Old as it may be, I hadn’t heard of milk punch before a few weeks ago but can assure you, I’ve thought about nothing else since, not blizzards, not book deadlines and not how long it will take for all of the molars to show up so we can get back to sleeping again. Nope, nothing but milk punch. An avid fan of eggnog — also, John Denver & The Muppets Chrismas album, carolers, chestnuts roasting on open fires and all sorts of things that are probably not expected from girl who celebrates Hanukah — but wary of all of the raw eggs and too impatient to tuck it away for anywhere from three weeks to a year to mellow flavor, milk punch seemed right up my alley.
Like all great drinks, it has an equally great history. Namely, that if you’re using it to cure whatever ails as you ring in the new year (or tomorrow, as a hair of the nog that bit you and yes, I do crack myself up) you’re doing it absolutely right as milk punch was initially concocted not as what I unbiasedly believe to be the coolest thing you could mix up at a party tonight but as medication. Apparently, people drank it in colonial times (even Ben Franklin had his own recipe!), people drank it on Mississippi riverboats but then sometime around World War 2, it fell off the map everywhere but New Orleans. Ah, New Orleans, this is just one more reason we like you.
Recipes for milk punch vary wildly. Some use superfine sugar, others use powdered sugar, which dissolves almost instantaneously. You might use brandy, whiskey or bourbon in it, but you know I used bourbon because, well, I always do. Some use milk, some use half-and-half (half cream, half milk, with about 10.5 to 18 percent milkfat) and many use both. The recipe below uses both but I’m going to be honest, given that most of us have retired any notions of healthfulness, at least until tomorrow, I might make it next time with all half-and-half as more of a cushion against the high booze ratio. Some recipes have you shake it with ice and serve it immediately but the ones I couldn’t get out of my head had you freeze it until slushy, a word I can assure you is much more charming inside this apartment than out.
I’ve been poking around the web this afternoon, since we dropped the little snowman off at his grandparents for the night, and I’ve read a lot of beautiful summaries of the year. There are recipes for black-eyed peas and tallies of the highs of 2010 and for a moment, I fretted that the pressure was on to say something pithy and clever. But did you read that part about dropping the baby off? You see, I have a party to get to and hope you don’t mind that I made you a drink instead. It’s slushy but toasty and I hope you clink glasses tonight with everyone that you love.
One year ago: Walnut Pesto and Spicy Caramel Popcorn
Two years ago: Pizza with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Onions, Pecan Sandies and Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
Three years ago: Caramel Cake (P.S. I just finished reading The Help which will have you craving this.)
Four years ago: Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti and Hazelnut Truffles
Adapted from Canal House, v.2
5 cups of a mixture of whole milk and half-and-half (4:1 is suggested, but I might go more like 3:2 next time)
1 1/2 cups bourbon, another whiskey or brandy
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish.
In a pitcher, whisk together milk, half-and-half, bourbon, sugar and vanilla. Freeze until slushy, which will take 3 to 4 hours, but you can leave it in there up to a day. Stir before serving it in chilled glasses, finished with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.