always making you drink with the stuff she was always trying to keep you from drinking. That’s a definite mistake (one I was guilty of making myself for way too long). With a nice, aged spirit and a touch of sugar (and some vanilla, if your tastebuds trend that way), milk makes a silky, soothing base for this gentle, warming concoction. In New Orleans, you’re likely to encounter this as a morning beverage — what a beautiful idea — and while typically served cold, you can certainly warm up your milk punch to take the edge off a winter day.

The milk punch is classically made with brandy and / or rum, but bourbon also does a fine job, and is a favorite among many aficionados. Short of using Campari or soy milk (sorry, vegan lushes), it’s hard to screw up a milk punch (like your mother, the milk punch is very forgiving). And if you’ve made yourself some homemade pimento dram (or have a bottle from Jamaica lying around), a dash or two in the mixing glass gives the punch a warming, spicy smoothness that’s especially welcome six days before Christmas, when you’ve still got two weeks worth of shopping to do and no opening in your schedule in which to do it.

Milk Punch

  • 1 ounce brandy*
  • 1 ounce dark rum*
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 dashes vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 dashes pimento dram (optional)
  • 4-6 ounces whole milk, to taste (I suppose you could use 2% in a pinch, but you’ll be missing out on the punch’s full effect)

Stir with ice and strain over crushed ice into a large goblet. Sprinkle with nutmeg. (Or, mix the booze, sugar and flavoring in a mug and fill with hot milk. Do the nutmeg thing if desired.)

* Bourbon may be substituted for the brandy & rum. Or, brandy may be substituted for the rum, rum for the brandy, or whatever other option you may consider.

9 Responses to Milk Punch

  1. One of the interesting things about the Milk Punch is that originally it contained an element of lemon; much in keeping with the original Arrack Punchs. Though instead of using fresh lemon juice, the peels of the citrus fruit were used.

    “The Practice of Cookery”, By Dalgairns, 1830

    Milk Punch.

    “The rinds of nine lemons are to be steeped, for eighteen hours, in two quarts of brandy, then mixed with the strained juice of the lemons, one and a half pound of sugar, five pints of water, and one grated nutmeg; one quart of new milk, made boiling hot, being added, it is to be strained through a jelly-bag.”

    Another way to make Milk Punch.

    “In twenty quarts of brandy, the peel of thirty Seville oranges, and thirty-six lemons, are to be infused for twelve hours; thirty quarts of water and fifteen pounds of double-refined sugar are to be boiled, and when cold, the strained juice of the oranges and lemons is to be added to it; it is then to be put into a cask, together with the brandy, strained from the peel; a quart of boiling milk being poured into the cask, it is to be bunged up, and allowed to stand till it become fine, beforebeing bottled. It will be the better for remaining a year in the cask.”

    Another way to make Milk Punch.

    “Eight pounds of refined sugar are to be dissolved in the strained juice of three dozen lemons, and, when quite settled, two gallons of brandy, and two gallons and a half cold water, are to be added, and also the lemon-peel; one gallon of boiling milk being then poured over the ingredients, thet are to stand closely covered for twenty-four hours; when, being skimmed, and run through a very thick jelly-bag, it may be quickly bottled, and will be fit for immediate use; but it improves by keeping.”

  2. Say, not bad, that. Had to cobble it together with Tuaca in lieu of vanilla extract, and half and half with 2% to approximate whole milk, but as you say, it’s very forgiving. Mild and frothy, with a little something special 🙂

  3. You’ve enticed me to make some pimento dram from the recipe you linked. Naturally Lemon Hart products are not available in our Soviet-style state liquor store system, so I settled for Bacardi 151. Less than ideal, but it’ll be fun! It might be finished in time to serve a milk punch for Valentine’s day.

  4. Interesting. As part of the tour of the Mission Dolores Neighborhood that I lead via CityGuides, we note that for a while there was a saloon in the old Mission complex (after the decommissioning of the Missions) called the Mansion House, and they were famous for their milk punch. Now I know what it is!

  5. Thomas, I’m afraid you are going to be very disappointed if you proceed with Bacardi 151. It has a flavor much closer to a solvent than than a rum. If you can get that you should be able to use Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum and mix it half and half with Meyers’s or something similar. I am about to attempt something in that very vein, not being 100% pleased with my first batch using Demerara (too distinctive, imo).


  6. I can confirm what you’re saying about the solvent flavor of the Bacardi 151, Andy. The odor reminded me of the doctor’s office. But I figured it was still a better start than Everclear, and it was all we can get in North Carolina. Hopefully the allspice and organic brown sugar will do their part. I’m about halfway there on the waiting period, now. Shall report.

    In the meantime, Doctor Cocktail has posted another cocktail using Pimento Dram and a couple different recipes for making your own on Imbibe Unfiltered:

    If my current formulation proves unsatisfactory, these recipes provide a few options for “doctoring” it up.

  7. I heard the term “short milk punch” in a movie. The movie stuck in my mind, and so was the drink. It was an Abbott and Costello movie. I believe it was “Little Giant” And I’m still sober!

    Michael from Kentucky

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