Thursday, July 28, 2016

Milk Punch: Italian Flavor

So, this is my fourth attempt at making milk punch and my third success. For the record, this post is in no way an exact recipe with a glorious final product. It is a process I've been playing with and am still honing. That said, this was a pretty tasty drink. I first heard of the concept when I was in New York City for a bartending conference with the USBG, United States Bartender's Guild. I was actually truly fascinated by the process. It was captivating seeing clear liquid come out of that filter when it started with so many opaque. Let's start with the ingredients and tools you'll need:

6 1/2 oz granulated sugar, 3 - 4 Lemons depending on size, 3 - 4 Limes, 2 Tsp Crushed Pepper, 1/2 tsp Cracked Black Pepper, 1 bag Rooibos Tea, 1 bag Mint Green Tea, 3 sprigs Rosemary, leaves of 3 sprigs of Sage, 1/16 oz. Thyme, 1/2 tsp dried Marjoram, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 3 oz. Amaro del Capo, 9 oz. Gin, 20 oz. Milk

Mixing bowl, muddler, measuring spoons, measuring cup, at least 2 large pots buckets or bowls, a chinois, enough cheese cloth to line the chinois 4 times over (I used 28 x 24 thread count), and lastly a means of bottling the final product

The start to any good punch, in my opinion, is an Oleo Saccharum. Peel two large lemons and two large limes and all your dry ingredients. For the tea bags tear them open and dump them in. The oils and the flavors from the herbs, leaves, and peels will be pulled out by the dried ingredients in a form of osmosis. Everyone has different feedback about how long this process takes. It, of course, depends on the recipe. Some people say that for a standard oleo is takes up to 72 hours to achieve full osmosis. This can be reduced with fancy cryo-vac machines, which I do not own. I only let this sit for 6 hours.

The next step does help infuse the flavor a little faster, though. Add 8 oz of boiling water to the bowl. This is how we make tea. Hot water infused much faster than cold, and much faster than osmosis between the flavors alone. the point is adding all this to the final product so we need to pull as much flavor out as we can without diluting too much. Let this steep, covered, until it settles down to about room temperature. Strain the whole contents of the bowl to a large pot. Rinse the bowl with some of the alcohol to collect any flavors or undissolved sugars. Add 4 oz of lemon juice and 4 oz. lime juice. Stir this around to make sure it's uniform. Next, comes the risky part. 

The milk. Start by heating it and bringing it to a near boil. If it starts to boil, take it off the heat immediately. Trust me it gets messy. Add the hot milk to the pot. The mixture should start to curdle. If it doesn't curdle well, add more citrus. Stir it around a little to let it all bind. You could put this in the fridge and then skim off the curds. I'm told using cheese cloth is not only faster but certainly more reliable at getting all the particulates out. Line the inside of the chinois with several layers of cheesecloth and clamp it to the rim. The more volume you can fit the better. Pour the punch through the strainer. Naturally, have a bowl or a bucket under the strainer to catch it.

The first part of the run will come out slightly cloudy as the curds fasten themselves into the cloth. Once it starts running clear, start cycling the liquid back into the strainer. the more you keep cycling it the cleaner the product will be. Yes, this process does take some time, several hours. I tend to cycle it back in once the flow slows to being drop by drop. Usually, it takes about 3 to 4 full runs. It takes ages the to get those last few drops out. One it's effectively done, take the cloth and lightly squeeze it over another bowl. If it comes out fairly clear, drink it, if you're getting a cloudy liquid out, you can still drink it but it might not taste great if you're getting curd. Next, I just funneled the good stuff into a bottle and stuck it in the fridge to chill. Serve with ice and drink up. You can also cut it with soda, sprite, or sparkling wine. I made my batch over a week ago and it tastes exactly the same. The shelf life is effectively infinite. 
The final product is a clear liquid with a slightly golden brown tint. It is a very herbaceous cocktail. The rosemary and black pepper pop as flavors and it leaves the mouth feeling dry. The alcohol is not too dominant. The dryness does not make it a drink you could drink for hours on end like some of my other punch batches. but it is tasty. The infinite shelf life granted by this process is ideal for a fancy drink you'd have once in a while. Stick a bottle in the fridge and have some every now and then.

“Drinking just to get drunk is like having sex just to get pregnant.”
- Robert Hess

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