Last winter we had a really great version of a Warm Milk Punch on the menu. This is adapted from a 1711 recipe by Mary Rockett, which was published in the wonderful book Punch, by David Wondrich (2010). According to Wondrich, it is “the oldest extant recipe for Milk Punch.” The story goes: punch was the mixed drink of choice in the 17th and 18th century. People drank so much of it that the sour nature started causing problems. Adding milk was probably an attempt to “smooth” out the citrus. Since this recipe originated in England, it stands to reason that the hot temperature of the drink helped them through cold winter nights. According to a conversation with Mr. Wondrich, Mary Rockett also happens to be the first commercially published author in Great Britain.
We have significantly modified the original recipe: we call for 2 parts demerara rum and one part cognac rather than all “brandy;” we make an “oleo-saccharum” rather than infusing the liquor with lemon peel; we modify the ratio of sweet and sour; and we increase the amount of milk rather than also adding a lot of water.
The Varnish Warm Milk Punch
-peel 6 lemons. Set aside the fruit for juicing and place the peels in a non-reactive bowl or container. Add 6 teaspoons of superfine sugar and muddle until the sugar starts to pull out the essential oil in the peels. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. After it sits the peels will shrivel and the oils and sugar will combine into a fragrant syrup which in historical punch jargon is called an oleo-saccharum.
In the container with the oleo-saccharum, add:
- 333ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 425ml turbinado simple syrup*
- 500ml Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac or other good FULL BODIED cognac, preferably 86-94 proof
- 1 liter El Dorado 5yr rum, or other dark, rich DEMERRARA rum
Stir to combine. Then add 1850ml of scalding whole milk. Preferably raw milk, but it HAS to be whole milk. If you are finicky about raw milk, scalding it will have the same effect as pasteurization.
Once you have added the scalding milk to the mixture, stir vigorously until the curds and whey have separated. Strain the whole mixture through cheesecloth or a very fine mesh strainer such as a “chinois.”
Taste for richness and intensity of alcohol. You may want to add a little bit of filtered water if it is too rich or boozy. You may also want to add more simple syrup if the punch is too tart, or to add richness. The amount of sugar the punch needs depends on the richness and sweetness of the milk.
At this point you can serve immediate while warm – just ladle into teacups and top with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. If you’d like to bottle it, let it sit covered in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight, until the remaining curds settle to the bottom. Siphon the liquid off the top and bottle. It can sit on the shelf at cellar temperature for a few months. From the bottle, pour into a saucepan, heat, and serve in teacups topped with nutmeg. Don’t over-heat, you will boil off the alcohol. (you can also serve it cold and it’s quite good) Refrigerate after opening.
*for turbinado simple syrup, dissolve 500g turbinado sugar (“sugar in the raw”) into 750ml hot water
Max Seaman, The Varnish, General Manager