I avoid going out New Year’s Eve: it’s for amateurs, restaurants and clubs are crowded and expensive; and, most importantly, I want to be in good shape for a Southern tradition, the New Year’s Day Milk Punch party.
Going back to the mid-1960’s the party format has remained the same: the hosts provide Hopp’n John—black eyed peas, cooked with ham hocks—for good luck; greens—mustard, turnip and collards—for good health; pork, usually spareribs; various snacks and of course Milk Punch.
I was home for Christmas vacation my freshman year at FSU, when my brother invited me to my first New Year’s Day party. I had celebrated the New Year the previous evening, so my date and I arrived several hours after the party had begun. We grabbed some food, a glass of Milk Punch and settled down on the floor in front of the television. Looking around the room, when I got up to get a refill, I realized that my date and I were the only ones not “taking a nap.” That’s when I first discovered how potent the punch could be.
My wife Terri moved to Florida in November and her first Milk Punch experience took place the following January 1st. Not knowing a lot of people, she volunteered to help me make the creamy concoction. Mixing up a batch of milk punch is not a two-person endeavor, so I assigned her to quality control, which consisted of tasting each batch of punch. Terri made an unforgettable impression on her new when I slung her over my shoulder to carry her home.
Years later we invited a number of friends from our Sunday School class to join us to celebrate the new year and enlisted my brother to tend to the punch. A couple of hours after the party began, I was talking with an older Sunday school teacher when I noticed that she was slurring her words and the color of the Milk Punch in her glass was bourbon brown instead of milk white. When I investigated, I found that having run out of ice cream, my brother adjusted the recipe by doubling the amount of bourbon. The members of the Senior Sunday School class at Winter Park Presbyterian still talk about that party.
The past few years our friends John and Anne Dozier have hosted the annual affair. They do a great job: Anne’s home is beautiful; she always provides an array of snacks and appetizers and her husband John has become a Milk Punch party aficionado. He begins his preparations days before the party: the spareribs are carefully selected; he chooses just picked greens from a road-side stand and carefully cleans them of any sand; the dried black eyed peas are culled of any broken peas and pebbles and gallons of ice cream and milk are purchased. The end result is a meal that any Southerner—including imported ones—will appreciate.
New Year’s Eve is about celebrating the passing of the current year. New Year’s Day is about greeting the new year and what better way to do so than by enjoying food, drink and laughter with friends.
Milk Punch Recipe
In a blender add:
1 cup good bourbon
1 cup ice cream (ice milk may be substituted)
1 cup milk (whole or reduced fat)
1 cup crushed ice
2 oz Cream De Cacao (Kahlua or Tia Maria may be substituted)
Blend until smooth and serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Here’s a hint: before serving on New Year’s day, test the preceding recipe on a group of friends. After they have all tried a cup, adjust the recipe according to their suggestions. Repeat this process until the group agrees that the mixture is perfect and then send everyone home.