Milk Punch No. 1

You may remember that a couple weeks ago I made a Hibiscus Milk Punch based on a recipe I read on another blog.

The whole thing was a bit of a leap of faith, given I’d never made anything similar or even tried it.

However, it turned out so well, I thought I should turn back the clock a bit further and investigate an older recipe for Milk Punch. So when Daniel Hyatt suggested we make some punches for one of our Savoy Cocktail Book night at Alembic, I thought I would make Savoy Milk Punch No. 1. Upon investigation, it turns out it is based on a recipe from the 1862 version of Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide.

The recipe from Mr. Thomas is as follows.

California Milk Punch.
(For Bottling.)
Take the juice of four lemons.
The rind of two lemons.
½ pound of white sugar, dissolved in sufficient hot water.
1 pineapple, peeled, sliced and pounded.
6 cloves.
20 coriander seeds.
1 small stick of cinnamon.
1 pint of brandy.
1 pint of Jamaica rum.
1 gill of Batavia Arrack.
1 cup of strong green tea.
1 quart of boiling water.
1 quart of hot milk.

Put all the materials in a clean demijohn, the boiling water to be added last; cork this down to prevent evaporation, and allow the ingredients to steep for at least six hours; then add the hot milk and the juice of two more lemons; mix, and filter through a jelly-bag; and when the punch has passed bright, put it away in tight-corked bottles.

This punch is intended to be iced for drinking. If intended for present use filtering is not necessary.

California Milk Punch

Using Mr. Thomas recipe as a starting point:

Bernal Heights Milk Punch
1 qt Osocalis Brandy.
1 pt Appleton V/X.
1 pt Coruba.
1 pt Batavia Arrack von Osten.
Peel 4 lemons.
Juice 6 lemons, strained
1/2 pineapple, chopped and crushed.
6 cloves.
1 cinnamon stick (cassia).
5 Green Cardamom Pods, Crushed.
4 teaspoons Lung Ching Dragonwell Tea.
16 oz Water
1/2 # Florida Crystals.
1 quart Straus Family Creamery Whole Milk.

Peel lemons and add to Brandy.  Juice 4 lemons and crush pineapple.  Add to rums (including Arrack).  Allow both to infuse for 48 hours.

Heat water and add spices and tea. After it has steeped for 10 minutes, strain. Add sugar, stir to combine, and cool.

Juice other two lemons and add to pineapple, lemon, and rum mixture. Heat milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to Rum, lemon, and pineapple mixture. Allow to stand for 30 minutes and filter through cheesecloth. Strain brandy mixture off peels. Combine Rum mixture, brandy mixture, and syrup. Cool, bottle in clean containers, and chill over night. Filter again through coffee filters, leaving any sediment which has collected in the bottom of the containers behind.  Makes about 3 quarts.

Perhaps not so oddly, I misremembered the recipe and used Cardamom instead of Coriander. But I really like the clove/cardamom nexus, so not a bad thing.  I needed some pineapple and pineapple juice for another cocktail this week, so only used half for the punch.  More pineapple wouldn’t hurt.  The initial division of the infusions was just a result of the size of my containers, but actually seemed to help with getting a firmer curd from the milk solids.  If I had to do it again, I’d do it the same way.

The water amounts didn’t really make sense to me for starting with 80 proof booze. My guess is Thomas was working with cask strength liquors, to require that much dilution. So I adjusted a bit. Perhaps a bit too much, as according to Mrs. Flannestad, this ended up a bit strong and boozy.  Depending on your perspective, that may be bad or good.

Very good response to the punch at Alembic’s Savoy Cocktail Book night last Sunday, so if you’re feeling adventurous give it a try.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.  We just served it over ice with a splash of soda.  It would make a fantastic highball!

Even though I can now cross this off the list of Savoy punches I need to make, I have a feeling I’ll be making this Milk Punch again some time soon.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Underhill Punsch II

In the quest to make a Swedish Punch Clone, I had combined two Jerry Thomas recipes and made a variation using Sri Lankan Arrack. While interesting, I later discovered it wasn’t very Similar to Swedish Punch.

I re-used the same procedure recently using Batavia Arrack.

This was what I did:

Underhill Punsch II

1 cup Appleton V/X Rum
1/2 cup Batavia Arrack
1 cup hot extra strong tea (2 tsp Peet’s Lung Ching Dragonwell tea brewed in 1 cup water)
1 cup sugar
1 lemon sliced thinly, seeds removed
1 lime sliced thinly, seeds removed

Put sliced lemon and lime in a resealable non-reactive container large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid. Pour Rum and Batavia Arrack over citrus. Cover and steep for 6 hours.

