Mai-Kai cocktail review: Trading Martinique for Guyana, milk punch gets a boost from new rum

Updated March 15, 2016
See below: Our Martinique Milk Punch review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: Rums of The Mai-Kai: Hamilton rums from Guyana fill the Lemon Hart gap
Mai-Kai cocktail guide

Don’t let the name “Martinique Milk Punch” fool you. This traditional rum drink, a popular classic during the winter holidays, recently received an upgrade at The Mai-Kai.

Like several other vintage recipes, most notably the Bora Bora and S.O.S., recent updates have replaced the long-established Martinique rum with the sweeter and smokier Demerara-style rum from Guyana.

Hamilton 86

The improvement is dramatic. The Martinique Milk Punch benefits from the replacement of the earthy and pungent agricole rum and the recent addition of the 86-proof Hamilton rum from Guyana. As a result, the cocktail vaults up an unprecedented eight spots in The Atomic Grog’s rankings, from No. 41 to No. 33. Bora Bora made a similar leap, moving up 10 positions and also increasing from 2 1/2 stars to 3 stars.

Since its return in April 2012, Demerara rum has become a key flavor in many of The Mai-Kai’s traditional Tiki cocktails (see full story). We had not revisited the often-ignored Martinique Milk Punch since we posted this original review in December 2011, so it’s possible that Demerara rum was incorporated into the recipe any time since mid-2012.

With winter cocktails on our mind, we ordered a Martinique Milk Punch in late 2015 and immediately noted the difference. The distinctive Demerara rum flavor shines through with just the right amount of sweetness and a dusting of nutmeg, making for a much more balanced drink. The Martinique rum that The Mai-Kai previously used tended to dominate the other ingredients, its grassy taste a little too aggressive for this mild dessert-style drink.

The Martinique Milk Punch is served in the same glass as two popular ice-cream drinks, the Chocolate Snowflake and Mai-Kai Blizzard. While it’s not on the after-dinner menu, it could easily fill that role.

Saveur magazine recipe

A traditional milk punch dates back to colonial times. Ben Franklin had his own recipe, which you can check out here. It became fashionable in 18th century England after it was introduced by merchants and often featured whiskey or brandy instead of rum.

It’s unclear if the version using rum from Martinique is indigenous to that island or was created elsewhere. We do know that it was featured on early Don the Beachcomber menus, and this is likely the genesis of the version that was originally served at The Mai-Kai.

The ancestor recipe below is based on a Saveur magazine article (see photo above) featuring an adaptation of one that appears in Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (1949). It’s likely that Donn Beach’s version was popular during the same era.

The Mai-Kai’s version was very similar until the recent transformation. We’re told that a name change may be included in a future menu update, but for now we’ll overlook the confusing moniker and savor this reinvigorated classic.

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The official menu description
Martinique Milk Punch
MARTINIQUE MILK PUNCH

Soft and mellow, a heavenly blend of rum, milk, secret extracts and topped with nutmeg.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Martinique Milk Punch, July 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Martinique Milk Punch, July 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Size: Medium

Potency: Mild

Flavor profile: A rich and savory rum milkshake.

Review: Sweet and creamy, with just the right amount of Demerara rum and touch of vanilla and nutmeg

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (see how it ranks)

Ancestry: On the menu since 1956, this is The Mai-Kai’s take on a historical classic by way of Don the Beachcomber.

Bilge: Aphra Behn, a 17th-century English dramatist and novelist and allegedly the first woman to make a living as a writer, is credited with inventing milk punch, or at least having the first widely publicized recipe for it.

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!

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ANCESTOR RECIPE
Martinique Milk Punch

(Adapted from Saveur magazine, 2006; and Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts, 1949)

Martinique Milk Punch by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2011)

Martinique Milk Punch by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2011)

* 3 egg yolks
* 1 quart whole milk
* 1/4 cup fine granulated sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* Strips of zest from 1 lemon
* 3/4 cup aged amber Martinique rum

Note: The Saveur article calls for the punch to be served while still hot but many others, including wise old Ben Franklin and The Mai-Kai, prefer it cold. So we’ve tweaked the preparations below to accommodate a cold punch.

Put egg yolks into a large bowl and set aside. Pour milk into a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the milk to the yolks in a slow, steady stream while whisking constantly. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Stir well to combine.

Put into a sealed container and chill in fridge until cold. Do not add ice. This quart of mix (32 ounces) will yield four servings.

Dry shake 8 ounces of mix with 1 1/2 ounces of rum (no ice) and pour into a 10-ounce glass. Dust with nutmeg.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

* Whole milk is essential for the correct creamy texture. Avoid lowfat milk.

* Rhum Clement VSOP is a fine Martinique rum and works well in this punch. Also recommended are J.M. Paille, Neisson Rhum Agricole Eleve Sous Bois, and Rhum St. James Hors D’Age.

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Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Martinique Milk Punch
By The Atomic Grog (January 2016)

Tribute to The Mai-Kai's Martinique Milk Punch (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2016)

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Martinique Milk Punch (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2016)

* 2 ounces whole milk
* 3/4 ounce rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
* 3 drops vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 ounces Demerara rum (Hamilton 86 preferred)

Blend with 1/4 cup of crushed ice until smooth. Pour into a small stemmed cocktail glass. Dust with fresh grated nutmeg.

Notes: It’s clear that The Mai-Kai’s recipe is a bit simpler than the ancestor, avoiding the egg whites, cinnamon and lemon. I was able to come up with a viable tribute using the core ingredients. As mentioned above, the addition of a Demerara rum, such as Hamilton 86 from Guyana, transforms the Martinique Milk Punch into a much smoother and user-friendly drink. If you don’t have easy access to Hamilton 86, you can’t go wrong with any of the aged Demerara rums from El Dorado, such as the 8-, 12- and 15-year-old expressions. Lemon Hart (80-proof) is another option in some markets.
* More on Lemon Hart and Hamilton rums at The Mai-Kai

Whether you prefer the traditional ancestor featuring agricole rhum or the tribute featuring Demerara rum, this is a great nog to enjoy during the holidays. Mele Kalikimaka and Okole maluna!

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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2 Responses to Mai-Kai cocktail review: Trading Martinique for Guyana, milk punch gets a boost from new rum

  1. Robin Burr says:

    RumScout (Rob V. Burr) has this drink every time he visits the Mai Kai but with Barbancourt 15 year old. One of his favs!

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