Navigating December is akin to traversing a boozy minefield, full of potentially perilous Christmas work ‘dos’ and the resulting, all-consuming hangovers of doom. If it’s a month of merriment, it’s also a time of delicate constitutions.

If the world’s most famous festive tipple – the gut-wrenching blend of eggs, cream and alcohol that is eggnog – seems like a gastronomical risk you’d rather not take, why not opt for its lighter, though no less potent, cousin?

The traditional bourbon milk punch is one of the oldest drinks in cocktail history, and while its blend of silken milk and dark, robust spirits might seem a curious combination to the modern palate, it has enjoyed popularity – especially across America – since colonial times.

A sweet, velvety drink with a devilishly warming kick, its core ingredients and method are rustically simple: a spirit (typically bourbon, rum or brandy), milk and sugar, shaken over ice. However, due to a recent surge in acclaim, bartenders the world over are updating this veteran draft with their own innovative flair.

“The milk punch is the perfect antidote to the cold winter months,” says Andrea Montague, Bulleit bourbon brand ambassador. Luca Cinalli, bar manager at Oriole, the new outpost from the diehard cocktail crew behind East London’s most notorious speakeasy, Nightjar, agrees. “Our version, the Prairie Horn, is based around the classic concept: a milk punch, with bourbon at its core. But the additional blend of herbs and fruits from America’s prairies is pretty unique in approach and flavour.”

Not content with adding an authentic historical twist to an already battle-scarred cocktail, the team at Oriole have also added popcorn tea, or Genmaicha – a type of green tea bulked out with brown rice – to impart a nutty undertone, and a complex spicy mustard foam in place of the drink’s more traditional milk.

“We use a buffalo horn cup to serve,” says Cinalli, “but it can be served in any vessel. How you dress your drink is part of the fun.”

The Prairie Horn Cocktail

The Prairie Horn (Serves 2)

For The Mustard Foam:
1 can of condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp marshmallow paste (or a handful of melted marshmallows)
1 tsp mustard powder

For The Cocktail:
2 shots (50ml) Bulleit bourbon
1 shot (25ml) cinnamon syrup
1 shot (25ml) mustard foam
1 packet buffalo popcorn tea/Genmaicha

To Serve:
Chilled Collins glass
Cubed ice
A few squares of melted white chocolate
Hundreds and thousands, to garnish

Instructions

  1. Boil up a cup of the popcorn tea and allow to cool completely. If the tea is still hot when you add it to the cocktail shaker, it will melt the ice.
  2. Now make the mustard foam. Using an electric hand whisk, combine a can of condensed milk, the egg yolk, marshmallow paste (or a handful of melted marshmallows) and the mustard powder until thick and foamy. Set aside.
  3. Now prepare your garnish: dip the rim of each glass in the melted white chocolate, followed by the hundreds and thousands. Leave to set before using.
  4. Add the ice to a cocktail shaker and pour in the bourbon, syrup and one shot of the popcorn tea. Shake well.
  5. Using both hands, strain the drink through a Hawthorne strainer (held flush with the opening of the shaker) and a small fine sieve positioned over your glass.
  6. Finally, top up each glass with the mustard foam.

From delicious to stratospheric…
“At Oriole, we use Prekese syrup in place of the cinnamon. Prekese is a traditional African medicinal plant rich in multivitamins. It is conventionally used as a sweet spice and in Ghana is used to sweeten soft drinks. To make, simply boil the fruit in water along with some sugar. Remove the fruit before using.”

Shopping list…
“Bulleit bourbon is sweeter and less peppery than a rye whisky – to change this base would be to change the overall balance of the drink. You should be able to buy popcorn tea from most established tea retailers.”