Merry Milk Punch! by Bianca Sterling

Got Milk Punch? Gift it! And have a hooch-filled holiday season

Gift-giving season has arrived, or rather, is approaching at a frightening speed. For those of us who have decided we are going to *totally crush* this holiday season, it’s time to get crafty. Gift giving can be tricky, and there always seems to be more recipients on the list than expected. 

So how does one please the many? Simple, gift in bulk. 

It’s a method we’ve witnessed for years. December comes and neighbors exchange baskets of toffee, cookies, and other sweets. Your DIY friend makes candles or sugar scrubs and hands out many a mason jar at the gift exchange. Then there’s the infamous (and let’s face it, boring) Starbucks gift card givers. The idea for all these methods is the same, find something everyone likes and then make sure everyone gets one with their name on it. Well, in my group you know what everyone likes? Alcohol. So I bring you the idea this season to gift a cocktail, but not just any cocktail. This year, give the gift of a clarified milk punch.

If you don’t know what a clarified milk punch is, there may be some question marks dancing above your head right now, but don’t worry, they won’t be there long. Clarified milk punch is a complete cocktail that has a more viscous mouthfeel than a typical drink and remains shelf stable indefinitely. The magic of this drink is that the milk that is used in the cocktail is purposefully curdled and then fully strained from the drink itself, making it silky smooth and totally dairy-free. This incredible concoction was invented in the 1600s, and was rumored to be Queen Victoria’s favorite drink at the time, although I have a feeling she’d be much more impressed with the milk punches of today.

Now, if those question marks have morphed into a heightened curiosity, I am here to help! Below is everything you need to know to make your own and a cheat sheet go-to recipe if you want to skip all the fuss!

In order to make a proper milk punch, you need five things: 

  1. Liquor
  2. Sugar, 
  3. Acid
  4. Tannins, 
  5. (and obviously) Milk. 

Every component here is equally important. Liquor is the base for the cocktail. The sugar plays as the sort of glue between the liquor and the rest of the ingredients. The acid is used to curdle the milk (so it can eventually be strained out), and the tannins help the acids bind to the dairy during this process. 

In a way, it’s like a fun alcoholic science experiment. There are many processes one can take to make a successful milk punch, and the rabbit holes of the internet display many examples of the “dos and don’ts”, sometimes conflicting with one another. I say, find the way that works for you and run with it. Here is what works for me:


  • Use any liquor you fancy. 
  • For the sugar component, I like to do at least one sweetener (i.e. infused/flavored syrup, honey, agave) and one liqueur (any of your choosing as long as the flavors compliment each other). 
  • Tannins seems like an intimidating category, most of us know them from wine tastings, but they’re also found in tea. Choose whatever tea you like, but make it much stronger than you normally would, about five times stronger.
  • Acid is the easy one; lime, lemon, orange, and pineapple juice are my go-tos. (Pro Tip! Always use freshly squeezed, never store bought.) 
  • For the dairy aspect, the most important thing is the fat content to ensure that it curdles properly. I always use whole milk, or half and half for a little extra creaminess.

Proportions: Probably the trickiest part of making a great punch is getting each ratio of each ingredient to the perfect amount. In all my milk punch trials, I have yet to find a perfect ratio recipe, but here are the general ranges of amounts for each component that I tend to follow; (the amounts are in “per cocktail” form).

  • Liquor: 1.5oz-2oz
  • Sugar: .75oz-1.5oz
  • Acid: .25oz-.75oz
  • Tannins: .5oz-.75oz
  • Dairy: .5oz-.75oz

Making Testers: When making a milk punch batch, always make a tester. For me this looks like using ounces as my measurement instead of cups. For example if my testing recipe calls for one ounce base of booze, that means when I make my batch I will use one cup of booze. This means that my batch will have eight times as much volume as my tester, since there are eight ounces in a single cup. Making testers is also helpful because these punches are notoriously laborious and time consuming to strain, so you want to make sure the juice is just right before you spend hours straining big batches.


  1. Combine liquor, sugar, and tannins. Add acid. Add milk.
  2. Let it sit (covered) overnight
  3. Strain
  4. Strain again
  5. Bottle and store in the fridge
  6. Smack a bow on it and give it away!

Combining:When testing or batching, combine the liquor, sugar, and tannins in one vessel, follow with the acid, and then pour the measured milk INTO the rest of the concoction. The order of operations is very important because otherwise it will not curdle properly. Let your potion sit refrigerated for a minimum of 5 hours (ideally overnight), or until you can see a clear separation between the dairy and the rest of the liquid.

Straining: As they say, good things don’t come easy. Or in this case, quickly. The milk punch will strain at its own pace, usually one small drop at a time. Set aside several hours (depending on how big of a batch you’re making) to strain out your dairy. There are various methods for straining. Some people use cheesecloth, others may reach for special linens, I prefer coffee filters. This method is simple and clean. Strain once through a single coffee filter, and then strain again through two coffee filters. The result is a silky smooth translucent cocktail.

Color: One of the trickiest components of creating a clarified milk punch is getting the color to look clear and not muddled. Until you’ve played around a bit, my best advice to you is to use ingredients that are either naturally clear, or all the same color already.

Now I know what you’re thinking; “holy cannoli that’s a lot of work” and you’re right, this is a gift that is definitely made with the labor of love. So in the spirit of the holiday season, and in case you don’t have time to make a bunch of testers and batches for yourself, here is the recipe for one of my own clarified milk punches.

Irish Good Morning (tester recipe)

¼ oz butterscotch syrup

½  oz cinnamon turbinado syrup

¾ oz coffee liqeuer

½ oz coffee

2 oz whiskey

½ oz orange juice

¼  oz lemon juice

1 oz half and half

*cinnamon turbinado syrup: combine one part turbinado sugar with one part filtered water. Simmer over low heat with 3 cinnamon sticks per one cup of liquid for 10-15 minutes or until combined.

*coffee is guest starring as the tannins in this recipe, brew 5x stronger than normal

*to make a full batch of this recipe (8 cocktails) change all the measurements to cups (i.e. ¼ cup butterscotch syrup, ½ cup coffee, 2 cups whiskey)

*Pro Tip! I like to gift mine in reusable glass milk jugs, because how cute is that!

My hope is that this recipe helps guide you in your own milk punch journey, and my suggestion is that you make an extra batch for yourself!

Remember to always sip safely.

Merry Milk Punch to all and to all a drunk night.

Bianca (she/her) is a lover of all things art. She’s been in the food service industry for nearly a decade and has found herself behind the bar this last year. When she’s not behind the bar you can find her dancing, although there’s plenty of that while she’s shaking up cocktails too! You can find her on instagram at @biancaxxnicole

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