If you've been drinking for any length of time, I'm sure you've had a glass of punch. I don't stress "enjoyed" in that equation, primarily because the modern experience of punch is generally restricted to Jungle Juice or one of its cousins—the accidental mash-up of whatever booze and juice were cheapest at the grocery store closest to the frat house where you happen to be imbibing said ambrosial delight.
But punch, as a class of mixed drink, is the parent through which we have come to know the cocktail, cobbler, flip, sling, frappe, and every other glass-sized subset in the wide world of mixology. Commonly composed of liquor or wine, tea, citrus, spices, and water, punch was a fixture amongst sailors traveling the high seas between the colonial powers of Europe and their far-flung colonies—including India, Indonesia, and Jamaica. Tea and citrus were introduced to the West via these trade routes, and the ease and pleasure of sharing a bowl of punch quickly spread from sea-farers to the landlubbers across the pond(s).
This historic libation is highlighted in Dave Wondrich's newest book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, a systematic review of the history and composition of the oldest known mixological libation. Readers who are familiar with Wondrich's column in Esquire magazine or who enjoyed his earlier biography-slash-recipe book, Imbibe! (chronicling the life and times of Jerry "Professor" Thomas) will be familiar with his blend of history, humor, and classic recipes. His style is singular and entertaining, and Punch delivers both style and substance for punch novices as well as experienced drinkers.
Wondrich leads readers from the development of punch and colonial drinking life, through a breakdown of punch making, and on into a survey of classic punch recipes. He outlines specific brands and styles of spirit to use in each punch, as well as how to prepare a proper oleo-saccharum—the blend of sugar and citrus peel that creates the most flavorful, elegant base for a punch. The recipes are a well-balanced blend of styles and flavor combinations that provide options for a wide variety of occasions. Punch is, after all, the ultimate easy, friendly drink for sharing with friends, and a certain star at the heart of any party.
Win A Copy of Punch
Thanks to the generous folks Perigee Books, we are giving away five (5) copies of Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl this month. To enter, share your favorite ingredients for punch in the comments below.
About the author: Marleigh Riggins Miller writes and photographs for SLOSHED!, a website about cocktails, spirits, home bartending, and entertaining.