Charles Dickens sure liked his punch. It showed up in his novels and it showed up in his letters. Thank goodness it did, because one of them – his namesake punch – is delicious, pretty easy to make, and theatrically awesome. You set it on fire. Yes! Fire! (It’s a lot of fun.) We highly recommend making up a batch of Charles Dickens’ Punch for the holidays – and for the many cold winter nights still to come. –Andrew
Charles Dickens’ Punch
Makes 12 servings
16 oz Rum
10 oz Brandy
6 oz Raw Sugar
5 cups Hot Black Tea
With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, thinly peel the lemons, avoiding the bitter white pith, then juice the lemons and set the juice aside. Combine the rum, brandy, sugar, and lemon peels in a heat proof bowl or an enameled cast iron pot. Pick up a spoonful of the liquid with a heatproof spoon – stainless steel is best – and light the spoonful on fire with a match. Lower the lit spoon to the pot, lighting the whole thing on fire. Let it burn for three minutes, stirring periodically, then extinguish the fire by covering the bowl. Then add the hot tea and lemon juice, and remove the lemon peels with a slotted spoon. Ladle into cups to serve while it’s still hot. If it cools, you can also serve over ice. Garnish as you see fit: citrus wheels, freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and fresh herbs and spices all work. Enjoy!
This is actually a pretty easy punch to make, as long as you’re good at not setting yourself on fire. Some of the traditional punches we’ve featured have been pretty labor intensive – remember the milk punch that takes two to three days to make? This one takes a fraction of the time. The heat from the fire both melts the sugar and extracts the oils from the lemon peels in minutes, instead of the usual hours or days.
The result is a really flavorful punch, with a mellow foundation and a punch of citrus. You can make this punch with hot water instead of tea, but we like to go with a black tea – or even a chai – to add some complex spiciness.
And it’s so dramatic! This is a good one to impress a party. But be careful! Alcohol makes a cool, dim blue flame (it helps to dim the lights so you can see the full light show), but as cool as it is, it’s still flame and it will still hurt if you spill it on yourself.
Lighting booze on fire can actually be a bit tricky. Most liquor is bottled at 80 proof, 40% alcohol by volume, and liquor at this proof doesn’t like to light at room temperature. If you’re using liquor at this proof, you’ll need to warm it up first – stick it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds before you try to light it, which will warm it and release alcohol vapor that will help with lighting. As it burns, you’ll lose alcohol content, so you’ll also end up with a lower-proof punch. Or, you can use an overproof rum, something like Hamilton 151, in your mix. Adding some higher proof rum should allow you to light the punch without heating it first.
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Glassware by Liquorary
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper