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: