Gin and Milk


Again Kumuhana looked carefully about him, and up into the monkey- pod boughs as if to apprehend a lurking listener. His lips were very dry. With his tongue he moistened them repeatedly. Twice he essayed to speak, but was inarticulately husky. And finally, with bowed head, he whispered, so low and solemnly that Hardman Pool bent his own head to hear: “No.”

Pool clapped his hands, and the little maid ran out of the house to him in tremulous, fluttery haste.

“Bring a milk and gin for old Kumuhana, here,” Pool commanded; and, to Kumuhana: “Now tell me the whole story.”

“Wait,” was the answer. “Wait till the little wahine has come and gone.”

And when the maid was gone, and the gin and milk had travelled the way predestined of gin and milk when mixed together, Hardman Pool waited without further urge for the story. Kumuhana pressed his hand to his chest and coughed hollowly at intervals, bidding for encouragement; but in the end, of himself, spoke out. . .

Milk is not the first thing you associate with gin, and gin and milk is not the first thing you associate with Waikiki. Gin and milk was a popular concoction in the 19th Century though, and Jack London made it Hardman Pool’s drink of choice in his Hawaiian short story The Bones of Kahekili (1919). I think I also remember hearing somewhere that the Queen Mother used to drink gin and milk. To observe that gin and milk is no longer popular as it was would be an understatement, but with endorsements from Jack London and the Queen Mum perhaps everyone owes it to themselves to give it a try?

I made a passing mention of warm gin in last month’s post on the Sleigh Flip (a flip involving hot beer, rum and egg). In that post I suggested that warm gin sounded like a very bad idea. After writing that though I started thinking warm gin might just be worth a try. Gin and milk seemed a good combination for a warm gin drink, and also had the interest factor being something I had heard about but never tried.

I am sure that gin and milk would taste fine on the rocks, and the drink probably was often drunk that way. However, I doubt Hardman Pool’s gin and milk included ice. The Bones of Kahekili is set on a Hawaiian cattle ranch in the year 1880, a place and time when ice may not necessarily have been available. I am guessing that Hardman Pool’s gin and milk was simply mixed at room temperature. Here in Shanghai though it is freezing right now, and moreover this month’s Mixology Monday is looking at winter warmers, so warm gin and milk seems just the thing. Back when gin and milk was popular I expect it was served warm in winter. Before the introduction of electric refrigeration it would have been much easier to warm drinks in winter than to cool them in summer.

To make a basic gin and milk is very simple. Pour a measure of gin into a glass and top up with three or four measures of milk. Full fat milk is best for this drink. Sweeten with sugar if you want. You can adjust the proportions according to taste.

I decided to adjust the recipe a little, as follows:

1 oz gin (ideally use an Oude style Genever – read more here and here)

4 oz hot milk (ideally full fat)

1 teaspoon orgeat

1-2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Mix ingredients together in a glass. For a truly hot drink microwave for a few seconds after mixing. Send the way predestined of gin and milk when mixed together.

Hot gin and milk tastes much better than it sounds. Hot gin is sharper, less warming, and less rich tasting than rum, whiskey or brandy – the popular spirits used in toddies and other warm drinks. Less cloying than more traditional hot drink ingredients, gin makes an interesting change. Mixing hot gin with milk makes the sharpness manageable and results in a pleasantly approachable concoction. The orgeat adds a type of sweetness that complements both the milk and the gin. Leaving the bitters out would not hurt too much, but they give a little extra depth.

Hot gin and milk makes a pleasant winter drink. It is warming, nourishing, totally unfashionable, and even comes with a story attached!

“I have talked long, O Kanaka Oolea. There is not the enduring moistness in my mouth that was when I was young. It seems that afresh upon me is the thirst that was mine when tormented by the visioned tongue of the harpooner. The gin and milk is very good, O Kanaka Oolea, for a tongue that is like the harpooner’s.”

A shadow of a smile flickered across Pool’s face. He clapped his hands, and the little maid came running.

“Bring one glass of gin and milk for old Kumuhana,” commanded Hardman Pool.

5 Responses to “Gin and Milk”

  1. Bunnyhugs » Blog Archive » Old-School Genever Cocktails Says:

    [...] posted on this one earlier – link here.  However, back in those days I did not have Genever.  Gin and Milk is MUCH better with an Oude [...]

  2. patrick laws Says:

    I remember older people drinking gin and milk in pubs in the 60s.It was known as “pigs nose” presumably from the old country saying “as smooth as a pigs nose”

  3. seamus Says:

    Very interesting Patrick. I can’t say I’ve ever seen it ordered in a bar, but I guess I wasn’t around then. Perhaps I should start ordering it myself. Enough people drink Baileys and milk, so why not something a little more interesting?

  4. patrick laws Says:

    The thing is Seamus as I said it was older people who drank it.It was seen as a really old fashioned drink even then.Good idea to start ordering now perhaps we could start a trend!

  5. Jess Says:

    Reading a book about Victorian London, gin and milk was the preferred morning drink of vendors at the local markets (who can blame them starting work at 3 or 4 AM. This was in the 1850s, do yes, and OLD drink before cocktails took off.

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