What Is Milk Punch? We Got Answers From a Professional

A milk cocktail may sound strange, but it is more fascinating and historical than you think.

A glass of milk punch with a sprinkled of spice and a star anise on top.
Photo: bhofack2/Getty Images

You may have seen an uptick of TikTok creators explaining the process of a milk punch. If you are someone who has never heard of this, you may assume it is some sort of deviation from a White Russian. This cocktail could actually be considered a process since it has a more practical use that dates back hundreds of years. I reached out to the FarmStay Director of WhistlePig Whiskey, Mark Kanya, to give us a crash course on milk punch, its process, and the best time to drink it.

What Is Milk Punch?

There are two kinds of "milk punch." One is a frothy, dairy-based cocktail reminiscent of spiked eggnog. It is simple to make and simply requires mixing together rum, bourbon, vanilla extract, and milk. The other is the most common form, sometimes referred to as "Clarified Milk Punch" or "English Milk Punch," where the result is a clear, auburn liquid. Milk clarification is the one Kanya is used to making. This idea dates back to the 1600s when the clarification process was used to make the spirit shelf stable indefinitely. There is even a published recipe from Ben Franklin dating back to 1763.

How Is It Made?

Clarified milk punch is essentially citrus, milk, and flavors from brandy, bourbon, rum, or even pineapple. When the milk and acid mix, the milk starts to coagulate and curdle. The curdled milk acts as a natural filtration system to rid of all the impurities in the citrus juice and liquor. Then a strainer and cheesecloth are used to clarify the mixture, resulting in a clear liquid. It is then often paired with a single ice cube and grated nutmeg. The finished product is smooth and slightly viscous. This process is very laborious and can take up to two days to make. This is why bars that serve the concoction make it in big batches to save on time.

The dairy-based counterpart is a simpler process. It is a mixture of whole milk, rum, bourbon, vanilla, and sugar. Since citrus is not used, the clarification process is not needed, allowing the ingredients to be stirred together. It is also topped with grated nutmeg.

What Kind of Milk Should Be Used?

The higher the milk fat, the better when it comes to milk punch. The fat from the milk is what curdles and filters the punch. Whole milk is the common choice among bartenders, but also heavy cream and half-and-half have been used as well. Skim or non-fat milk is certainly not recommended due to the lower fat content.

When Is the Best Time To Drink It?

A clarified milk punch is best served in the summer due to its lightness and refreshing quality. The dairy-based version is also refreshing and can be enjoyed in the summertime, however, it is more commonly enjoyed during the holiday season.

WhistlePig is an award-winning whiskey distillery that specializes in rye whiskey. It is based in Shoreham, Vermont. Mark Kanya is the FarmStay Director there.

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