How Can Milk-Washing Help Your Booze?
Image Credit: Unsplash

Milk-washing can do wonders for your spirits; it can remove harshness, make it more velvety and even make a drink foamier. If you're in the dark about this technique, think of it as a filtering method. It is commonly used on cocktails that have a milky appearance (usually the ones featuring lemon juices, other citrus juices or dairy products). 

The process involves mixing the cocktail with milk, which causes the proteins and other solids to coagulate. After allowing the mixture to stand, it is then strained, resulting in a clear liquid. Some of the most common drinks that need milk-washing are brandy milk punch, white Russian, lime rickey, gin rickey and certain flip cocktails which contain egg, sugar, and a spirit and can use milk washing to enhance their texture and remove impurities. 

Milk-washing can even make your cocktail foamier since milk-washing base spirits like gin tend to give them a foamy texture. Though it sounds like a new-age cocktail trend, the method of milk clarification dates back to the 1700s. The idea is that, similarly to egg whites or aquafaba, a milk-washed cocktail will end up having a fuller, silkier body and an enhanced mouthfeel. 

How Does It Really Work? 

The process of milk-washing a drink is quite simple. Once you pour in milk into a drink the acidity from the citrus or other components will cause the milk to curdle. Let the mixture sit for some time, typically around 30 minutes to an hour. During this time, the curdled milk proteins bind to impurities, creating large particles that can be filtered out. Use a fine strainer or coffee filter to separate the clear liquid from the curdled solids. This step removes impurities and leaves a clarified cocktail.

The filtration leaves you with a more stable cocktail that is smoother and has a rounder mouthfeel. One can also choose to milk-wash cocktails ahead of time, and then store them in the fridge. Clarified cocktails can hold their shape and do not spoil in the freezer so you can keep small batches ready. 

What Not To Do

It's important to remember that with colour and appearance, the process may also alter the flavour profile and aroma of certain cocktails. The impact of milk washing on cocktails is particularly noticeable when it comes to tannins, the bitter and astringent notes commonly found in oak-aged wines and spirits. 

As a result, it's advisable to avoid spirits like bourbon, known for their distinct oak-aged characteristics, and instead explore white spirits such as gin, unaged rum, or vodka when employing this technique. Also, remember to not skip the straining. Proper training is crucial to remove the coagulated proteins and solids from the cocktail. Skipping or rushing through this step can result in a cloudy or unappealing final product.