Tuesday, August 6, 2013

There's Still Summer Enough Left for a Good Punch

You may think punches are just cocktail recipes scaled up but it's the other way around. Punches were the first mixed drinks and many of the earliest cocktails were simply punch recipes recalculated for a single serving.

Most of what I know about punches I've learned from David Wondrich, a cocktail historian of some renown. Once, when I had grown cynical about cocktails, a weekend with Mr. Wondrich, at historic Mount Vernon no less, got the spark back.

A punch recipe typically has five ingredients, as do many classic cocktail recipes. They are alcohol, water, citrus fruit, sugar, and spice.

Punch is great for a party because the host can make it ahead of time and then join the party, rather than tending bar. Unfortunately, the 'jungle juice' most of us experienced in our youth has put us off punches.

Give them another chance.

Wondrich suggests the following punch recipe in the Summer 2013 issue of Whisky Advocate Magazine. He estimates it's enough for 50 people.

The main ingredient is three 1.75 liter bottles of Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (the standard black label expression), selected for its ready availability and superior value. You will also need about 40 lemons, three pounds of sugar, two gallons of water, and a two-gallon block of ice.

Now it gets a little complicated, but remember you're doing this the day before. Peel half of the lemons and muddle the peels with the sugar. Let that sit for at least three hours. Juice and strain all of the lemons and add the juice to the rested peel/sugar mixture. Stir until all of the sugar has dissolved.

Pour that into a five gallon cooler. Add the whiskey, water, and ice. Stir again until everything is well mixed and adjust the sweetness to taste.

In Wondrich's published version of this recipe he forgets to add the whiskey, an oversight corrected here.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Hi, Chuck. I learned the same thing when Alton Brown presented an episode of "Good Eats" on punch. Here are my notes from the episode, probably incomplete:

Punch, from Hindi "panch", meaning "5":

"Rule of 5, Cold":

1 part sour
2 parts sweet
3 of strong
4 of weak
& spice

Company Punch (British East India Company, 1601, progenitor of Long Island Iced Tea):

block ice
lime juice (& rinds, but don't count)
demerrera (raw) sugar
Batavia Arrack from Java (gold rum; cachaca?)
India black tea (warm to dissolve sugar)
fresh grated nutmeg

(For reference, Long Island Iced Tea:)

1 oz vodka
1 oz tequila
1 oz white rum
1 oz gin
1 oz triple sec
squeeze half lemon
splash cola

Cape Fear Punch (Cape Fear Club, 1800s):

Rye, Jamaican Rum, Cognac
club soda, extra-dry champagne

"Rule of 5, Hot":

1 part sour
2 parts sweet
10 of strong
16 of weak
& spice