Monthly Archives: November 2010

Fish House Punch

This month’s Mixology Monday theme is Forgotten Cocktails.  Host Dennis at Rock & Rye has challenged folks “…to bring to light a drink that you think deserves to be resurrected from the past, and placed back into the spotlight. It could be pre-prohibition, post-war, that horrible decade known as the 80′s, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it is somewhat obscure, post it up.”

In the age of online cocktail parties, iPhone cocktail apps, and glossy magazines devoted to drinking, I’m not so sure how obscure anything can be at this point, but this tipple is definitely from the past.  Way past.   Colonial-era 1732 past.  Not sure if George Washington drank this stuff, but I sure feel the urge to put on a powdered wig while sipping it.  (Full disclosure: Yes, Virginia – I once was a “historical re-enactor” at a Colonial Williamsburg type museum.  I got the tri-corn hat and knee breeches, but mercifully, never had to wear that wig.)

Returning to the story – way back in ye olde yonder, a bunch of well to-do, proto-plutocrats in Philadelphia started what is the oldest private club in the country, replete with a “castle” clubhouse along the Schuylkill River, christening it the “State in Schuylkill Fishing Corporation”, or the more common Schuylkill Fishing Company.  The original club was established under a treaty with the local Native American tribe and limited to 25 members, since increased to a wopping 30.  The club’s activities were pretty simple and continue to this day – Catch some fish.  Cook some fish (and meat).  Drink some hooch.   Members do all the cooking and rumor is they pay their rent in fish.

Their house punch was a closely guarded secret.  An early recipe appears in “Professor” Jerry Thomas “How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion” published in 1862, followed by a slightly different one in the Philadelphia Times in 1896.   Charles H. Baker, Jr. in his 1939 “Gentleman’s Companion”claims the original as well.  Regardless, the recipes all seem to involve similar ingredients in varying proportions: lemon, sugar, water, rum, cognac, peach brandy.  A fairly basic punch recipe provided a twist with the addition of the peach brandy.  Most recipes referring to “peach brandy” usually assume a creme de peche or peach liqueur – but I wonder how one of the new school peach eau de vie’s would taste? Experiments might need to follow.

Its really quite tasty with a subtle wallop – you’ll quickly drain your punch glass and before you know it, you just might convince yourself that you too, could someday own a yacht.

1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
2 quarts water
1 quart lemon juice
2 quarts dark rum
1 quart cognac
4 ounces peach brandy

Dissolve sugar in large bowl with some of the water.  Add lemon juice. Finally, add rum, cognac and brandy along with rest of water.  When ready to serve, add large block of ice and allow to cool for one hour out of heat.

Single serving:

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
2 ounces spring water
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces dark Jamaican rum
1 ounce cognac
1/8 ounce peach brandy

Stir with ice and strain into punch cup over ice.

Garnish with lemon wheel.

Recipe courtesy of Dave Wondrich.