Saturday, August 1, 2015


What happens when a fine furniture maker decides to make a puzzle box?  The “Woodwink” puzzle box is a beautiful piece of woodwork designed and crafted by Australian artisan Peter Cook in his shop, Scarab Wood Studio.  The box is made from Jarrah, Sheoak and desert Snakewood, which are all indigenous Australian exotic woods, and is composed of 53 precision-made pieces.  Despite this the box is completely silent and gives no clues as to what might be going on inside.  It has a lovely burnish and wood smell, and is as smooth and polished as silk.  There are gorgeous splines along the corners and a pattern created by the colors and textures of the woods.

The Woodwink Box by Peter Cook

The box resisted efforts to open it for a while but eventually revealed its secrets.  Inside, the bottom is lined with soft leather and a little silver badge inscribed with the maker’s mark, the box’s edition number and its year of completion.  Peter has applied his masterful woodworking artistry to the art of the puzzle box and the results are gorgeous.  This is a unique box created with a tremendous amount of fine craftsmanship, and will have you “woodwinked” for a while.  It deserves a cocktail with similar qualities, finely crafted out of many parts, yet smooth and elegant at the finish, and with a hidden secret.

Leather lined interior and a little silver marker add to the elegance of this box

Which brings us to Faith and Flower’s milk punch.  This award winning restaurant in Los Angeles is home to Michael Lay, their “Chief of Booze”, a title anyone could respect.  He has delved deep into the history books (specifically “the professor” Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks, from 1862) to remaster the classic “clarified milk punch” for a modern take on the old classic.  Clarified milk punch is a clear drink, which can look like water or wine, yet is made with milk!  Just change the name and it would fool anyone.  Michael Lay’s version is one complicated cocktail, which incidentally won Esquire’s “cocktail of the year” last year, so of course I had to make it.  It takes three days to complete, mostly due to the length of time needed to allow the flavors to meld initially, and then for the milk solids to settle out at the end.  Intrigued?  Typically I like a cocktail with a single bottle of base spirit, such as a nice gin, rum or bourbon.  In this case I had no less than seven (!) bottles of booze lined up ready to contribute to this masterful concoction.  It’s not as many parts as in the woodwink box, but not bad.  The fumes alone could make you drunk.  

No less than seven base spirits combine together in this boozy bomb

Keep in mind that this is meant to be a punch, served for a party.  I cut the proportions dramatically which works just as well.  The alcohol steeps in a mixture of fresh pineapple, lemon peels and green tea overnight.  The real fun begins on the second day, when you add boiling milk to the rum, cognac and bourbon mixture and watch it curdle … did I just ruin all that fine booze?  All part of the plan, all part of the plan.  After straining the milk solids away, and letting the smallest particles settle overnight, you are left with a pale yellow, clear potion.  Put it in a wine glass and you might think you are about to sip a lovely chardonnay.  But this potion packs a punch, pun intended, and has been described as a “silky smooth booze bomb”, which really sums it up nicely.  The flavors are incredible, rich, sweet, tropical, balanced and alluring, with an undertone of velvety milky-ness which lends a truly surprising element to this crystal clear drink.  This “milk punch” really hoodwinks you, but you forgive it as you reach for another.

A refined pair of puzzling beauties

For more about Michael Lay's clarified milk punch:

For more about Peter Cook:


  1. OMG! I WANT THAT BOX!!! I am addicted to wood but don't collect boxes. However, this I would consider a sequential discovery puzzle and so definitely fits into my puzzle collecting!

    The cocktail sounds awesome but too complex for me to make at home! I need to visit LA to sample it!


    1. It's a beautiful box, Kevin! I'll meet you in LA for that cocktail.

  2. The punch is amazing as is the cocktail maker at making it!

  3. I need to see one of these boxes