Ever since marathoning all of Drink Masters earlier this month, I’ve been upping my mixology game, experimenting not only with different ingredients but also different techniques when it comes to making drinks at home. I’m looking forward to putting some of these methods and experimentations to the test as the holiday season kicks into high gear. If you’re planning on some intimate holiday gatherings with friends or family over the next few weeks and want to really level up your hosting prowess with some impressive but ultimately easy (and batchable!) holiday drinks, I’ve got three words for you: clarified milk punches.
What are clarified milk punches?
GREAT question! Clarified milk punches are a style of cocktail that utilize acid to curdle milk and create whey. Did I just say curdled milk? I absolutely did. The process of making a clarified milk punch is extremely similar to making cheese. But before you check out, just trust me. This isn’t curdled milk in the sense of milk that has gone bad in your fridge. This is intentionally curdled milk, and this cocktail technique yields a stunning drink with a silky texture.
How do you make milk punches?
The general rundown is simple: You add an acid and flavorings to some booze and then add that concoction to some milk, let it curdle for a bit, and then pour it through a filter or sieve so that you can discard the curds and instead be left with a silky smooth, clearish drink that no one will ever know had milk in it in the first place!
If you, like me, have some at-home mixology experience already and like to experiment/play at the bar cart instead of following exact recipes, here’s what I’ve been doing:
I gently infuse some milk in a saucepan on low heat on the stove with whatever flavors I want to add to it. Recently, I made a “creamsicle” milk punch by infusing milk with some coconut shavings and vanilla. Then I added orange juice mixed with vodka, and the milk immediately started to curdle. I left it in the fridge to separate for about an hour and then filtered it through a coffee filter. I’ve been using my Chemex pourover for these, and it works great. It might take a few tries for you to figure out the exact acid:booze:milk ratio that’s best for you. I’ve made a lot of paneer in life, so I already know the drill when it comes to curdling milk.
If you’re newer to mixology or just would prefer to follow a recipe for ease leading up to your holiday event, here are some I’ve found that work really well and are good for beginners:
- Alton Brown’s Clarified Milk Punch – This is a tea-based milk punch with port, rum, and allspice, so it packs a lot of holiday-esque flavors!
- Clarified Piña Colada – It has the texture of a margarita on the rocks but literally tastes like a creamy piña colada! Milk punch magic!
- Green Tea Clarified Milk Punch – This recipe comes with a bizarre history lesson.
- Clarified Pumpkin Spice Latte – It’s still PSL season imo.
Can you make dairy-free milk punch?
Yes! You can use any plant milk that readily curdles to make a dairy-free milk punch. I’d recommend using almond milk or coconut milk. This paloma milk punch, for example, only uses coconut milk as its milk base.
Can you make nonalcoholic milk punch?
Absolutely! The alcohol honestly has nothing to do with the curdling process here, so it isn’t required for the technique. You’re welcoming to use a nonalcoholic spirit like Seedlip for a little more texture to your milk punch mocktail, but you can also essentially mimic any of the milk punches I’ve linked and just skip the booze. Or if you have some mocktail making experience, you can sub your favorite nonalcoholic liquids for whatever spirit the original recipe calls for. Whole Foods has a juniper lime soda that subs well for gin. Coconut sodas can also sub for white rums.
Can you batch milk punches?
OH BOY, CAN YOU! The clarification process makes milk punches super long-lasting. This is why you’ll sometimes find clarified milk punches on tap at certain cocktail bars. While they’re not shelf-stable, they’ll stay good in the fridge for many weeks. So you can make these in large batches and bottle them up, the same way you might do with coquito during the holiday season.
If you make any milk punches, tell me about them! And feel free to exchange tips and tricks in the comments, especially if you’re a real queer mixologist and not just a wannabe like myself!