A couple of weekends ago, we helped throw a party for a couple of dear friends. The signature drink? A Punch, of course. We’ve featured a few Punches over the years: the Vanilla Punch, the Puritan’s Punch, the Pisco Punch, and – just over a month ago – the Spice Islands Punch. One thing all of these drinks have in common is their size: they’re all single glass drinks. But Punch – real Punch – doesn’t belong in a single glass. It belongs in a bowl, or a drink dispenser, or something else big. Punch is, at its heart, a communal drink, something you can only drink with lots of friends. So here’s our first take on a real, genuine, authentic Punch the way it was meant to be: big, shared, delicious. – Andrew
Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper
Fall Harvest Punch
1/2 Bottle (375 ml or just over 1 1/2 cups) Aged Rum
1/2 Bottle (375 ml or just over 1 1/2 cups) Cachaca or Batavia Arrack
6 oz Simple Syrup
3 Lemons and 2 Limes
Peel the lemons thinly, with a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler, avoiding any of the bitter white pith. Muddle the lemon peels with the simple syrup. We used about 4 oz Saffron Simple Syrup and 2 oz Rose Simple Syrup from Royal Rose, to give the Punch its spice, one of the basic components of any true Punch.* Let the peels and sugar sit for at least thirty minutes, but an hour or more is better. Remove the peels with a slotted spoon. Those lemon peels have a lot of flavor left in them, so don’t be afraid to really press all that sugar and oil out of them.
Making the Oleo-Sacrum / Sherbet!
What you have left is the oleo-sacrum, dog-latin for “sugar-oil.” The sugar will have absorbed the fragrant oils of the lemon peel, leaving you with a citrusy sugar syrup. Juice the lemons and limes. Save the pulp and seeds in a sieve or strainer. Pour 12 oz boiling water over the citrus remnants to extract the last bit of citrus. Combine this with the oleo-sacrum and citrus juice. This is your sherbet. Combine the sherbet with the aged rum and the Cachaca. This is your punch base. Once you’re ready to serve, add about three cups of cold water and another three cups of ice to the base right before you’re ready to serve. This should give your Punch the right amount of dilution, but this is really a matter of taste. If your Punch is too strong, add more water. Otherwise, add less ice – or just leave it be.
The full punch in action at the party! Photo by Jessica Del Vecchio
Garnishes for true Punches are optional, but we went all-out with ours. We threw in the lemon peels, plus whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and freshly grated nutmeg (remember: it’s either fresh nutmeg, or nothing at all).
The result should be a Punch that’s a bit smooth, from the aged rum, a bit funky, from the Cachaca, and plenty sweet and citrusy and warmly spicy from all that lemon peel a citrus juice and spiced simple syrup. A punch like this is a lot like a Sour, but the citrus oils from the lemon peel add a depth to the drink that a typical rum sour lacks. There are lots of flavors running around in every glass of this Punch, but they all work together nicely to give you something that’s not quite smooth, but plenty harmonious.
This recipe serves…a lot. We made this Punch for a party of about thirty or forty people and had plenty left over. It made for a great social drink, because every time someone needed to refill their tiny glass (and all Punch should be sipped from tiny glasses requiring frequent refills), they had to cluster around the Punch bowl. Plus, having a bottle left over worked out really nicely, because a Punch ages very well. So even though it’s a bit of work, consider making an authentically classic Punch for your next party.
*There’s a legend that the word “Punch” derives from the Persian panj, meaning “five.” That is, the five ingredients of any Punch: spirits, sugar, citrus, water, and spice. Most traditional punches rely on some grated nutmeg or, more commonly, no spice at all. But the best Punches should involve rich warm spices, and one of the easiest ways is to use simple syrups from a place like Royal Rose or Morris Kitchen, which will let you easily incorporate lots of complex flavors into your Punch.
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper