Bronson Kistler is one of those bartenders who has the rare talent of being able to deliver exactly the right drink to every guest, no matter how bizarre or ambiguous the request. I have lost count of the times I have propped my chin in my hand at the bar of Westport Café and asked him to make a cocktail that pairs well with the Sunday scaries. On one of those occasions, he set down something called clarified milk punch.
It’s an old recipe. The earliest clarified milk punch on record originated in early eighteenth-century England. A spirit (originally brandy) was mixed with water, sugar and lemons and then combined with hot milk, which forms a layer of milk solids called casein.
“Casein acts as a natural molecular filtering agent, pulling out everything in the punch that would make it cloudy,” Kistler says. “The end result is as clear as water.”
Kistler’s clarified milk punch blends aged whiskey with apple juice, ginger, lemons, sugar, spiced tea and milk. The finished product has the color of a sun-kissed wheat field. Were it not poured over ice in a rocks glass and garnished with a twisted orange peel, it might be confused for a sauvignon blanc. It is light, lush and damned refreshing.
This spring, after a few snags, Kistler began production of his milk punch at a Lee’s Summit facility. As of July, you can find bottles of Bronson’s Milk Punch stocked at liquor stores and restaurants throughout Kansas City. It comes in a 750-milliliter bottle—that’s about six cocktails—and retails around twenty-five dollars.
“It’s a ready-to-drink cocktail,” Kistler says. “You open a bottle, pour it over ice and it’s ready to go. It’s easy to use for cocktails at parties or if you’re hosting a dinner.”
His Perfect Day In KC
But First, Bagels “I live near West 39th Street, and my favorite spot to stop at as I come back into my neighborhood is Meshuggah Bagels. I get a toasted everything bagel with garlic and herb schmear and sliced tomatoes.”
Coffee Break “I make a pour-over every morning, and I use a lot of different local coffee, but I really like Blip Roasters. I drink my coffee black, and I like to try a lot of different roasts from different parts of the world.”
Keep It Fresh “I do a lot of cooking at home, and I love shopping at the Ivanhoe Farmers Market on Saturdays. My friends Neil and Lisa Rudisill run an urban microfarm called Woodland City KC, and they sell tomatoes, root vegetables, leafy greens, herbs. If you can get mint from them, it takes a mint julep to the next level.”
Party Platter “Tortilleria San Antonio is a big go-to for me. I love grabbing stuff for dinner or for a large group. They have options on butchered and marinated meats—I love their al pastor—and they have fresh tortillas and all the fixings.”