Cocktail Creators: Cow-abunga

Get the details on what would have been the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' favorite cocktail.

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Male bartender in blue shirt and hat smiling an reaching over bar holding clear amber-colored beverage in a glass.
...dude. / Courtesy Northside Eatery & Market

Collin Griffith is the bar manager of Northside Eatery & Market, and one of his favorite things about being a bartender is helping his guests refine their palate for cocktails. He uses this position to get creative behind the bar and man one of the most elaborate cocktail programs on RiNo’s Central Street. Case in point: the Cow-abunga cocktail, Griffith’s take on a clarified milk punch.

The clarified milk punch, a delightfully odd concoction, made its debut in the early 1700s in Great Britain, according to Griffith. Despite its pale amber coloring, which implies something along the lines of a tea- or lemonade-based beverage, the punch’s principal ingredient is indeed milk. Back in 18th-century England, milk was a way to round out the harsh bite of low-quality spirits. Today, Griffith says, it’s a seasonal delight he’d pair with a rich, chocolate dessert. 

The reason milk punch doesn’t appear milky or cloudy is the curdling process. After adding milk to the alcohol and other ingredients, the mixture sits for four hours, during which time the milk curds actually draw out the impurities in the spirits. The result is a clean, clear final product—and yet it still “drinks like a boozy creamsicle,” Griffith says. 

“What the milk component imparts to the drink is a rounder, creamy mouthfeel. You still get a hint of the milk, but it’s more of a blended sensation as opposed to, say, a White Russian,” he explains. 

Inspired by the arrival of colder weather, Griffith brought the Cow-abunga cocktail to the menu in October. Seeking a final product that would be “rich and cozy,” he selected Flor de Caña’s 12 Year rum as the drink’s primary spirit. “I decided to feature the Flor de Caña 12 Year because of its smooth, rich qualities of vanilla, oak spice, and caramel,” he says. 

This Nicaraguan rum, the story goes, is made with sugarcanegrown in soil fertilized with ash from the San Cristobal volcano. It’s also said that volcanic water is used in the distillation process.  

But aside from its provocative flavor profile and fascinating origin story, Griffith is a big fan of Flor de Caña because it’s a carbon-neutral, certified fair-trade producer. “It’s very important to me to examine the ethos of a company,” he explains. “Flor de Caña embodies qualities that I respect by helping to protect the environment and strengthen communities.”

The Cow-abunga has been a success not only thanks to its crave-worthy flavor, but also its 17 percent pour cost. Griffith makes the drink in large batches (due to the time-consuming production process), which also makes for quick and easy service (also convenient for holiday party punch bowls, Griffith adds).

Male bartender's hands garnishing a clear amber-colored drink in a glass with orange peel. Bottle of rum in background.
Make the Cow-abunga in big batches save on prep time. / Courtesy Northside Eatery & Bar
  • Restaurant: Northside Eatery & Market, 1691 Central Street, Denver
  • Bartender: Collin Griffith
  • Cocktail: Cow-abunga
  • Brand: Flor de Caña 
  • Pour cost: 17% 
  • Price: $13

Recipe:

  • 28 ounces whole milk
  • 48 ounces Flor de Caña 12 Year rum
  • 6 ounces allspice dram
  • 12 ounces Velvet Falernum
  • 1 ounce vanilla paste
  • 16 ounces maple syrup
  • 20 ounces lime juice
  • 12 ounces grapefruit juice
  • Peels from 6 oranges
  • Peels from 4 grapefruits
  • Peels from 6 limes

Combine all ingredients except the milk in a large container. Stir and allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, strain peels and add room-temperature whole milk. Pour milk in slowly and do not stir, keeping the mixture as calm as possible. Let the mixture sit unrefrigerated for another four hours, allowing the milk to curdle. Strain out all milk curds using a cone filter. When ready to serve, stir and pour over ice. Garnish with an orange peel. Keep the remaining mixture refrigerated. (For a single serving, divide the proportions of this recipe by 20.)

Peyton Garcia is a writer and editor based in Denver, Colorado. For more of her work, visit peytongarciamedia.com

What other Denver drinks are worth highlighting? Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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