Bourbon Milk Punch/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

This is considered more a morning cocktail than one for a Friday evening, one to be offered, say, at a Tulane frat house brunch after a heavy night on Bourbon Street. But I want to write about it now for two reasons. First, it was a revelation to me when my dearest pal, Blake Bailey, Tulane class of 1985, offered it to me (one hung-over Sunday morning in Manhattan, in 1986)—wow, bourbon, milk, and sugar make a fabulous elixir. And two, because those days are now vividly returned to me in Blake’s acclaimed new memoir, The Splendid Things We Planned, where I, our shared New York apartment, and a pregnant hooker from New Jersey, enjoy a cameo in this wrenching, tragic story about the havoc Blake’s older brother brought on Blake’s entire extended family.

In the book, Blake recounts his version of what I recounted in my mint julep post. (At the time of the post, Blake was mortified to be connected to the incident and demanded I remove identifying details. And now look at him, putting it out there in full view.) I highly recommend the book. It brought to mind a quote from another recent memoir, by Gary Shteyngart, to wit: When a writer is born into a family, it is the end of the family; if it is not the end of the family, it is the end of the writer.

At any rate, Blake, a preeminent biographer of American novelists (currently working on Philip Roth), mixed me a bourbon milk punch one crapulous Sunday in Manhattan long ago, and I was instantly taken (on the rocks, which is an acceptable option). So simple and so delicious, a pared-down, low-cal version of an eggnog. Come to think of it, adding a yolk wouldn’t hurt.

So here’s to you, Blake, dearest of old friends—good luck on the book tour. Look at us now. Who’d have thought? Isn’t it lovely, as you say?


Bourbon Milk Punch

  • 2 ounces Maker’s Mark (Blake’s preference at the time)
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (or 1 tablespoon sugar)
  • 4 ounces milk
  • Nutmeg for garnish
  1. Combine the whiskey, simple syrup (or sugar), and milk in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake like mad to froth the milk.
  2. Pour into a coupe glass and top with several gratings of nutmeg.

Serves 1

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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


18 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: Bourbon Milk Punch”

  • Anderson

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make
    this website yourself or did you hire someone to
    do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog and
    would like to find out where u got this from. kudos

  • Allen

    Ruhlman, your expansive vocabulary always amazes me.
    Crapulous, a new word for me – I had to look it up. I should know it well by now, after becoming a fan of this blog

  • Karen Rush

    An elegant piece. Thank you. Also thank you for your books.

  • Andre B. Reis

    Dear Ruhlman, this new website design doesn’t do justice to the quality of your posts. I have some of your books and they’re perfectly laid out. With apologies to your ‘web guy’:

    The look itself is great, but the devil is in the details.
    The line width in this post is just too wide for comfortable reading, could easily be cut in half. Smitten kitchen is a good example of well laid out blocks of text.
    Not sure why the first paragraph is typeset on a larger type.
    Another reader pointed out that the whole page is width-fixed and doesn’t resize with the browser window. This is not a problem per se, but if you’re fixing the page width, use a smaller width than this. The NYTimes is a good example of a fixed-width website.
    And my comment editing text field doesn’t align with the Submit Comment button, for some reason. A minor grievance but surely we can do better here as well.

    I hope that this new design can be perfected over time.

    Now ontopic: I once saw a recipe for a milk punch just like this, but with Oporto wine instead of bourbon. It’s been years but I remember loving it, so there’ll be some experimenting this evening!

  • Gwyn

    love love love the redesign! and i also gotta say i LOVE my new drawer knife holder! a nicely designed thing of beauty is, well, a thing of beauty.

    okay, gotta tell you about one of my favorite bourbon drinks. i’ve been tempted to mention it ito you for a while, but thought you’d think i was a flake. but today’s the perfect time. the bourbon milkshake. yup. maker’s mark and quality vanilla ice cream. whizz it up in a blender. drink. it’s not thick like a regular milkshake–i suppose because the bourbon is room temp. if i have unexpected guests for dinner, i’ll make it for dessert. perhaps in a shot glass. just a little sweet sip at the end. i believe i experience the taste of the bourbon even more like this. go figure.

    so that’s it! thanks again for everything you’ve helped me accomplish in my kitchen. and i’m looking foward to seeing you in seattle next month!

  • dale

    I, too, like the new format, but agree with Andre above. The line width makes reading tedious.

  • Anthony

    “Bourbon Milk Punch” sounds more like something you do to your buddy than something you drink with your buddy. That is to say, it sounds awesome.

  • Claudia

    I look forward to your Friday Cocktail Hour post every week. I’ve been posting in on FB now for so long that my friends look forward to it and reprimand me if I forget!! Thanks for these. This week’s sounds good but to me, nothing beats a nice, refreshing gin-based cocktail.

  • Elke

    The book has wonderful reviews on Amazon and with your rave as well – I bought a copy. This drink seems a bit too easy to make, so we might need to give it a try this weekend!

  • Alexis Delgado

    This looks very similar to one of my favorite cocktails, the Bee’s Kiss, it’s with rum, honey and milk or cream.

    I’ll make sure to try this one 😀

  • T Smith

    This was delicious. Made a round using 2% milk and it was a little thinner than I’d like, but that was expected. Maybe I’ll throw in that egg yolk next time! FCH has become my new favorite way to kick off the weekend. Thank you!

  • Phineas

    I will definitely try this next time I am out. (Of course I will have to bring the milk because why would a bar have milk? Or sour mix? Or Maker’s Mark? — or any host of other things they’ve “run out of” lately where I go.)

    One question, though. As said bar will not have simple syrup — God, how I miss the Cold War! — and this is a cold beverage, is shaking this in a cocktail shaker enough to get the tablespoon of sugar mixed in properly?

  • Al W

    This is the Christmas morning drink in my house, as it was in my father’s house and I hope it will be in my childre’s houses.

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