Sunday, June 22, 2008

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Wake Up, It's Time for a Brandy Milk Punch

[Spent a week recently back in one of my favorite cities in the world. Here’s the first of occasional post-New Orleans notes.]

In the wake of Katrina, New Orleans remains a broken, dysfunctional city—but, then, it was always dysfunctional and I mean that with a great deal of affection: it's a sultry, nearly tropical, city unlike any other in the nation, the social fabric heaving with open secrets and local scandals, an entrenched food culture that has lent any but the most incurious citizens a sophisticated and educated taste in bills of fare, and a climate that, for several months out of the year, practically demands alcohol at nearly any hour of the day just to escape hot air so freighted with water that might burst into rain if a door so much as slams shut.

Perfect weather for rum, bourbon, and brandy. Yes, even with breakfast, a habit in which I almost never indulge anywhere but there.

Now the city is growing, well, less broken, if not actually fixed. Houses are still abandoned, neighborhoods gone, shipping containers parked almost permanently on some streets packed with the contents of houses as yet unrepaired, and some restaurants may not stay open as late, or as many days, as they used to. But construction crews are everywhere; houses being re-sided, new roofs going up, sidewalks and driveways being relaid. The food is as good as it ever was. No, it ain’t back to business as usual. But it is coming back.

I’ve been coming to New Orleans for nearly twenty years. And I’ll keep coming back, for my friendships there are as thick as the air.

On a morning like today’s, when I’m still pulling kittens out of my mouth but have yet to get to the farmers’ market to lay in supplies for the family dinner tonight, a New Orleans breakfast drink is called for. I did say “almost” never for breakfast…

Ladies and gentlemen, Dammen und Herren, madames et monsieurs, I give you:

The Brandy Milk Punch

2 oz brandy
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (genuine, high-proof stuff)
1 1/2 ounces milk
Freshly grated or shaved nutmeg* for garnish

Pour brandy, simple syrup, vanilla, and milk in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass and fill with ice. Strain mixture into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with nutmeg and serve immediately.
* I shave my nutmegs with an old microplane that bigger-than-life Shirley Corriher gave me years before anyone else outside woodworking knew what they were. It gives a nice, almost filigree, texture that otherwise only the finest-grain graters would yield.

Goes well with:
  • Chris McMillian, plying his trade these days at the New Orleans restaurant MiLa, made a series of great videos for In this video, he demonstrates a BMP. The man's a pleasure to watch in action.
  • My buddy Pableaux Johnson kicked in a recipe for LSU Tiger's [sic] milk punch for a Times-Picayune piece a while back. For when just one won't do, here's a bourbon-based version that, with ice, yields about a gallon. Hmmm...maybe that's not a sic, after all. Maybe it's just one hammered tiger...In any event, here's his slightly different take on his own blog,

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