Punch. To most, they probably imagine a room full of adolescent, runny nosed screamers huddling over a giant bowl of basically sugar with some fruit juice thrown in for good measure. Or perhaps something served with numerous flavored rums, some coconut and fruit juice at a Bahama Breeze or some other unscrupulous pseudo Tiki lounge. In actuality punch is a long standing tradition first conceived in India where it was mostly tea based, and brought to England and the Americas where we were introduced
anything from port to gin to the mix. Punch, as it was once known, was strong. Sure, there was sugar and some fruit or fruit liqueurs, but somewhere along the way it was lost to mass consumer needs for poor liqueurs, artificially flavored rums and store bought fruit juices. Now, I do tend to like my cocktails a little on the sweeter side, but I don’t want artificially flavored Kool-Aide. I want punch, really good punch. Let’s see what we can do about that.
The most famous American punch probably would fall to the Fish House Punch. First conceived around the 1730’s in Philadelphia (or in the late 1800’s that some insist) at the venerable Schuylkill Fish Co., or “Fish House” as it was lovingly known, is a fine example of what punch was really like. Strong, flavorful, with the sweetness really shining through from the liqueurs and spirits used in it. Ted Haigh also stated in his book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails that this punch had numerous recipes which including anything from tea to strawberries, to simply containing some rum, cognac, sugar, lemon and water. I like the version he included in his book, which adds the addition of green tea and Maraschino liqueur. This is definitely a “strong” punch so proceed with caution… and a cup with ice.
Fish House Punch
2 quarts Jamaican Rum
1 quart Brandy or Cognac
1/2 pint Peach Brandy
1/2 pint Maraschino Liqueur
1 quart Freshly Made Green Tea
1 pint Lemon Juice
1 lb Powdered Sugar
1 Bottle Champagne
Combine everything, except Champagne, in a large container. Mix well and allow to “brew” for two days. When ready, pour into a large punch bowl over ice and stir in the Champagne. Enjoy.
Another fine example, and one of the oldest English/American punches is the Bajan Punch. A simple concoction containing rum, sugar, lemon, bitters and nutmeg; is delicious in its simplicity. It’s amazing how the addition of a dash of bitters and some freshly grated nutmeg rounds out and brings everything together. There was an old rhyme to which was nationally known for this beverage; “One of Sour, Two of Sweet, Three of Strong, Four of Weak.” That is: one part lime juice, two parts sweetener, three parts rum (preferably Barbados), and four parts water. This is also a recipe that you could easily scale down and make into a single serving, which coincidentally I have done here. The proportions are a little different from the original version as I use both water and simple syrup. I think this makes for a much more balanced cocktail version.
Bajan Rum Punch
2 oz Barbados Rum (Mount Gay is a fine choice)
1 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Water
Dash of Angostura Bitters (Garnish)
Dash of Freshly Grated Nutmeg (Garnish)
Build in a large rocks glass or mug. Add ice and top with bitters and nutmeg, stir to combine. Enjoy.
Next up, I found a particularly tasty concoction online that I enjoyed from the Small Screen Network which incorporated spiced rum and port with some fresh fruit juice. This is almost the other side of the spectrum from traditional punch recipes, but is definitely reflective on how we perceive what makes a good punch for today’s tastes. You can check out the video where mixologist, Charolette Voisey, whips up a batch. http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/video/594/liquid_kitchen_port_mischief_punch/
Port of Mischief Punch
Zest of One Orange
2 Tbsp Cinnamon Sugar
3 parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
1 part Port Wine
1 part Fresh Pineapple Juice
1 part Fresh Lime Juice
1 part Spiced Simple Syrup
1 part Chilled Water
Muddle the orange zest and cinnamon sugar in a large bowl. Combine all the ingredients except the port and rum with the muddle zest and sugar. Add a large block of ice and pour in rum and port, stir to combine, and adorn with fresh fruit. Ladle out and enjoy.
I decided to meet somewhere in the middle. I like the idea of the sweet, rich flavors of rum and cognac, and the addition of nutmeg and bitters, but I wanted to get some fresh, bright flavors in the mix that play well with the spirits. It seems a lot of people associate punch with summer, but in actuality it is enjoyable year round, so I wanted my version to reflect that. And so, the Oyster House Punch was born (made sense as I developed this for the restaurants summer menu).
Oyster House Punch
1-3/4 cups Jamaican Rum (Appleton V/X is a fine choice)
1 cup Brandy or Cognac (Remy Martin VSOP is a fine choice)
1 cup Fresh Pineapple, Diced
1 Orange, Sliced Thin
3/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
3/4 cups Raspberry Syrup (Smucker’s is a fine choice)
1-1/2 cups Water
Angostura Bitters (Garnish)
Freshly Grated Nutmeg (Garnish)
In a large container combine everything, except garnishes, stir well to combine and cover tightly with a lid. Place in refrigerator for a day or two to “brew”, making sure to stir a couple times a day. Dish out into glass of choice filled with large ice cubes and hit each one with a dash of bitters and some freshly grated nutmeg. Enjoy.