The Varnish's Milk Punch

[Photo: Lizz Schumer]

This historic clarified milk punch recipe originates from a 1711 British recipe, but The Varnish's Max Seaman made some modifications for the modern day drinker. It's a rich, citrusy drink that will easily be the star of your holiday party.

Notes: To make turbinado syrup, dissolve 1 pound of turbinado sugar (about 2 1/4 cups) in 3 cups hot water.

The Varnish's Milk Punch

About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 12 to 15 people
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:At least 3 1/2 hours and up to one day
Special equipment:Large saucepan, fine mesh strainer, muddled, punch bowl for serving
This recipe appears in: Drink Like the Old Days: How to Make The Varnish's Milk Punch


  • Peeled zest of 6 lemons plus 1 1/3 cups juice from a total of about 10 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups turbinado simple syrup (see note above)
  • 2 cups cognac, such as Pierre Ferrand 1840
  • 1 quart demerara rum, such as El Dorado Five-Year
  • Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg


  1. 1

    Place peeled zest in a non-reactive bowl or container. Add superfine sugar and muddle until the sugar starts to pull out the essential oil in the peels, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. After it sits, the peels will shrivel and the oils and sugar will combine into a fragrant syrup, called the oleo-saccharum.

  2. 2

    Heat milk in a large saucepan, stirring constantly, until steaming but not boiling. Off heat, add the oleo-saccharum (with the zest), lemon juice, simple syrup, cognac, and rum. Stir vigorously until the curds and whey have separated. Strain mixture though a fine mesh strainer to remove curds and zest. Add more syrup or dilute with water to adjust sweetness. Serve warm or cold, topped with freshly grated nutmeg.


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