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Thursday night at Temple Bar I asked about the seasonal punch, and as the list of ingredients was rattled off I was intrigued—rum, cognac, rye, grenadine, etc.  I enjoyed not one, but two glasses of this Twelve Mile Punch.  I rarely ever get the same drink twice in a row, so that says quite a lot about my satisfaction.  As Sam Gabrielli explained, this punch was inspired by the Twelve Mile Limit Cocktail (featured in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits), a cocktail popular in the 1930s that references the twelve nautical mile offshore-reach of the U.S.’s sovereignty, extended from the previous three mile limit.  This fact was particularly relevant during prohibition.  The government had no jurisdiction over what happened beyond the twelve mile limit, i.e. booze activities (i.e. the “booze cruise”) and sales beyond that point were out of reach of the feds.

Like the original cocktail recipe, the punch combines three different spirits (Appelton Jamaican Rum, Ansac VS Cognac and Overholt Rye) with homemade grenadine and lemon juice.  But Sam also added a few additional yummy things, Luxardo cherry juice and green tea, and combined this all over skins of juiced lemons.  The results are a rich boozy drink that is tempered by sweet and tart.

Cheers to summer and many more glasses of punch!

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You may talk of brisk Claret, sing Praises of Sherry,

Speak well of old Hock, Mum, Cider and Perry;

But you must drink Punch if you mean to be Merry.*

I grew up in a punch drinking family. Granted the stuff my family ladles out each Christmas is of the non-alcoholic variety—rainbow sherbert, gingerale, maybe some fruit and lots of ice.  I had a glass yesterday, and even though many a boozy version have passed over these lips, this tame variety still says “party” to me.  It is bubbly, colorful, and pretty tasty.  And something about sharing a drink from a communal bowl seems especially appropriate for a holiday celebration, doesn’t it?

What is it about a giant bowl of fruited and sugared booze?  For me, there is something nostalgic, comfortable and epic about it.  Maybe it’s because as long as I can remember a punch bowl meant our special Christmas libation? Or because people have been enjoying this kind of communal drink since the 17th century? Or maybe it’s the seemingly endless variations of recipes—ranging from the very simple 2-3 ingredient variety to recipes with 10-15 ingredients?

Punch changed the way we drink.  Its origins probably lie with 17th century sailors who had run out of beer or wine and were left with only brandy or some other spirit that was too much to drink on its own. To their booze they added some sugar, maybe a little water and some citrus (which had the added bonus of protecting against scurvy) and punch was born.  The popularity of these mixtures catapulted distilled spirits out of the realm of medicine and into the public drinking consciousness, eventually opening the door for those other alcoholic mixtures we call cocktails. So, yes, punch changed the way we drink.

If you want to learn more about the history of punch read David Wondrich’s new book Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl. Since the book’s launch party at Drink about a month ago, I have joined the ranks of punch loving Bostonians.  Check out this book for a fascinating and entertaining history of punch; and my friends at Dudekicker share a great interview with Wondrich.

So with the punch craze is in full start-up mode, I, of course, made a punch for my own holiday party last weekend (which was a pretty fun party, if I do say so myself).  I know I am about the 1,00,000th person to give this sage party hosting advice, but one of the best things about serving punch is that you are then free to actually enjoy your party, instead of spending the evening  mixing something for each guest.  The most you have to do is lift the ladle or replenish ingredients.

I chose a recipe for Harvest Punch shared by The Boston Shaker.  It was a huge hit!  With easy, yet interesting, flavors like rye, St. Germain, apple cider and ginger beer it pleased the variety of palates at the party, cocktail enthusiast and neophyte alike.

 

photo courtesy of Christine Fernsebner Eslao

Harvest Punch

2 cups Rye Whiskey (I prefer Old Overholt; delicious and inexpensive)
1 ½ cups St. Germain
2 cups apple cider

½ cup lemon juice
2 12 oz. cans of ginger beer (I like Barretts)
Jerry Thomas bitters, to taste (the recipe calls for Angostura, but I thought the autumnal flavors of the JT bitters worked well here)

Mix in a large punch bowl over an ice ring or large block of ice (I made one using a tupperware container). Garnish with diced apples.

The ingredients may change, but the essence of punch remains—making merry with delicious spirits in the company of friends and loved ones.  Now that’s something to be grateful for this Christmas season. Cheers!

*18th century song Wondrich quotes in Punch

This month’s Mixology Monday is all about punch. The the party is hosted by Mike at Hobson’s Choice. He explains his choice of theme:  “Punch fell out of style in the United States decades ago as a result of a confluence of factors. The temperance movement was growing. Advances in the distillation and aging of liquors meant they didn’t need heavy manipulation to be enjoyed. And, perhaps most destructive of all, people started acting like they were too busy to enjoy a punch. As David Wondrich writes in his most recent book, Imbibe!, ‘[t]o sit around a tavern ladling libations out of a capacious bowl was as much to confess that you didn’t have anywhere to be for the next few hours, and America was a go-ahead country, as everyone was always saying.’ I think it is time to reclaim the heritage.”

When I read this month’s theme I had flashed to happy memories of a giant punchbowl of sherbert-gingergale punch that graces my family’s holiday table every year.  I still love that stuff, but obviously I needed something more adult.  Since I had been under-the-weather, my energy level over the past week and a half has been a bit low.  The thought of sifting through all my books to find some punch recipe that I wanted to experiment with was too much.  So, I skipped the middleman and went right to the source—bartender Josey Packard.  I asked for a recommendation for a punch that would please a crowd.  She suggested a Rum Punch by the one and only punch-guru David Wondrich. Josey said that David said (sounds like some weird piece of gossip being passed along) these basic proportions go back to the 1680’s.

Here’s the recipe Josey gave me:

Rum Punch (by David Wondrich via Josey Packard)

1 liter cognac
1 liter dark, heavy-bodied rum
16 oz. fresh lime juice
16 oz. Demerara sugar syrup
2 quarts green tea (8 teaspoons of green tea infused in 2 quarts boiling water)
nutmeg, grated over the top

A Midnight Modern Conversation by William Hogarth, 18th century

I was serving this to a smallish crowd (my family for a joint birthday celebration), so I actually cut the recipe in half and it still made a lot!  My sisters and I really enjoyed this.  Even my mom liked it (and she’s not a drinker; her usual is a wine spritzer of sorts)—with a bit more green tea to her glass.  This punch is a nice boozy balance of sweet, bitter and tart.  The cognac and dark rum are a nice rich base.  The demerara syrup is needed here to balance those spirits. The lime brightens the flavors and the green tea lightens up the whole thing.

If you happen to find yourself at Drink and are interested in trying this yum punch, Josey says she usually calls it “Old School punch, or Colonial Era punch, or something like that.”  Whatever you call it this is some really good stuff. Cheers!

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