We had some wonderful friends many years ago who had a New Year's Day party every single year. Talk about good buddies! We loved having someplace to go for football, food and the requisite rehashing of New Year's Eve, but let's face it: is there anyone you know willing to entertain after they have been up nearly all night? And in those days we drank; not wine either. Aside from champagne, I'm quite certain I don't remember wine being an available libation on New Year's Eve. How odd. Well anyway, New Year's Day Lynn and Tony would set up two large white crocks with overly-long ladles and served Bloody Marys in one and Milk Punch in the other. Didn't that go down smoothly! (And way too quickly.) The Bloody Marys were ice cold and spicy with celery sticks in a dish next to the crock; the first time we were invited, Milk Punch was new to me so it was quite a surprise. When I glanced in the crock I thought at first it was egg nog and was about to pass it by, expecting it to be super sweet and on the heavy side as I think all egg nogs are, when someone told me to try it, I would love it. They were right; the Milk Punch was much lighter and not all that sweet. I was a convert. And as I recall, the group was about half and half- both crocks needed refills about the same time. After we served ourselves, everyone knew what to expect: football was on a couple of screens in different areas of their home, snacks scattered about and we settled in for a relaxing afternoon. How we looked forward to New Year's Day with Tony and Lynn!
Lynn was a lovely cook and always served a buffet late afternoon- invariably beef stroganoff- her specialty (she made the sour cream kind rather than the tomatoey kind which I abhor) along with any number of delectable side dishes. I remember it like it was yesterday; the men watched, cheered and talked football (sort of) and the women got laughing hysterically while discussing what went on the night before- or as a young friend of mine put it recently- we "deconstructed" New Year's Eve (don't you adore that expression?). I love memories like our New Year's Day party- they make me smile. It's not that we're not creating memories anymore, or enjoying annual parties, or laughing and having fun with our friends; it's just that these were friends from my young married life- all of us raising children together, most of us were stay-at-home moms and we did everything together. You never forget those days. What makes this particular memory melancholy is that Lynn is no longer with us and we all loved her; as well, most of us have moved from the area and we only stay in contact with a few of our dearest friends from those days.
After I moved to Florida, I invited everyone to join us at my house for dinner Christmas day. I always had champagne for my dad and an open bar for everyone else. But for me (and for a few discriminating members of my family) I always made a punch bowl of Milk Punch. Because I didn't have a wonderful old crock, I served my punch in a pretty glass bowl with a whole nutmeg and a grater next to it. Frankly, there were some years I don't know how I managed to get dinner served- I do so like this punch. Nowadays, my parents are gone, my relations have gone in different directions or have their own celebrations so it is just my immediate family and Milk Punch is really for a crowd, so I don't make it anymore. But in case YOU are having a crowd over the holidays, pass on your old standby egg nog recipe and try this one. It's easier to make anyway! This is not Lynn and Tony's secret recipe, but one I found many years ago in a newspaper. It's every bit as good, if not better.
Ingredients:8 cups milk, very cold
1 pint coffee ice cream, somewhat softened
2 cups good quality bourbon
1 cup good quality rum
freshly ground nutmeg
Method:Blend milk, bourbon and rum in a punch bowl. You can float the ice cream on top or, if you like a sweeter drink from the first, blend the ice cream into the milk mixture and serve. I like to float the ice cream on top; it melts quickly and sweetens the punch. Sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg and serve.