Dissolve sugar in hot tea and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.

After 6 hours, pour rum off of sliced citrus, without squeezing fruit.

Combine tea syrup and flavored rum. Filter and bottle in a clean sealable container. Age at least overnight and enjoy where Swedish Punch is called for.

The interaction between the Chinese green tea and the lime gives this an interesting flavor. One person who tried it compared it to the bitter greens they’d just had in their salad. Just on its own, at room temperature, this is a little much, as the intense bitter lime aftertaste tends to linger on the palate. Over ice, though, it is quite a pleasant beverage. I’m going to be interested to see how this variation mixes.

Ar(r)a(c)k Disambiguation

Danger! Spirits Geekery Ahead!

There are at least three different spirits that share a similarly spelled name, Ar(r)a(c)k.

The reason for this is that the Arabic word for something that means, more or less, “booze,” sounds like Arak. Well, actually, according to Wikipedia, it means sweat or juice, and seems to refer to way the droplets of alcohol collect and drip from a still.

The first, and likely most common, of these you’ll run across is usually called Arak. It comes from Lebanon and is a distilled spirit flavored with Anise (a.k.a. Pimpinella anisum). It is a fine and historic liquor in the continuum of anise flavored Mediterranean liquors including, moving Westward, Greek Ouzo, Italian Sambuca, French Anisette, Absinthe, Spanish Anis, and Portuguese Anis Escharchado. Lebenese Arak is traditionally made on a wine base, so is a flavored brandy. Post distillation it is often aged for a period in clay jars, mellowing it a bit. Many Absinthe fanciers feel, in the absence of real Absinthe, because it is often only lightly sweetened, Lebanese Arak it is the best substitute. In Lebanon it usually drunk, diluted with 3 or 4 parts water, to accompany a celebration or party. Some good brands are Razzouk and Sannine.

The second type of Arrack, which you are actually quite unlikely to run across, is Sri Lankan Arrack. It is also sometimes called “Palm Brandy”. It is made by hacking off the blossom bud of a coconut palm tree, and then collecting the syrup which accumulates there. Interestingly, this substance spontaneously ferments extremely quickly, becoming palm wine. It can pretty much be distilled the moment after it is tapped to produce Arrack. As a note, in Sri Lanka the term “Arrack” doesn’t always refer to Coco Palm Arrack. It can be used to refer to pretty much any old home distilled moonshine-like substance. Darcy has some good tasting notes regarding the flavor of Sri Lankan Coco Palm Arrack in his article. It tastes a bit like a cross between rum and whiskey, with some other odd flavors hanging around.

The third type of Arrack is Batavia Arrack. This is made in Indonesia. The base is sugar cane, like rum, but the fermentation is jump started with the addition of fermented red rice. The importance of the fermented red rice in the flavor of the final product cannot be understated. It gives it an unusual taste that initially often puts people off. However, in small doses, it’s an amazing flavor enhancer and has a character that seems to directly appeal to some portion of the brain. In fact for the last 30-40 years Batavia Arrack’s primary use has been in the Chocolate Industry and Pastry Kitchens. Adding that little extra hook to an already addictive substances. But prior to that it was used in Punches and other complex alcoholic libations, including a lost cocktail ingredient called “Swedish Punsch.”

For years, Batavia Arrack was only available as a mail order item from obscure German Language websites. However, recently a US Company based in Minnesota began importing obscure spirits and liqueurs. Instead of basing it’s business model on pushing what it thinks cocktail enthusiasts and Food and Beverage professionals want, Haus Alpenz has chosen the odd tact of asking us for our opinions and sometimes giving us what we want. Pimento Dram, Violet Liqueur, Apricot Liqueur, and Batavia Arrack were all more or less lost to the US market until the company Haus Alpenz realized they could base a business on selling these highly desired commodities to cocktail enthusiasts and bars attempting to find lost flavors and use them as a base for new creations.

Should you decide to chance a purchase of Batavia Arrack, be warned it usually clocks in over 100 Proof, making it a bit on the dangerous side for straight consumption. Instead give the Swedish Punch recipe below a try, and then whip yourself up a Biffy Cocktail.

