Jazz Up Brunch with New Orleans Milk Punch
Can I declare patio brunch season open? I'm excited enough about the change in seasons that this night owl bartender is almost willing to get out of bed before noon.
My favorite part of brunch is, of course, the accompanying cocktails. After all, without them, brunch is just a late breakfast, right?
I do enjoy a good Mimosa or Bloody Mary, but I feel like those are done to death. I also like taking the elaborate route, and making a decadent New Orleans brunch cocktail like the famous Ramos Gin Fizz or an Absinthe Suissesse.
There's one problem with those drinks, though. They're an utter pain in the ass to make. The ingredient list is fiddly to the point that if you put in too much of a supporting ingredient, the drink is all but ruined. Moreover, the requisite egg white dry shake (shaking all of the ingredients together without ice to fully emulsify the egg white into the drink before shaking everything with ice) means it takes more time to make one of those cocktails than it takes to make an omelet.
There happens to be a happy medium, the Milk Punch. All of the top-flight New Orleans brunch places have their own spin on the drink, but they all follow a similar formula. Start with dark spirits (either brandy or bourbon), add dairy (milk, half-and-half, or a combination of both), and put in a little sugar to round out the mixture. Some places also add a splash of vanilla, an addition I find most worthwhile.
Quite a few milk punch recipes go with the traditional cocktail route and shake everything together with ice, before straining the drink over fresh ice. The drink comes out better if you don't shake it with ice. Since you already have a weak ingredient in the form of dairy products, adding water in the form of melted ice only serves to make a watered down milk punch.
For proportions, I find 4 parts dairy to 1 part spirits is most pleasing, letting the alcohol's presence be known without being overly assertive. To my taste, the ideal dairy to use is a mix of equal parts of whole milk and half-and-half. You can adjust that ratio to fit your own tastes. New Orleans restaurants often use all half-and-half to make an especially decadent tipple. Or, if you prefer something a little lighter, you can use all milk.
But if you use low-fat milk or (heaven forbid) skim, don't you dare tell anyone you got the recipe from me.
While you can just stir everything together and enjoy, I like giving the drink at least a quick courtesy shake (or a quick shot with my cheap battery operated milk frother) to develop an attractive frothy head on the drink.
Even better, you can make this for a crowd in seconds. Pour everything into the blender, whiz everything together on high for about five seconds, then pour into individual glasses, top them with a dash of nutmeg, and enjoy.
One more thing: While a milk punch is lovely for brunch, it's even better served hot on a cold, wet night. It's like a warm, soft blanket you can drink. Just heat the milk until steaming and you're good to go.
Milk Punch 1 ounce brandy or bourbon 2 ounces half-and-half 2 ounces whole milk 1/2 ounce simple syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla Mix everything together, mixing with a hand blender if you wish. Pour into a glass over ice, and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg.
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