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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

Clarified Milk Punch #1

...not to be confused with Milk Punch.

Toucan Dance cocktail

Okay, so while this drink does not require any special accoutrements or exotic liqueurs, it does require a bit of time and manual labor - you have been warned. However, the resulting punch is one of the most unique cocktails I've ever had. Secondly, it's great for parties as you can make several bottle in advance. Best of all, the technique can be applied to almost any cocktail (or liquor for that matter) which is great for those that believe the world's best cocktails have not yet been discovered!

Since this is a bit more complicated than your average Rum Runner, let's start with a general overview. Clarified milk punches (or milk-washed punches) use whole milk to chemically alter your cocktail and then leave a new version of that cocktail in its wake. Here's where it sounds gross (and technical) but stick with me, it's totally worth it. Specifically, the acid from the fruit (in this case limes) curdles the milk. The bitter agents in the cocktail (the polyphenols for all you chemistry nerds) then chemically bond to the milk curds. You then strain the entire batch and are left with the cocktail minus the curds and polyphenols. However, you get to keep the whey proteins that are also in the whole milk. This provides a silky mouthfeel despite the drink being clear instead of cloudy like most "silky-mouthfeel" drinks. Thus the name Clarified Milk Punch.

As you can imagine, this is nothing new. Punch recipes using this technique date back to the 1700's. It's thought that their original popularity had something to do with the extended shelf life they give cocktails and the effect it had in smoothing out the bitter harshness of rums and whiskys common to that period.

After (re)discovering this process I've spent about a month trying to make milk washed versions of cocktails. I can't say that they all went well. Here's a list of general lessons learned for all of you wanting to experiment on your own. There's no use repeating my mistakes:

  • When combining the mix and the milk, always pour the mix into the milk never the milk into the mix.

  • Flavored rums (like Cruzan Coconut) tend to leave the final product cloudy.

  • Don't use cream of coconut as the flavor washes out.

  • Tea is a great ingredient as the bitter tannins are removed while the flavor remains.

  • Don't use liquors that get most of their flavor from barrel aging as you just strip that away with the curds. AKA "save the good bourbon."

  • Be patient! It takes about 4 hours to make a liter of the stuff.

  • Don't tell people what it is before they try it.

  • Don't serve to Vegans.

  • The milk whey adds a foaming ability if you shake the drink before serving.

Clarified Milk Punch #1

Source - Bamboo Sam original

Makes 750ml - 1l of punch

  • 9 ounces lime juice

  • 9 ounces unsweetened black tea

  • 3 ounces cinnamon syrup*

  • 4 ounces Jamaican pot still rum (Hamilton Pot Still or Doctor Bird)

  • 8 ounces Jamaican blended rum (Myers Original Dark or Appleton Estate)

  • 3 ounces Banana Liqueur (Tempus Fugit)

  • 32 ounces (4 cups) of whole milk (cold to room temperature)

Since making this one is 80% of the battle I'll go into some detail.

curdled milk punch
mmmm, boozy cheese curds...

First, brew some tea. I typically use Orange Pekoe and will put 3 bags into 2 cups of hot water to steep. You want it to be strong! Let it cool to room temperature before adding to your mix - you don't want to cook the lime juice.

Add everything except the milk into a pitcher and stir. Pour the milk into a bowl capable of holding it and the contents of the pitcher (98 ounces or 12 1/4 cups). Slowly pour the pitcher of punch into the milk and then gently stir with a non metallic spoon. It will start to curdle immediately but let it sit for 20-30 minutes until a clear liquid is formed on top. Now you are ready to strain the curds and all of their bonded friends from your punch.

Line a mesh strainer or colander with cheese cloth and rest it on top of a container capable of holding the total volume of mix. Slowly pour the contents through the strainer. The cheesecloth isn't actually straining anything but the cheese curds; they are straining the cocktail. Because of this, the first pass will still be cloudy as it take a few ounces before the cheesecloth is coated with cheese curds.

second pass through the curds...

So, once it has all passed through, strain it a second time using the same (now completely covered in curds) cheese cloth. Take care while pouring the second time so that you don't push the curds out of the way by the force of your pour. I use a spoon as if I'm making a layered drink - especially when I first start my second filtering. This second filtering will literally pass through drop by drop. Just leave it for a couple of hours watching it serves no purpose...

Finally, remove the strainer, discard the solids and bottle the clarified punch. I typically use swing top bottles as they work well for syrups, and premixed cocktails. In fact, I never seem to have enough around. At any rate, these will allow you to refrigerate the punch and pour as needed. It is supposed to keep for months but I've never managed to keep any around longer than a week.

I serve this one straight up on the rocks in a double rocks glass. No garnish or straw so that it looks like a glass of good rum on the rocks. This works as a bit of an optical illusion. When you see what looks like a couple of ounces of liquor on the rocks your brain gets your mouth ready for it. Then when your taste buds are hit with a deliciously silky-smooth cocktail the contrast of expectations to reality makes it seem even more so.

*Bamboo Sam's Customizations: I promise I'll make a cinnamon syrup post soon. I use it all the time and really don't know why I haven't made a post about it yet. Make a 1:1 simple syrup and then add a couple of crushed cinnamon sticks to it after the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then turn off heat and let it steep for an hour or two. Strain through a fine mesh or coffee filter and bottle.

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