Magazine article The Spectator

The Best Milk Cocktails

Magazine article The Spectator

The Best Milk Cocktails

Article excerpt

A few years ago, I came across an interview with an illustrious French chef who had made his home in Britain. I've forgotten which chef, but I do remember him going to some lengths to impress on us rosbifs just how lucky we are with our dairy cows. When he moved here, he was astonished by the quality of milk available to the average Briton and remade a number of his dishes to celebrate our heavenly liquid. And of course, anyone who has gazed at the UHT nonsense you find in French supermarkets will believe him, having experienced this epiphany in reverse.

His enthusiasm now seems poignant as it becomes clear how disgracefully Britain treats its dairy farmers (the French wouldn't stand for it) and what complacent consumers we are. Our wholesalers and supermarkets have squeezed the national udder dry by conditioning us to believe milk is worth only 50p per pint. This in a land where people are cool with spending £3.50 on a carton of coconut water.

I've been searching for recipes to help us appreciate this native marvel afresh. And if it takes the addition of alcohol, then so be it, for there's any number of milk cocktails to be rediscovered, from the guilty pleasure of the White Russian to custardy eggnogs. In Jerry Thomas'sBartenders Guide of 1862 for example, there's a splendid instruction for barmen about how to serve 'White Plush': 'Hand a bottle of bourbon or rye whiskey to the customer and let him help himself. Fill up the glass with fresh milk.' The part I like best is the bottle being handed over.

The fanciest way to combine milk and liquor is in a proper clarified Milk Punch, a New Orleans staple to this day. You must separate the milk and filter the whey through the curds, which would have made a transparent punch for bottling. The first known recipe comes from the Isle of Man in the late 17th century and, for something that looks like baby vomit while you're making it, the results are silken smooth. Just use the finest British milk you can get hold of -- and remember to tip your cow.

Clarified Milk Punch

Almost all of the ingredients are variable as long as you keep the sweet/sour/strong/dilute elements in balance. Try green or jasmine tea instead of camomile or replace the sugar with any combination of honey, maple syrup, maraschino, Grand Marnier, cherry brandy, etc. A baby's muslin cloth will do for the filtering. Serves six.

Whole spices (e.g., cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, coriander seeds)

250ml dark rum

50 ml brandy

250ml camomile tea

25ml golden sugar syrup

50ml lemon juice

250ml milk

Dash of absinthe

Remove the skins from the lemons with a peeler, taking care to avoid the bitter white pith. …

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