Flannestad Swedish (wait, maybe this should be Norwegian!) Punch
(Adapted from Jerry Thomas)

1/2 Cup Batavia Arrack
1 Cup Amber Rum
2 Lemons, Sliced Thin

1 Cup black, or other, tea made by steeping 2 teaspoons of tea in 1 cup hot water
1 Cup Sugar (Raw or Demerara is nice)

Combine lemons, Rum, and Arrack. Steep covered for 12 hours. Add sugar to hot tea, cool to room temperature, and chill in the fridge. The next day, pour rum off of lemons, not crushing out lemon juice. Discard lemon slices, or squeeze out liquored juice for another use. Combine with Sweetened tea mixture, rest a day, strain through a coffee filter or layers of clean cheesecloth. Enjoy chilled or when Swedish punch is called for. Makes about 375 ml.

Biffy Cocktail

Speaking of Mr. Darcy O’Neil…

A couple years ago, Darcy published an article about Arrack. Being as I thought Arrack was, at the time, completely unavailable to those of us in North America, I was quick to send him a note asking where on earth he’d found it.

Batavia Arrack is important because it is used as the base for a liqueur called Swedish Punch. Swedish Punch has not been available in the US for a number of years and has no direct substitute. If you want to make cocktails with it, your only real options are to either travel to Sweden or make it yourself. Unfortunately, as I noted, Arrack had also not been available in the US for a long time, so you couldn’t really even make it yourself.

After a little exchange of interests and ideas, a bottle of Very Special Old Arrack from Sri Lanka appeared on my doorstep.

In his article, Darcy also noted that Jerry Thomas had a few recipes for Arrack Punch. One involved Calves’ Foot Jelly, which seemed a little hard core for me, even if it really is the same stuff as Jello. The other two seemed fairly adaptable.

United Service Punch.
Take ½ pint of Arrack.
1 pint of Jamaica rum.
½ pound of loaf-sugar.
3 pints of hot tea.
6 lemons.

Rub off the peel of four of the lemons with some of the sugar. Dissolve the sugar in the tea; add the juice of all the lemons, and the Arrack. Serve cold.

Imperial Arrack Punch.
Take 1 quart of old Batavia Arrack.
6 lemons.
1 pound of loaf-sugar.
1 quart of boiling water.

Cut the lemons into thin slices, and steep them in the Arrack for six hours. Remove the lemons without squeezing them. Dissolve the sugar in the water, and add it while hot to the Arrack. Then let it cool. This makes a fine liqueur which should be thoroughly iced before serving.

I wasn’t sure about amounts for the liquids, since I have no idea what proof liquors Thomas might have been working with. I decided to shoot for something around 20% alcohol, since this seems to be where I see most Swedish Punch listed. I ended up doing a sort of hybrid of Thomas’ two recipes.

Trying to halve the recipe above, I steeped 2 thinly sliced lemon in 1/4 pint Arrack and 1/2 pint Mount Gay Eclipse Rum overnight.

I made a double strength cup of Darjeeling tea, dissolved a cup of Demerara sugar in it, cooled to room temperature, (the reason to cool to room temp before chilling is tea tends to cloud if chilled too quickly,) and chilled overnight.

In the morning I strained the alcohol mixture (not squeezing) and combined it with the tea syrup.

12 hours later, I ran the barely aged liqueur through a filter and bottled. The result wasn’t a bad tasting liqueur. A bit odd, it must be admitted. Still, tasty.

I had no idea, at the time, if it was remotely similar to real Swedish Punsch. But, that didn’t prevent me from making a Biffy Cocktail with it!

Biffy Cocktail

1/4 Lemon Juice (3/4 ounce Lemon Juice)
1/4 Swedish Punch (3/4 ounce homemade)
1/2 Dry Gin (1 1/2 Ounce Plymouth Gin)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

But, here’s the problem.

As I did more research about Arrack, I discovered that the Sri Lankan Arrack that Darcy had sent me is altogether different from Batavia Arrack. Sri Lankan Arrack is made by distilling Palm Wine.

The Batavia Arrack that Jerry Thomas is calling for, and that is used in Swedish Punch, is made in Indonesia and distilled from fermented Sugar Cane. It is basically a Rum. However, for a rum, it is unusual in that its fermentation is started with the addition of fermented red rice, giving it a hint of the unusual flavors, (for a Westerner,) that you find in Sake and some distilled Asian spirits.

The Biffy was tasty with my liqueur. If I’d had Batavia Arrack, I would have been making Swedish Punch. But with Sri Lankan Arrack, what I’d made wasn’t Swedish Punch.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.