From Britain's posh peeps to the soldiers toasting the Armistice and now bar hipsters everywhere, punch's simple blend of spirits, fruits and spices has been bringing thirsty crowds together for centuries. Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller plunge into the flowing bowl
Whilst living on Saint Lucia a friend of ours was introduced to the most classic of classics by an octogenarian named Francis. Served on the beach in a plastic cup under a warm-hued Caribbean sunset, this lonely yet now happy old gent shared his punch formula with our friend and her companions: ‘One of sour / two of sweet / three of strong / four of weak’. Francis’ version stirred lime juice, sugar-cane syrup, white rum, and water that was spiced with a pinch of grated nutmeg – the fifth element in his punch.
by Martha Washington, c.1770s
6 parts fruit and spice mixture*
2 parts light rum
2 parts dark rum
1 part orange curaçao
Method: Combine the ingredients in a punch bowl fitted with a block of ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg and cinnamon.
*Fruit and spice mixture
120ml fresh orange juice
120ml fresh lemon juice
120ml simple syrup
1 orange cut into quarters
3 lemons cut into quarters
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks, broken
6 whole cloves
360ml boiling water
Combine the oranges, lemons, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Muddle the mixture lightly. Add syrup and juices. Pour boiling water over the mixture. Cool then strain into a pot. Stirring constantly bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Refrigerate overnight.
Punch made its way during the early 1600s from India to Britain. Blending wine or brandy, rum or gin, punch was the stylish serve of gentlemen’s clubs, coffee houses, taverns and universities as well as the most elegant and most humble of homes. Wherever the ‘flowing bowl’ appeared, conviviality was sure to be there in abundance.
Martha Washington’s Rum Punch was at the centre of many a Colonial American political powwow. But her husband George also favoured another recipe by tavern keeper Samuel Fraunces. His punches were signature serves at The Queen’s Head Tavern in New York, which at different times acted as the headquarters for the Sons of Liberty, then for revolutionary troops, and finally for the US departments of Foreign Affairs and War. (Fraunces also served as President George Washington’s steward in the nation’s capital.)
Meanwhile, at the same time across the pond, university students among the dreaming spires of Oxford were also enthusiastically embracing punch’s merriment.
The recipes served by college stewards travelled far beyond this fortress of academia after Richard Cook published the first Oxford Night Caps book in 1827, which contained a baker’s dozen of them, including three different milk punches, an egg punch and a shrub punch.
Author Charles Dickens channeled his love for an evening glass of Hot Gin Punch through one of his most beloved characters, Mr Micawber in David Copperfield. His old haunt, the Garrick Club, earned applause for its signature sparkling punch.
And Dickens himself reinforced his love of the flowing bowl when he raised a cup of Bob Cratchit’s Hot Gin Punch in his seasonal 1843 tale A Christmas Carol. God bless us everyone.
BOB CRATCHIT’S HOT GIN PUNCH
Adapted by Anistatia Miller, 2010
1 dried lemon peel
½ dried orange peel
20 whole cloves
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp dried pomegranate seeds
10 green cardamom pods
10 juniper berries
2 sticks of cinnamon (5cm long each)
Beefeater 24 Gin
Method: Place all ingredients, except for the Beefeater 24 Gin and ginger beer, into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Strain and pour into a teapot to keep warm. To serve, pour 30ml Beefeater 24 Gin into a punch cup and then add the hot liquid. Top the drink with ginger beer and serve.
San Franciscans in 1890 delighted in Duncan Nicol’s Pisco Punch whilst the century turned. Then it became the centrepiece for many an American and British military muster through the world wars. After peace was restored in the 1940s, the beverage was then called into action at a suburban garden party or two before it all but disappeared off the drinks roster.
Call it kismet when Nick Strangeway offered a whole menu of classic punches in 2006 at London’s Hawksmoor and opened many a mixologist’s eyes to the category’s full host of possibilities.
The Edition Hotel in London took the trend one step further in 2013 when it opened the doors to its cosy Punch Room.
Today, punch is found nearly everywhere in the world. A younger generation of bartenders has taken up the mantle and is crafting new signatures such as Roberto Bentivoglio’s Armagnac Punch, matching the spirit with lime, orange and blackberries.
What it comes down to is this: Whether it’s ringing in the new year, a new home, new friends, celebrating an occasion or embracing old ties, a flowing bowl is sure to raise a smile.
By Roberto Bentivoglio, 2015
15ml simple syrup
30ml fresh lime juice
30ml fresh orange juice
5 fresh or frozen blackberries
Method: Muddle spirit, syrup, and juices with the berries. Shake and double strain into a coupe. Float the soda on top.
Rum hot chocolate
Aprés ski or snuggled up with a good book deserves a tummy-warming cup of rum-laced hot chocolate. High in the French Alps chef Christophe Côte has been serving up frothy cups of his favourite version at Les Fermes de Marie.
To serve six deserving souls, bring 1 litre whole milk, 120ml double cream, and 60ml dark aged rum to a simmer over a moderate heat. Remove from heat and add 250g of coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate. Let stand to melt. Whisk until smooth and pour into warmed mugs. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.