Oct 21, 2014

Homemade Filtered Milk Punch

Milk punch may be the "new" hipster equivalent to home infused vodkas.  It can have all the buzzwords like artisan and handcrafted, has its own history and trivia, and it's a booze that you've probably never heard of.  Out of the two types of milk punch, one is actually not that bizarre to most Americans, at least not during the Christmas season.  Take milk or cream, mix with rum or brandy and serve chilled, perhaps with nutmeg or cinnamon.  Sound familiar yet?  How about if I add egg?  Eggnogs (and flips)  are actually an offshoot of milk punch.

The other type dates back to the 1600's, and focuses more on a longer shelf life.  In fact, one of the more famous recipes comes from Benjamin Franklin himself. While anyone who has been in bad college housing knows, milk will separate given enough time (or poor enough refrigeration).  As the 17th century was not exactly known for their refrigeration technology, they took a hint from cheese makers to extend shelf life.

For those unfamiliar with how cheesemaking works, the very basic process is as follows:
  • Heat milk.
  • Add rennet/acid to separate curds from whey.
  • Remove curds from whey, and process depending on the type of cheese.
Conceptually, very simple, right? Well, on a basic level, the process for making a filtered milk punch is as follows:
  • Heat milk
  • Mix alcohol, sweetener, and acid.
  • Add hot milk to alcohol mixture.
  • Remove the curds and retain the liquid for drinking.
From a food science perspective, milk punch is rather intriguing.  There are multiple ways in which flavors can be absorbed into the solution.  Water soluble, alcohol soluble, and fat soluble flavors can all be utilized.  The first milk punch I ever had, at Backbar, was flavored with Fruit Loops. It was disconcerting because it actually did taste like Fruit Loops, in a completely liquid form.  The first time I attempted making milk punch with a friend, I decided to be a little cheeky, and play off of the idea of milk.  We made a chai milk punch with mulling spices.  The overwhelming success of that led us to experiment a bit more. Other successful flavors that I've tasted (but have not made myself), are passionfruit, and scotch pina colada.

Basic Milk Punch Recipe

750 mL white rum
2 Cups Simple Syrup
1 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Cups Whole Milk

Special equipment needed: cheesecloth

First of all, simple syrup is one of those things that you should never buy.  For 2 cups of simple syrup, combine 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water, and heat in a saucepan until all the sugar has dissolved.

Combine the rum, simple syrup, and lemon juice. If your flavoring is alcohol or water soluble, add the flavoring to the mixture.  If your flavoring is fat soluble, add the flavoring to the milk.

Heat the 2 cups of milk in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbles appear at the edges of the pan.

Add the milk to the rum mixture, and let sit for 30 minutes, to allow the milk to fully curdle.

Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and discard the chunks.  Serve chilled, and store the milk punch in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Some of the Flavors I have personally experimented with (and results):

Milk Punch Flavors steeping in alcohol


Because I had the spice mix handy, I simply used mulling spices.  The label called for 1 Tbsp of spices for one 750 mL bottle of wine, so I stuck with that.  

It worked beautifully, and can be a nice substitute for falernum in cocktails.

Add spices to the milk.


1 cup of frozen raspberries, or any other frozen fruit.  This is one of the few situation when fresh is not necessarily better.  The process of freezing helps to damage the cell walls, so that it will release flavors even easier than fresh berries would.  

It was very tasty, and had a beautiful color.This is a flavor that I will definitely try again. As a variation, I plan to use the raspberry seltzer syrup from Flour, Too.  This recipe includes sugar, lemon juice, and lime juice.  To avoid the punch from becoming overly sweet, I would plan to use the raspberry syrup instead of the simple syrup.

Add the fresh fruit to the alcohol mixture.

Frosted Flakes

This was an idea from my friend/partner in booze.  Because the first milk punch we'd had was Fruit Loops, he was interested in what other breakfast cereals could be milk punch.  Use 1 cup of crushed Frosted Flakes.  

The flavor of Frosted Flakes came through clearly.  Personally I found this disturbing, but I also found the Fruit Loops milk punch disturbing. My friend who initiated this idea approved though.  Considering that I am the one making recommendations here, be prepared for an odd beverage.

Add the crushed flakes to the alcohol mixture.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We wanted to play with the idea of things that would go well with milk.  One of the obvious food items that works with milk is cookies.  One cup of crushed chocolate chip cookies is used for a batch of milk punch.

This was a complicated flavor, because cookies are a complex food.  There are aspects that are alcohol soluble flavors, and some that are fat soluble flavors.  With the experiment that we tried, we put the cookies in the alcohol mixture.  I think that it may be possible to get a better flavor by splitting the cookie crumbs between the alcohol and the milk; in effect getting the best of both worlds.

The jury is still out as to whether the crumbs should be added to the alcohol or the milk.


This is the flavor that I was the most skeptical of. My friend wanted to play on the breakfast theme, taking a step away from the cereals. Originally he thought of toast and jam, but we decided that if the toast came out well, we could always add some of the raspberry milk punch as jam.  This would be about 6 slices of crushed toasted bread for 1 batch of milk punch.

I found the juxtaposition of flavor and texture of the toast milk punch a little too much of a hurdle.  The texture of toast is a very important part.  Thus, the fact that I'm drinking a nice cool liquid tasting of toast was a little too disconcerting.  My friend combined a bit of the toast milk punch with some of the raspberry, and quite liked it though.

The toast crumbs were added to the alcohol mixture.

Final Analysis

Financial Outlay: The most expensive part of this project is the rum, possibly followed by the cheesecloth. If you want to make a swanky punch for a party, this can be a very economical answer.

Time: It is probably about an hour total to make, plus chilling time.  If the plan is to make punch for a party, this means that you can make it ahead of time, and keep it in the fridge until it is time to serve. But it is best when cold, so this is not an instant drink.

Quality: This definitely depends on the flavor chosen.  In my opinion, the chai and the raspberry flavors worked very well.  In those cases, the quality was well worth it.

Fun: It is possible to get very creative with flavors.  The experimental run I did used 4 different flavors for 1 batch of punch.  All the flavors were put into the alcohol solution.  Not every test flavor may come out tasty, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try.

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