Dare to add dairy when mixing up your holiday cheer

Special to Washington PostDecember 15, 2012 

SPIRITS 51

Dare to add dairy when mixing up holiday cheer. Baltimore Egg Nog.

PHOTO FOR THE WASHINGTON POST BY DEB LINDSEY — The Washington Post

  • Baltimore Egg Nog The trick is to shake the egg, sugar and booze with a little bit of light cream first, then to add the milk afterward in the glass – which should be filled with ice cubes, another trick that makes the drink brighter and less goopy. This recipe calls for a raw egg. If you are concerned about the risk of salmonella, buy pasteurized eggs. When making cocktails with eggs, be sure to first do a quick “dry shake” to mix the liquids, then add the ice and continue shaking for another 30 seconds. 1/4 ounce light cream 1 large egg 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar 3/4 ounce dry Madeira (such as Blandy’s 5-year-old Sercial) 3/4 ounce brandy, preferably cognac or Armagnac 3/4 ounce aged rum Ice cubes 2 to 2 1/2 ounces whole milk Whole nutmeg COMBINE the cream, egg, sugar, Madeira, brandy and rum in a cocktail shaker. Shake to mix well, then add ice cubes and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes. FILL the glass with the milk, and stir gently. Grate a little of the nutmeg on the surface. Yield: 1 serving PER SERVING: 270 calories, 8 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 225 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar
  • Victoria Milk Punch Milk adds a wonderfully creamy texture to punch. The most important thing is to separate all the solids, straining or skimming as many times as necessary, through cheesecloth or a clean dish towel. You’ll need a thermometer for this recipe. The mixture needs to steep at room temperature for 24 hours. Adapted from Dan Searing’s “The Punch Bowl” (Sterling Epicure, 2011). 750-ml. bottle of brandy, preferably cognac or Armagnac 750-ml. bottle of aged or dark rum 3 lemons, cut into thin rounds 1 cup whole milk 1 cup demerara sugar 7 cups water COMBINE the brandy, rum and lemon slices in a large container with a tight-fitting lid. Let steep at room temperature for 24 hours. HEAT the milk in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat so that it comes to a gentle boil (between 200 and 212 degrees), stirring constantly. ADD the milk to the brandy mixture, along with the sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar and mix well. STRAIN the mixture twice into a large pitcher or bowl: first through a fine-mesh strainer, then through several layers of cheesecloth, a clean dish towel or a coffee filter, until all the solids have been separated. Discard the solids. SERVE in a punch bowl over ice, or serve warm from a large pot kept on low heat. Yield: 18 to 24 servings

In the grand history of American drinking, the combination of dairy and booze makes for a dubious chapter. I would guess that the category of drinks mostly likely to be described as “gross” would have to be those that involve milk or cream.

Consider, for starters, this infamous trio of dairy-based cocktails: the Mudslide (that chain-restaurant staple of vodka, Kahlua, Irish Cream and cream), the Grasshopper (the vaguely embarrassing mix of green creme de menthe, creme de cacao and cream), and the White Russian (the choice of every “Big Lebowski” fan, with vodka, Kahlua or Tia Maria and milk). Tasty to some, but not exactly the sorts of concoctions you build a rich legacy upon.

If there is ever a time when milk and spirits should come together in harmony, it is for the holiday eggnog. But even this tradition has long swerved in a bad direction. When I see those cartons of eggnog making their annual appearance in the supermarket, I get queasy.

“I think dairy-based cocktails have such a mixed reputation because they’re easy to flub,” said Dan Searing, whose book “The Punch Bowl” (Sterling Epicure, 2011) includes a section on milk-based punches.

“Balance is even more important than usual with such a rich ingredient.”

I love Searing’s book and I’ve been making drinks out of it for over a year and a half. But I intentionally skipped over that particular chapter, until the weather turned cold. I had been in the mood for a new type of holiday punch, and after experimenting with just about every ingredient under the sun, I figured, why not milk?

When dealing with dairy cocktails, there are basically two kinds. One group calls for milk or cream as an ingredient that you recognize in the final drink. A classic example is the Alexander, whether with gin, brandy or something unusual, such as pear liqueur.

The other group of dairy cocktails mixes milk with citrus. It curdles, separating out the whey, removing the fats and leaving the proteins. .

Searing preaches patience when you work with milk punches. Make sure all the solids are strained out, even if you have to strain through a clean dishcloth or a pillow case (as Searing says he does). “It doesn’t pay to try to rush straining out the curd once separated. Just remember to allow time for gravity to do the work,” he said.

Searing also recommends using organic milk for cocktails.

For a printable version of the recipe, click the links:

Victoria Milk Punch

Baltimore Egg Nog

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