“Milk punch is a recent thing for me, and the inspiration, as all my good inspirations do, happened when dining alone at Gramercy Tavern — my true north, my Mecca!” laughs Chimene Macnaughton, the brainy, convivial beverage director for Honest Man Hospitality. “They had a gin cocktail that was a milk punch on their menu. I tasted it and it was just amazing. Revelatory! It did what milk punches do — it softens the ingredients, integrates them and knits them together in this way other cocktails can’t achieve.”
But while making milk punches is a recent obsession for Macnaughton, their existence, she says, is no tippling trick. The first time a recipe for one appeared in print was 1711, according to the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. Its purpose was twofold: aesthetically, to “clarify” or make any unwanted cloudiness turn crystal clear, and to stabilize a drink’s ingredients for the long term in the days before refrigeration.
“My fascination with them probably has something to do with the fact that my entire family all have engineer minds — my brother is a rocket scientist!” she laughs. “The alchemy and potion vibe are something that I’m super into.”
Macnaughton has created a different milk punch cocktail for the constellation of restaurants in Honest Man’s East End universe: the Gramercy Worship for Nick & Toni’s, and three other individual signature drinks for Rowdy Hall, Coche Comedor and Townline BBQ. Each will be sold by the glass at their respective establishments. Starting this fall, Honest Man will also sell as four-ounce to-go bottled cocktails priced at $20 apiece or $80 for all four.
But you can — and should! — try your hand at making some at home. A chinoise (fine metal strainer), nut bag or some cheesecloth along with some high-fat whole milk are the easy-peasy secret ingredients.
“These are made for dinner parties,” says Macnaughton. “Everyone will think you slaved and all you do is stir it up, pour it over ice and there you go!”
Gramercy Worship Milk Punch by Chimene Macnaughton
- 10 oz Suntory Roku Japanese gin
- 7 1/2 oz Eve’s Cidery NY Apple Cider
- 2 1/2 oz Busnel Calvados
- 2 1/2 oz rich simple syrup
- 2 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 6 oz Ronnybrook Creamline whole milk (freshest high-fat milk is a must — many local supermarkets carry it)
- Chartreuse Végétal, to coat the glass