by Hanky Panky
In this week’s column in the Weekly Dig Pink Lady took us through the finer points of hosting for a cocktail crowd. Batching is a great way to alleviate stress and allow a host/ess to enjoy the party as much as their guests. Another way to accomplish this is by serving guests a lovely bowl of punch. Many of us only associate the punch bowl with 1950’s-era high school dances, but the punch bowl and it’s spiking has a history that dates back long before Mr. Fonzerelli.
The word punch may originate from the Hindu panch, meaning five, as punches were traditionally composed of five ingredients-spirits, lemon or lime, sugar, spices and water. It became popular among the sailors of the British East India Company in the late 16th and early 17th century as they traversed about the area of India. The punch bowl from which they imbibed was spiked with Arak, an Arabic term that is used for liquor of any kind. In the case of our British Navy friends, they were probably getting looped on spirits made from palm tree sap.
Now we all know how fun it is to tie one on with our friends, so it’s no surprise that the tradition of the punch bowl was brought back to England as a souvenir and it’s popularity quickly spread. The punch craze was carried across the great pond and we came up with our own American variations. So what happened? When did the punch bowl get relegated to the closet only to be brought out for little Suzie’s 8th birthday party? Essentially we just got too darned busy, or at least we wanted everyone to think we were busy. In the fast paced environment of the new world it fell out of fashion to be seen with your friends lazing away the afternoon hours while draining a bowl of punch.
Well the ladies of LUPEC believe the punch bowl is just what we need. Nothing eases stress like a few good friends and a bowl of hooch. Unearth your punch set and give one of our favorites a try! David Wondrich’s Esquire recipe for the Pisco Punch is truly divine!
1 pint distilled water
10 ounces lemon juice
24 ounces pisco brandy
Take a fresh pineapple, cut it in squares about 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches. Put these squares of fresh pineapple in a bowl of gum syrup* to soak overnight. That serves the double purpose of flavoring the gum syrup with the pineapple and soaking the pineapple, both of which are used afterward in the Pisco Punch.
In the morning, mix 8 ounces of the flavored gum syrup, the water, lemon juice, and pisco** in a big bowl.
Serve very cold but be careful not to keep the ice in too long because of dilution. Use 3- or 4-ounce punch glasses. Put one of the above squares of pineapple in each glass. Lemon juice or gum syrup may be added to taste.
For perfect authenticity, we should note, this should be made one drink at a time, as Nicol did:
In a cocktail shaker, combine: 2 ounces pisco, 1 ounce distilled water (Nicol insisted on this), 2/3 ounce (4 teaspoons) syrup (refrigerated, this’ll keep at least two or three months), 3/4 ounce lemon juice.
Shake well, strain into a thin punch glass and garnish with syrup-soaked pineapple chunk., (You can freeze these, if you want ‘em to keep.)
* The secret ingredient here, gum (aka “gomme”) syrup, is a nineteenth-century bar essential consisting of sugar syrup blended with gum arabic (the crystallized sap of the acacia tree) to smooth it out and add body. To make it, slowly stir 1 pound gum arabic into 1 pint distilled water and let soak for a day or two. When this solution is ready, bring 4 pounds sugar and 1 quart distilled water to a boil, add the gum solution, and skim off the foam. Let it cool, filter it through cheesecloth, and bottle it. It should keep, even unrefrigerated. You can find gum arabic powder in some health-food stores and at Frontiercoop.com. It’s worth the hassle. Really.
And don’t forget to check out a punch from posts past!