The Drinks Cabinet |November – December

Festive concoction milk punch has a rich history, says our drinks columnist Matteo Malisan, bar manager of The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell.

There are dozens of wintery cocktails out there. But if I had to pick just one for Christmas, it would be a milk punch. Milk punch is a versatile concoction, usually made with clarified milk, sugar, lemon juice and alcohol. Spirits-wise: take your pick from brandy or bourbon, rum or scotch. Find your preference for spiced or fruity. It’s the perfect drink for Christmas morning.

Not only is milk punch a marvellous drink, it has a long and fascinating history. The most popular recipe comes from none other than Benjamin Franklin (the recipe is online but you may prefer to use half the amount of alcohol). Franklin enclosed his recipe for milk punch in a letter to his friend, the politician James Bowdoin, in 1763 (although the oldest known recipe was recorded in 1711).

Many believe that the milk punch developed from two other concoctions: the posset and the syllabub. Posset is an old, quintessentially British drink, consisting of curdled milk and spices, served hot. Syllabub, on the other hand, is made of milk or cream, and only slightly curdled by the addition of wine.

Imagine then, the English milk punch sitting somewhere in between. It’s made of two distinct parts combined together: the first being your dark spirit of choice, mixed with sugar and lemon juice. Hot milk and spices are then added, allowing the mixture to curdle and split. It is strained through a mesh strainer, and several layers of cheesecloth.

The final product is extraordinary: sweet, creamy, silky, translucent and full of flavour. The harsh flavour of the spirits has been rounded off, and the clarified milk gives an incredible texture. The best part – you can let this age in your fridge for months, so scale up your batch ahead of the festive season.