Though often considered part of the winter canon—dotted with brandy and spices, or Scotch and maple syrup, for example—milk punch is a good idea year-round. In fact, the shock value of translating the bright, fruit-forward flavors of tropical drinks into something minimalist and completely clear is part of the appeal of the clarified cocktail, “a mindfuck,” according to St. Louis bartender Tim Wiggins.
The technique is not just an aesthetic trick; it also impacts the taste and texture of a cocktail, even when applied only to the base spirit. Consider the Clarified Corn ’n’ Oil, which gives the rum cocktail a softer edge than the original; the Clarified Pineapple Daiquiri, which puts a silky spin on the fruit-forward drink; or the Sex Panther, a take on the Cuba Libre that pairs the fuller-bodied mouthfeel of milk punch with a measure of pineapple juice, rendering the drink extra tropical while maintaining “the same heart and soul” as the original. The Piña Colada Milk Punch, meanwhile, alters the summer classic’s makeup for a drink that is just as suited to the bar top as it is to the beach.
There are a few considerations to keep in mind when applying the method to tropical drinks. Instead of the milk or cream commonly added to milk punch, for example, full-fat coconut milk can be subbed in, adding not just a clarifying element, but also additional tropical flavor. This is the approach used in Napier Bulanan’s Tita Nita’s Milk Punch, a palm spirit–based and lychee-spiked cocktail. And even without clarifying the entire drink, clarifying the acidic elements—such as the lime and pineapple juices found in a Jungle Bird—makes for a silkier texture, as evidenced in the Stirred Bird. As its creator Jack Schramm notes, “Remember that clarification is an opportunity—push it to the outer limits and create something new.”