Every day, the cocktail culture grows by leaps and bounds. For a long while, we Angelenos were playing catch-up with cities like London and New York. Now, with award-winning bartenders like Julian Cox and a growing list of classic cocktail bars from the Eastside to the west, there is no doubt that Los Angeles is on par with the best cocktail cities in the world. Bringing this idea home is Faith & Flower's recent award for "Cocktail of the Year" from Esquire's first annual American Food and Drink Awards.
The winning cocktail is the incredibly time-intensive (three days to be exact), but worth every minute, English Milk Punch. Faith & Flower's Chief of Booze Michael Lay spent four years developing this recipe, which is so involved that a batch results in only about 15 servings. Lay explains, “My inspiration for the English Milk Punch comes from diving into the old Jerry Thomas book. Jerry Thomas was a curator of bad-assery (or awesomeness) in his time. There are a lot of great old-school bar books out there, but his Bartender's Guide is one of my favorites."
Not to be confused with Brandy Milk Punch, which is a simple, creamy-white concoction made with brandy, simple syrup, vanilla and half-and-half, English Milk Punch is a boozy mixture whose crystal clarity is the result of spirits, spices, and, with the application of heat, curdled — yes, curdled — milk, which is then passed through a fine strainer to achieve a completely clear beverage.
English Milk Punch recipes date back several centuries. Before Jerry Thomas's 1862 version, one of the most famous was Benjamin Franklin's in 1763. Unlike Thomas' and Lay's multiple-spirits version, Franklin's employed brandy plus lemon, sugar and milk. The curdling process harkens back to milk-based drinks like posset, which curdles due to the use of heat and alcohol, and syllabub, which curdles thanks to the lemon juice and the acid in the wine.
Don't be put off by the idea of curdled milk. Here, you drink the filtered portion only — although people once ate the curds for nourishment as well. Despite the intensive process required, this silky-smooth booze bomb is well worth the effort.
English Milk Punch
From: Michael Lay, Faith & Flower
Peel of 4 lemons
20 coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 star anise pod
1 pound sugar
Juice of 6 lemons
8 ounces Appleton Estate 12-Year rum
8 ounces Smith & Cross Jamaican rum
8 ounces Bacardi 8-Year rum
6 ounces Bulleit bourbon
8 ounces Pierre Ferrand 1840
6 ounces Batavia Arrack van Oosten
4 ounces Absinthe Mata Hari
1 ounce of Peychaud's bitters (or Angostura)
8 ounces of brewed Sencha green tea
14 ounces boiling water
40 ounces milk
Juice of 2 lemons
1. Add the lemon peels to a large airtight container.
2. Peel and cut the pineapple into large chunks and add them to the lemon peels in the container.
3. Coarsely grind the spices with a mortar and pestle. Add the spices to the container, along with
the sugar and the juice of 6 lemons. Muddle the mixture.
4. Pour in the brewed green tea and stir to mix. Pour in 1 cup boiling water and immediately cover
so that the liquid doesn't evaporate. Let sit overnight. Then strain the mixture and reserve the
5. Bring the milk to a boil. Add the boiling milk and the juice of 2 lemons to the strained rum
mixture. The milk will coagulate.
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6. Using a fine chinois lined with cheese cloth, strain the liquid a little at a time. You may have to
stop and replace the cheese cloth when it has too much milk buildup. Pour the liquid into a
container, cover, place in the refrigerator and leave it overnight so that the remaining milk solids
7. Ladle the clarified punch from the top of the container, being careful not to disturb the solids at
the bottom. Strain the punch again if desired. Serve over ice.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book "Gin: A Global History." Her book "The 12 Bottle Bar," co-written with David Solmonson, was released on July 29. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.