During the California gold rush, San Franciscans were introduced to the grape-based spirit pisco thanks to ships stopping in the port of Pisco, Peru, to pick up supplies on their way to the West Coast. San Francisco bartender Duggan McDonnell of Cantina adapted this recipe for aged pisco–milk punch from Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book of cocktail recipes called the Bartenders Guide. It’s a unique punch: You’ll infuse pisco with spices and citrus for 2 days, add milk and green tea syrup to it, age that mixture for 3 days, then strain it through cheesecloth to remove all the curdled bits. It may sound weird, but it produces a spiced, balanced holiday drink that’s not too rich or too sweet, despite being dairy-based.
Special equipment: You will need 1 large piece of ultrafine woven cheesecloth. It can be purchased at cooking supply stores or online.
What to buy: Pisco is a brandy distilled from South American white Muscat grapes. It can be found at well-stocked liquor stores or online.
Game plan: The pisco and rum are infused for 2 days before the milk is added, then the mixture needs 3 more days to age before serving, so plan accordingly. Once made, the milk punch will last up to 1 month stored in the refrigerator.
This recipe was featured as part of our Drinks from San Francisco’s Sleazy Past.
- 1Combine the pisco, rum, lemon zest, lemon juice, and spices in a 2-quart container. Cover and let infuse at room temperature for 2 days.
- 2Set a large fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the infused pisco mixture through the strainer and discard the contents of the strainer; set the infused pisco aside.
- 3Bring the brown sugar and water to a simmer in a small saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat, add the tea bags, and let steep for 6 minutes. Remove the tea bags, pressing on them with the back of a spoon to extract all of the liquid. Add the green tea syrup to the infused pisco and set aside.
- 4Place the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it’s almost hot and reaches 140°F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let the mixture steam), about 4 minutes. Add the milk to the pisco-tea mixture and stir to combine (it will curdle). Cover and refrigerate for 3 days.
- 5Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Pour the milk punch through the strainer and discard the contents of the strainer. Transfer the punch to a 2-quart container and refrigerate. Before serving, stir to recombine the ingredients. Serve chilled over ice topped with freshly grated nutmeg.