A little history first...
Punch is making a comeback, for lots of good reasons too! For the full story, pick up Dave Wondrich's new book titled "Punch" - (Penguin, ISBN: 978-0-399-53616-8)
Tales have been coming from the punch bowl for quite a while now. Punch's humble beginnings in the seventeenth century sprang from "necessity" when it was consumed by bored agents of the empire in far off postings as a way to temper the strong "aqua vitae" (and also simply to pass the time).
By using the sugar, citrus and spices that were readily available in India and the islands of the tropics they found that they could tame the raw spirits of the day into something that was more than merely palatable.
It's had quite a journey over the last four to five centuries. It was once a ubiquitous and well practiced art but the pace of modern life eventually caught up with punch. Most people simply didn't have the time to sit around and see a bowl through to the end.
Around the same time (the mid 1800's) cocktails were evolving as mini, made-to-order Punches. See David's book "Imbibe" for that story. Punch use slowly went from a way of life, to a holiday tradition, to the near extinction of present day. That could be changing though...
After recently reading David's"Punch" book, I was inspired to try my hand at one for the family's Thanksgiving feast this year.
I went with the basic "reference" recipe from the book and used a mixture of Martell VS cognac and Smith and Cross Jamaican rum.
Step 1 Prepare the "Oleo-Saccharum"
Take a veggie peeler and carefully peel the skin from 3 lemons in long strips. Be sure to avoid as much of the white pith as possible, Save the lemons for juicing and put the peels into a large, non-reactive bowl.
Add 6 oz of sugar.
Use a muddler to mash the peels into the sugar until it is wet with lemon oil.
Now let this rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. Give it an hour if you can. The sugar will continue to draw out the oils from the lemon peel.
Step 2 Preparing the Shrub (or Sherbet)
Juice the lemons and any additional necessary to get 6 oz of strained lemon juice and stir it into the oleo-sacchrum.
Side note: If you are using a rough sugar like a turbinado or demerara then add 6 oz of boiling water to the oleo-saccharum and muddle the sugar until mostly dissolved before adding your lemon juice.
Stir it up and remove the peels with a slotted spoon. You can reserve the peels for garnishing the drinks or do what I did and decorate the ice for the punch bowl with it.
Step 3 Adding the spirits and wines.
I went ahead and strained the shrub once more time after removing the lemon peels and before I added the spirits. Once you have a nice clear shrub, add 750 ml of spirits. You can use whatever you like, I went with the author's suggestion of 9 oz of Smith and Cross Jamaican rum and 16 oz of Martell VS cognac because it sounded so good. Stir, taste, you are now ready to bottle this up for transport or later use.
|The concentrated punch ready for bottling.|
|Bowl, cups, bottles, nutmeg, ice - check! I'm ready to go.|
Step 4 Dilution, Cooling and Spice
When you are ready, add the punch, 4.5 cups of cold water, your ice, and taste. If it's too strong, add more water. Grate a 1/4 to 1/2 of a whole nutmeg over the top. You are done, and no playing "bartender" all night either!
|The assembled punch ready to be enjoyed.|
As you can see, the punch was a hit!