Earl Carter
Earl Carter
Earl Carter
Earl Carter Earl Carter
Earl Carter
Credit: Earl Carter

Tiramisu milk punch

Darren Leaney is the bar manager at Capitano, in Melbourne’s Carlton.

Credit: Earl Carter

There are two kinds of milk punch. The first, typically called brandy milk punch or bourbon milk punch, is popular in New Orleans, is citrus-free and includes milk. The second type, often called English milk punch or clarified milk punch, is what we focus on at Capitano.

Milk punches are really more a technique than a particular recipe, much as punch is a format rather than a formula. The base recipe for milk punch includes the punch mix itself and citrus juice or another acidic ingredient – in this case, lactic acid. The mixed cocktail is added to the milk, curdling it, and then the punch is strained to remove the curds. The process removes most of the colour from the drink. In an age before refrigeration, it was not just a way of clarifying the punch, it was also a way of preserving it. After the death of Charles Dickens in 1870, bottles of milk punch were found ageing in his wine cellar.

When I took on the role at Capitano there were two drinks I had in mind that I felt would define and showcase what we were aiming to do with the cocktail program – a bellini and our tiramisu milk punch. For me the tiramisu was the perfect example to take something laden with powerful memories and nostalgia for so many people and present it in a way that is visually contrasting to what most people think of, but with the exact aroma and taste of its namesake.


Makes 750-800ml, or about 10 drinks

  • 525ml savoiardi milk (recipe below)
  • 90ml cacao nib rum (recipe below)
  • 120ml cold filter coffee (you’re looking for a lighter-style roast here and, ideally, something with bright citrus notes)
  • 185ml Pennyweight muscat
  • 45ml 2:1 sugar syrup
  • 45ml Mr Black cold brew coffee liqueur
  • 30ml lactic acid solution (recipe below), or fresh lemon juice will work just fine

Savoiardi milk

  • 150g savoiardi biscuits, snapped in half
  • 750ml full cream milk

Cacao nib rum

  • 140g cacao nibs
  • 700ml dark rum (Plantation original dark rum is my choice)

Lactic acid solution


Savoiardi milk

Add the biscuits to the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until you end up with a pretty loose paste. Leave to infuse for one hour and strain through a chinois, pushing down with a spoon to extract every last drop of the milk.


Add both to a pot on the stove, put on the lowest heat possible and infuse for 30 minutes. You don’t want to let this boil or even simmer really, as once the liquid gets above 78ºC the alcohol will start to burn off. Chill and strain through a chinois.

Lactic acid solution

Stir to dissolve.

To assemble

  1. Have the savoiardi milk ready in a two-litre plastic jug.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a one-litre plastic jug and stir. Add this mixture to the savoiardi milk and stir gently to incorporate the two. You should see it start to curdle almost instantly and the idea is to gently move the curds around, essentially “mopping up” more curds. Leave for about 10 minutes.
  3. Gently pour this mix through a chinois lined with a paper filter over a two-litre plastic jug. After about 10 minutes the liquid should start to drip (it will come through quite fast at first). Pour the liquid that has already come through the filter into the chinois again, and leave to drip through somewhere cool – ideally in the fridge – overnight.
  4. Serve over ice.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 14, 2019 as "Packing a punch".

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Darren Leaney is the bar manager at Capitano, in Melbourne’s Carlton.