Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Brandy & Herbsaint Milk Punch.

Thirsty Thursday: well, as an alliteration, it had to be done, am I right? And it's appropriate, because one thing Louisianians love to do, in addition to eating, is have a good drink. Whether it's watching a Mardi Gras parade pass by, or sitting a 200 year old pub in The Quarter, or tailgating at a LSU Tigers game, or simply having a crawfish/crab/shrimp boil with friends, there will be drinks involved. So that's what Thursdays are about: the drinks of Louisiana.

And I'm not just talking about alcoholic drinks, because Lord knows Louisianians aren't drunk 24/7--so please don't interpret the above paragraph as such. People in the Bayou State just know how to pass a good time, and find the joie de vivre in every aspect of their lives. Time runs a little slower south of I-10, especially if you're sipping a perfect cup of cafe au lait or enjoying an Abita root beer.

Also, I have to state here that I am no booze-hound myself--my college years are far behind me and my liver pitches a fit if I ever dare forget that. But while working at a New Orleans wine store/gourmet deli during grad school, I learned to love trying new things, whether it be microbrews or local wineries or specialty cocktails. My husband & I frequently like to pick up mixed 6-packs of new & interesting brews from the store & split each of them, just so we can say we've tried it.

That disclaimer being made, let's move on to the drink of the day.


I don't know about where you are, but here, it has recently turned cold. Stupid cold. They were actually talking about the possibility of SNOW this morning on the radio. This is NOT my favorite time of year. This is the time just AFTER my favorite time of year, when the weather is "room temperature" outside and in, with just a slight crispness in the breeze, and the trees---thank the heavens for the trees.

But then THIS time of year shows up, and all those gorgeous leaves turn brown and end up in my back yard, on the ground for our dog to wallow in.

Eventually, I get over the death of my beautiful leaves, because it's still the time of year when nearly everything is "spiced". Spice cake, spice cookies, spiced cider, pumpkin spice lattes...I could go on, in true Bubba Gump flair. I am a pushover for all things "spice".

So much so, that I actually broke down & tried a "brandy milk punch", all because of some "spice".

Chef Susan Spicer, to be exact. (I mean, don't you just love that name? How could someone named "Spicer" NOT be a chef?) Chef Spicer is the mastermind behind the famous Bayona restaurant in New Orleans, as well as the creator of the Brandy & Herbsaint Milk Punch, which is just a kicked up version of the regular brandy milk punch, which is popular all over New Orleans, all times of the year. The Herbsaint version is noted for increasing in popularity when the weather starts to cool down a bit (in New Orleans, that's all of a what--balmy 60 degrees?).

I live in Louisiana for 6 years, and avoided the milk punch for most of those years, primarily because in my head, it just SOUNDED wrong. I've never been huge on the idea of milk with booze, despite regularly making White Russians when I tended bar back in college. It just feels WRONG. I make an exception for eggnog, just because it's so thick & spicy that I forget there's booze in there (though I usually drink the non-boozy version anyway, because a lot of people just add TOO much booze, which kills the beauty of the eggnog). So as far as "milk punch" goes, I pictured red Kool-Aid and 2% mixed together in some horrid pink concoction, and the thought curdled my brain.

But then, someone actually showed me a PICTURE of one while we were at Bayona for dinner one evening:

And I said, "Oh...that looks like eggnog! I like eggnog! And it's got NUTMEG on it! I love nutmeg!"

And I tried it. And, while I wouldn't want one every day, it was still pretty darn delicious. The brandy is warming, the nutmeg is spicy, it's just sweet enough, and then the Herbsaint adds a hint of anise that goes so well with the nutmeg.

So--here is Chef Spicer's recipe. I hope you try it & enjoy!

1-1/2 ounces brandy or bourbon (note: I have also had this made with Southern Comfort & it worked quite well)
1/4 ounce Herbsaint Original (if you can find it, though I'm told you can use absinthe, Pernod's, Anisette instead, if that's more convenient)
1/4 ounce simple syrup
4 ounces whole milk or half-and-half (very important. If you try to use 2% or skim, it's just NOT going to look or taste right. The thicker milk is important for the texture.)

Shake with ice and strain into a punch cup, and garnish generously with nutmeg

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