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.
- 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.