April 6, 2006


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Got milk?

Got milk?
Just because it’s healthy doesn’t make it a bad mixer
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

There’s a little bar in Aurillac, France. It doesn’t just serve liqueurs, wine and beer, but that should be evident from the name — the Milk Bar. Milk bars are a younger institution in French cuisine, having come onto the gastronomic scene in the 1950s when French culture accepted two American additions: Jerry Lewis and diner food. Yes, they had ice cream and pie and fries and eggs and everything the Red Arrow has, but the French hadn’t quite mastered the milkshake.

Maybe they liked their cocoa soufflé too much, or they enjoyed their creamy creations a la crème brule — thick and slightly warm. Whatever the reason, France remained milkshake-free until the middle of the last century.
The milkshake has its roots in England, although Cheeseheads from Racine, Wisconsin, can claim their town is the milkshake’s birthplace.

In the 1870s an English druggist invented and patented a malted-milk powder as a food supplement that was easy for babies and invalids to drink. Even though it was supposed to be therapeutic it didn’t hurt that it tasted good. But in the cutthroat business of Victorian food supplements, James Horlick soon lost control of his patent and was forced out of business. He emigrated to Wisconsin, where his brother William managed a quarry. He took very little with him except for a steamer trunk full of mismatched socks, several hundred British pounds sterling and his recipe for malted powder.

In America, it wasn’t long before he opened his own small factory and was making malted-milk powder. In 1887, James and William opened a milk bar and ice cream parlor in downtown Racine and were serving malteds and sodas over a granite counter that William had quarried himself. It was by accident, as most great technological leaps are, that the milkshake was discovered.

In addition to owning part of the malted factory and part of the ice cream shop, William still held an interest in the quarry. And as fate would have it a salesman came in to show William the latest in pneumatic excavating equipment, the jackhammer.

This gave William an idea. He rigged up an industrial sized eggbeater and mixed milk, ice cream and malt powder in the large bowl. He worked the foot treadle and whipped the cool concoction into a frappe-y beverage that was an instant hit. In the summer months the demand was insatiable. Raciners or Racinites or is it Racinians? lined up around the block.

Content to supply the milkshake craze and weary of patent infringements, the Horlick brothers got out of the soda fountain business and concentrated on their core business of producing milk flavoring syrups and powders. The company grew so prosperous that they established a British subsidiary in 1893. Having come full circle, Horlick’s powders are available on four continents today, but the company is now a division of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures the stomach drug Tagamet, in case you get acid indigestion from all the malteds.

Early spring is the perfect time for milk punches. They’re cool and fresh but they also have a cozy hearthside manner to them. My favorite is the classic Alexander, which is milk, cream or half and half, one measure of white Crème de Cocoa and two measures of brandy.

Just as delicious is the whiskey Alexander, where you replace the brandy with a good blended whiskey like Crown Royal, Jack Daniels, Old Grandad or Jamesons. The whiskey gives the drink a smoother, slightly smoky flavor and less alcoholic afterburn.
To celebrate spring break try the Yogi Bear:
One measure vodka
One measure banana liqueur
One cup frozen or fresh strawberries
One cup milk, cream or half and half
Combine in a blender with ice.

Former kids will love the Creamsicle, a yummy drink that tastes just like the Good Humor bar:
One part vanilla vodka
One part triple sec
One cup orange juice
Half cup milk, cream or half and half.
Tiger Milk or (Leche de Tigra) is an old-fashioned warm milk punch made from my new favorite liquor, Aguardiente, a molasses- and licorice-flavored sugar cane brandy that’s also known as Puro de Caña. It’s very popular in Columbia and Ecuador.
Heat 3 cups milk with 5 tablespoons of ground cinnamon bark. Once the milk is just below boiling slowly add two shots of booze and 5 teaspoons of sugar.
Serve warm and you won’t remember a thing.

Man cannot live by milk alone so here’s this week’s wine

2004 Sebastiani Pinot Noir, $14.99, from Sonoma. The Sebastiani family owned this vineyard since 1904. It’s located in the town of Sonoma, although they have other vineyards in the Russian River Valley and they also purchase grapes from growers. The wine cellar and original vineyard are on land that was once part of the San Francisco Solano Mission where the Franciscan Brothers planted grapes in 1825.

The wine has a definite Burgundian character, although it has a bit more fruit on first sip, and a pleasing, harmonious structure and depth that finishes nicely. The only flaw is a hint of flabbiness toward the end of the sip that came across as watery. If only all Californian table wines could be this honest and overachieving.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at tprotzman@sbcglobal.net.

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com

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Just because it’s healthy doesn’t make it a bad mixer