The Science of Spilt, New Alchemy’s $5 Gourmet Milk Punch Cocktail

The Science of Spilt, New Alchemy’s $5 Gourmet Milk Punch Cocktail

Clarified milk punch cocktails have made a resurgence at upscale cocktail bars lately, but recreating the milk-wash technique at scale for a ready-to-drink product is no easy task.

But after five years of trial, the scientists-turned-craft distillers at New Alchemy have finally produced a Michelin bar-inspired clarified milk punch RTD, and they made it for the SRP of $5 too.

Released in October, Spilt is a 19% ABV milk punch cocktail made with gin, amaro, bergamot tea and citrus in a 200 ml can. It’s not the distillery’s first canned cocktail, but it is the first under their name. After meeting in a research lab, co-founders Jason Somerby and Matt Sweeney began distilling gin,vodka and whiskey out of El Dorado Hills, California in 2012, with a focus on novel techniques. That scientific approach made Somerby and Sweeney— a former biotech worker with a PHD in fermentation sciences— go-to experts in RTD formulation early on in the category’s uptick.

The distillery has assisted bigger names to startups with research and development, particularly for brands that want to prioritize using natural ingredients and avoid stabilizers, a rarity in the industry. The team also helped to course-correct as companies scaled and encountered the category’s common woes, such as co-packers struggling to maintain desired proof.

Armed with that experience, the founders saw an opportunity to be one of the few to bring one of their favorite cocktails to canned format: a clarified take on the gin fizz made with New Alchemy’s Fleurette Gin by mixologists at Thomas Keller restaurants.

“There’s knowledge in the industry that if somebody can get their canned cocktails to taste as good as or as similar as you can in bar, that really overcomes the hurdle of what everybody is experiencing right now, which is that canned cocktails have a black eye in terms of their flavor experience,” said Somerby.

The Whey In

Milk clarification is a historic alchemy that was initially developed as a way to soften a punch or spirit’s rougher edges: milk is curdled, binding certain particles in the punch which are strained away, leaving a translucent liquid with new textures and flavors. Crafting a shelf-stable cocktail scaling that technique with a dairy product, alcohol, and oxidizing-prone citrus without stabilizers took about five years of product testing.

“You can’t run 1,000 gallons of clarified milk punch through a cheesecloth,” said Somerby.

An initial small test batch sat in a warehouse near Sacramento for a year to test high temperature fluctuations, and now Somerby is confident the recipe can be brought to scale beyond its first official 700-gallon batch.

But beyond the production, there was another risk to making a milk punch: while cocktails using the technique are popping up across the upper swath of U.S. cocktail bars, a milk-based cocktail might require an investment in education for the masses. That’s where the California Milk Advisory Board Excelerator comes in, a Shark Tank-like accelerator for innovative dairy companies.

Since its founding in 2019, the accelerator has handed out $2.25 million in stipends and funding for dairy-based businesses, and this year’s theme of open innovation spotlights startups creating products with at least 50 % dairy content. Spilt has been one of the eight startups in its latest three-month program, benefitting from marketing and PR, demo support, and tapping into the board’s network of retailers. They’ve also found some unusual ambassadors.

“We’re selling these at the cheese counters as well and educating that staff on the product,” said Somerby. “They’re actually the ideal representatives for us in the store because they understand the process, so they’re able to help us tell the story.”

Local and Upcycled Saves On Costs

New Alchemy is also targeting the specialty stores, liquor and grocery channels like Whole Foods, where its other products are sold. Spilt is also being picked up at upscale on-premise accounts like clubs and hotels. That allows the distillery to bundle the cocktails when shipping to their territories in California and Texas, discounting the cocktails to $3 a can for the retailer.

There’s another way the company got a high-end cocktail made with fresh ingredients priced so low. The company has partnered with Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company to take their whey byproduct, which would otherwise be disposed of.

It’s not the distillery’s only upcycled product: early on in the business, New Alchemy tapped into using a wine product that’s a result of a filtration process at local wineries, using it to make into a neutral spirit for their gin and vodka for a fraction of what bulk spirit would otherwise cost.

Somerby is hoping that those partnerships resonate with consumers who care about sustainability— Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company is known as a leader in conservation and humane practices, and New Alchemy is joining their practice of donating a percentage of sales to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

“I thought if there’s any dairy to ameliorate people’s concerns about animal welfare or impact on the environment, this is the one, so we are hoping people see that even if they have concerns about dairy, there’s no reason to with this product,” he said.

And for the lactose-intolerant oat milk lovers out there? With a background in medicine, Somerby says the product contains a minimal amount of lactose (though not lactose-free), and by the time drinkers meet their threshold they’re more likely to feel negative effects of consuming five or six high ABV cocktails.

Originally posted on BevNet.

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