The Art Of Milk Washing Cocktails, Explained

milk washed cocktail milk punch

Making cocktails is a work of art and that includes mixing unusual ingredients, using uncommon methods which have withstood the test of time. One such technique is milk washing. Before you dismiss it, we’d like to tell you that it is a centuries-old method that gives cocktails a smoother, frothier mouthfeel minus the unpleasant smells that other texture enhancers leave on the drink.

It is common to add egg whites or aquafaba (juice of chickpeas, if you’re vegan) to cocktails to improve the texture. But mixologists will tell you that they both leave a scent that is unwelcome to one's nostrils. Hydrocolloids such as xanthan and guar gums provide an incredible texture but one has to be very careful about using their correct amounts or your drink's composition will go for a toss. Thus, milk washing is a timeless and efficient method to give your shaken cocktail a beautiful texture. It can be used for any spirit but it will have different effects on different liquors.


The milk washing technique was developed in the 18th century. It was primarily used to strip the edges from rougher spirits. The earliest mention of this method is found in David Wondrich's reprint of Mary Rockett’s recipe from 1711. It states: To make Milk Punch. Infuse the rinds of 8 Lemons in a Gallon of Brandy 48 hours, then add 5 Quarts of Water and 2 pounds of Loaf Sugar, then Squize [sic] the Juices of all the lemons; to these Ingredients add 2 Quarts of new milk Scald hot, stirring the whole till it crudles [sic]; grate in 2 Nutmegs, let the whole infuse 1 Hour, then refine through a flannel Bag.

The Process

So what happens when you milk wash the shaken cocktails? When whole milk is added to spirits and broken using a citrus ingredient, milk breaks into curds and whey. Then the curds are strained from the drink. The protein in the whey-spirit blend activates when shaken. This results in a cocktail which is fluffy and rich in texture. The citrus ingredient also adds to the flavour and volume of the drink. Plus, there are no side effects like bad aroma.

It is important to remember that while this process is aroma-neutral, it does have an effect on the flavour. Milk cuts down the colour and flavour of spirits. The effect is most seen in tannins. Hence, the best spirits that can benefit from milk washing are white spirits such as vodka, and unaged rum than oaked aged liquors like bourbon.

Ideal Technique For Milk Washing

Expert mixologists say that one must mix the ingredients carefully. The milk should be added first and then the liquid that you intend to clarify. There are various milk-to-cocktail ratios one can apply in their method but experts feel the best ratio is 1:6. They also advise that the milk-cocktail blend should not be shaken too much before refrigeration.

milk washing cocktails


While the biggest benefit is that this process doesn't leave a whisk of undesirable fragrance in the cocktails, other benefits include getting a silkier textured drink with a bit of citrusy flavour. It also helps you in preparing the cocktail ahead of time. It can be stored in a fridge which will keep it fresh. This method is particularly useful when you want to make batch cocktails. You also don't need to use any specific bar tools for this technique. A strainer or a centrifuge (if you work in a bar) is sufficient.


Milk-washed cocktails are clearly a no-no for vegans. Also, this method can only be helpful when you make small batches of cocktails at home or at bars that make high-volume cocktails.

Could you tell me how to milk wash as a reader?

Steps To Milk Wash A Cocktail

-- Take whole milk (1:6 is the milk-to-cocktail proportion).

-- Pour the cocktail on the milk so that it curdles. Add a citrus ingredient if your cocktail doesn't already include one. 

-- Leave it to rest for hours or even a day. The period varies for different cocktails.

-- Take another glass and put a paper filter in it.

-- Pour the liquid slowly into the glass with the paper filter so that the end product goes in drop by drop.

-- Ensure all the contents are filtered, it may take a few hours depending on the ingredients and quantity of the cocktail.

-- You can refrigerate this blend or serve it immediately by adding ice to a cocktail glass and pouring the drink.

While it is normal to celebrate or relax with a drink, one must remember to consume alcohol in moderation. It is key to serve and drink responsibly. This will keep you and your guests healthy and out of harm's way. If you know anyone who is unable to control their alcohol intake, please refer them to a professional immediately.


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