No, we’re not talking about the icy, frothy, creamy Southern drink made with bourbon and straight-up milk. In fact, you might not even know this drink has milk in it at all — the end product is clear. But milk it has, and clear it is, thanks to an age-old, lengthy process bartenders across the country are now taking advantage of: cold ingredients are added to hot milk to curdle it, the solids are removed, and the remaining liquid is strained until clear. The result is a silky clarified elixir that’s wining over countless bar patrons.
These drinks are not creamy, like the brandy or bourbon milk punches common in New Orleans; they are clarified elixirs. Cold ingredients are combined with hot milk so that the milk curdles; the blend is filtered repeatedly until the liquid becomes clear. This can take hours. Then, typically, the punch rests for a day or so until served. If you don’t have the time, you don’t have this punch.
But bartenders are taking the time, often in response to popular demand. “There’s almost a cult following,” said Naomi Levy, the assistant bar manager at Eastern Standard. “I have regulars who request I let them know when the next milk punch will be.”
Photo by Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times