Benjamin Franklin’s Milk Punch, Part 3: Re-creation

A Modern Replication of a Colonial Cocktail in Three Parts

With the Massachusetts Historical Society’s “modern adaptation” of Benjamin Franklin’s 1863 Milk Punch recipe in hand, I decided to make a smaller, one eighth sized batch of Franklin’s punch – just enough for me.  After reviewing the list of required ingredients, I had everything I needed, save fresh lemons.

A half hour later, I was back from the neighborhood grocery with six bright yellow lemons.  My reduced-size batch’s exact ingredients were:

– 3 cups brandy (I used Remy Martin V.S.)

– Zest from 5 ½ lemons

– 1 cup lemon juice (squeezed from the zested lemons)

– 2 cups water

– 1 ½ cups whole milk

– 1 ½ teaspoons powdered nutmeg

– 18 tablespoons sugar (1 heaping cup)

After zesting the lemons and transferring the zest into a large half gallon mason jar, I added the three cups of Remy Martin.  Here, Franklin’s instructions are to let the contents sit for a full day, so I capped the jar and set it aside.  I then juiced the lemons into a small bowl and tossed it in the fridge.  The first step was complete.

The following evening, I began with straining the zest from the brandy.  I used cheesecloth for this, which worked better than I had thought.  The brandy was now in a large mixing bowl (I recommend using a very large bowl).  I next added the lemon juice, water, nutmeg, sugar, and then stirred the whole mix until the sugar dissolved and the nutmeg mostly dissipated.

That brings us to the milk, which I considered the recipe’s most difficult and interesting ingredient.  I heated the milk in a saucepan over medium heat, bringing it to a low boil without scorching or burning it.  I think I used a bit too much caution here, because it felt like it took forever – you know what they say about a watched pot.  Once the milk was boiling, I immediately added it to the mix, then stirred for a few minutes.  The milk will curdle in the mix after a minute or so.  After stirring, I let the entire mix sit in the bowl for two hours.

Following the two hour rest, Franklin instructs straining the punch through a jelly bag; the Historical Society, on the other hand, recommends using a pillow case.  I first tried using a new piece of cheesecloth, but it was slow going.  So my wife came up with a particularly innovative idea: she dug out our yogurt cheese strainer (for making labneh cheese) to strain the thick, frothy curd from the drink.  It worked like a charm.  After straining, my one eighth batch made just about three pints of milk punch.

I let the punch chill in the fridge for a bit before I tried it, but a few cubes of ice would work just fine.  Just like the Historical Society’s description, my punch was indeed lemony, with just a hint of brandy and a heavy nutmeg aftertaste.  The curdled milk thickens the punch so as to leave a light residue in your glass.  And although I wouldn’t describe the taste as medicinal, I could see how others would.

Nonetheless, my punch was cold and refreshing, bright and puckering – a fine beverage to drink year round, or a great beverage to serve when hosting a party.  So raise a glass from your own batch to Benjamin Franklin: Founding Father, statesman, inventor, and let’s not forget – drinker.

Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm  Comments Off on Benjamin Franklin’s Milk Punch, Part 3: Re-creation  
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