I realize how snobby this will probably sound, but I’ve never been a fan of store bought eggnog.
I guess it’s because I was spoiled my whole life by my mother’s eggnog. Every year we’d have a big family Christmas party and she’d spend the whole day making cocktail sauce and big bowls of shrimp, layering trays of her famous taco dip, and whipping up two huge punch bowls full of her Christmas eggnogs (one them regular, the other chocolate, both spiked with plenty of hooch).
She used to save a little for us before adding the booze when we were really little, and when we finally reached double digits we were allowed just a tiny cup of the same nog as the adults.
When I was still pretty young I didn’t really like the taste of the adult version, but it was so thick and rich and heavy that even when I was old enough to actually enjoy the alcohol I couldn’t have more than a cup or two before feeling full to the point of bursting.
Right after college I decided to host a holiday soiree of my very own, and I thought a big batch of mom’s homemade eggnog would be just the ticket. It was every bit as rich and delicious as I remembered, but it was my first and last time making it. Once was enough for me to decide that it took too much time and effort to make something so heavy that people wanted only one or two cups. Of course, everyone loved it, but they all moved on to something else later in the night, and half of it went to waste.
Just before Christmas in the first year that Russell and I lived together I spotted a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that piqued my interest.
I’ve never been a huge fan of milk as a beverage on it’s own. I don’t even usually eat cookies with milk, and reserve it only for cereal instead. There was bourbon in this milk punch recipe though so I was willing to give it a shot.
It’s so much lighter, and so much simpler to make, that I honestly didn’t expect it to hold a candle to homemade eggnog. To my surprise though, I absolutely loved it! It’s doesn’t really taste like eggnog; it’s not nearly as rich and custardy and, well, eggy; but it does have a sort of similar flavor profile. A bit of milk, a bit of cream, a bit of sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of nutmeg; all topped off with enough booze to make it taste exceedingly festive.
I was in love.
I may actually even like this better than eggnog. I mean, I still think homemade eggnog is the bee’s knees, but this is just as festive and you don’t want a nap after one glass!
I wouldn’t exactly call milk punch healthy, but I would say that it’s a heck of a lot healthier than eggnog. Much less fat and a bit less cream, and no raw eggs to worry about. You’d never know it though. This stuff is TASTY!
Recipes for versions of milk punch (very different versions from this one) actually date back to colonial times. Benjamin Franklin even had his own recipe that’s been making the rounds on the internet lately.
These days recipes similar to this one are very popular in the South, especially in New Orleans where it’s often served with breakfast or brunch. There’s even a scene in the film “The Help” where a milk punch is being prepared before a meeting of the ladies bridge club.
The first time I tried milk punch I made it with bourbon, following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to a T.
Just before I decided to share it here with all of you though, I saw an an article about a taste test for the best hooch to use for eggnog. After tasting some nog spiked with various spirits, straight or in combination, they found that a mix of rum and brandy had the best, most quintessentially “holiday” flavor.
While I absolutely love bourbon 365 days a year, I decided that I could let rum and brandy have their turn for this holiday recipe. I’m so glad that I did, because it somehow made my milk punch taste even more similar to a homemade eggnog. Even if you’d still prefer bourbon though, this recipe is nice and strong, as any holiday cocktail should be.
If you have time, I’d recommend freezing your milk punch for a few hours until it gets slushy. It has a thicker, almost milkshake like texture this way, and it means you can make it ahead of your guests and take it out whenever they arrive. You can even make it a day ahead and keep it in the freezer, but you’ll need to stir it up and let it sit out for a bit if it freezes through.
The second best method would be to shake it in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice until it gets super cold and frothy. For an even easier presentation, you could simply serve it in a punch bowl with plenty of ice, or even a frozen milk ice ring. Either way, just finish it with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg and you’re in holiday heaven!
Holiday Milk Punch
4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream *see note
1 cup good dark rum (not spiced rum)
1/2 cup brandy (or cognac) **see note
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish.
In a pitcher, whisk together milk, heavy cream, rum, brandy, sugar and vanilla.
This can be served a few ways. You can serve very well chilled in an icy punch bowl, or shaken with ice until frothy and frigid. My favorite way though, is to freeze it until slushy. This will take 3 to 4 hours, but you can leave it in there up to a day. Stir before serving it in chilled glasses, finished with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.
*For a thinner, healthier version use more milk and less cream. For a thicker, richer version use more cream and less milk, equalling 5 cups total.
** You can use more brandy and less rum if desired, or all brandy, all rum, or even all bourbon. I think 1 1/2 cups of alcohol total offers the best flavor, but you can do less if you don’t like as much hair on your chest.