“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw
I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.
Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.
I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.
Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?
Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.
And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.
Today is Oct. 22nd.
That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.
Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.
We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”
As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.
“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.
And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
my thoughts are turning to Fall.
As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.
Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!
My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.
So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.
Enter the clarified milk punch.
A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.
One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.
The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.
My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.
I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.
And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.
The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.
I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.
I asked about his drink that was no longer available.
Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.
He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.
As in all good things…right?
He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.
He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.
I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.
He made good on his word…
My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.
I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.
My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)
And so in turn, I have researched.
History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.
Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.
But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.
Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.
There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.
But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.
A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.
After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.
The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.
Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.
I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.
My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.
No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.