Got Milk (Punch)?


While New Orleans Classics like the Sazerac, the Vieux Carre and even the Hand Grenade have inspired a multitude of variations over the years, the city’s contribution to the brunch table—the Milk Punch—has seen less frivolity, less evolution. Perhaps it is because of the milk—hardly an adaptable ingredient—or perhaps it is because the original is pretty near perfect on its own. Whatever the reason, the Milk Punch has gone unchanged for too long. Luckily, brilliant bartenders with a penchant for dairy are now going rogue, imagining new ways to give drinkers their booze along with their daily dose of vitamin D.

From a bitter, summery transformation, to a sweet breakfast-y interpretation, to a salty take from even further south, here are three fresh takes on the Milk Punch.

Classic Milk Punch is a silky, frothy cup of dairy, spiked with rich rum and bourbon—making it perfect for chilly fall evenings but a bit heavy for the warmer months. Not wanting to give up his creamy cup of punch come June, Matt Piacentini of The Up & Up in New York City elevated the weighty classic by clarifying the milk, creating a translucent but still luxurious substance. He layers that ghostly milk with the flavors of bitter Aperol, botanical gin and a hint of absinthe. “It’s delightfully bright, and light,” Piacentini says. “You have this silky, bitter base, with lemon, licorice, and juniper floating above it all. It’s like two different drinks at the same time.” Consider this your new year-round milk punch.

The Essentials

At Ghost Donkey, a tequila and mezcal-focused bar in New York City, Nacho Jimenez and Eben Freeman look beyond New Orleans to Jimenez’s native Mexico for their spin on the Milk Punch, swapping in horchata ice cream for the usual milk. “The consistency is pretty similar to a traditional Milk Punch,” Jimenez explains, “but the taste is definitively Mexican.”

The ice cream—which the pair sources from their fellow expert in Mexican flavors, Fany Gerson of La Newyorkina—provides a powerful spiced-cinnamon flavor up front, while Gerson’s cajeta, the Mexican version of dulce de leche made from goat’s milk, gives the drink a caramelized sweetness. It all comes together with a traditional base of brandy for a drink that’s at once similar to and deliciously different from the classic Milk Punch.

The Essentials

Horchata Ice Cream
While the original Milk Punch was birthed in England, New Orleans adopted it as its own. Now, it can be found on menus in bars and restaurants across the French Quarter and beyond. At SoBou, bar chef Laura Bellucci respects faithful stalwarts serving up the OG version, but prefers to have a little fun with her own recipe. Inspired by the milky base, Bellucci added dairy’s perfect partner, cereal, to the mix. She infuses rum with Honey Nut Cheerios, then sweetens the pot with a few dashes of Holiday Pie Bitters, and garnishes each serving with a skewer of Cheerios. “It’s a little spiced, creamy, breakfast treat,” she says. “Tastes like grown-up cereal milk.”

The Essentials

Cheerio-infused rum
honey syrup

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