Tuesday, September 20, 2011

National Punch Day and a Swig of History!

One of sour,
two of sweet,
three of strong
four of weak,
a dash of bitters
a sprinkle of spice,
served well chilled
with plenty of ice.

~Rule of Five~

Happy Punch Day! No matter how you pour it, punch, much like rum, is instilled in the American food landscape. It may not have been "born" here but in true American spirit, we have nurtured it, coddled it and imbibed it since the colonists arrived from England. Yes "dearies" The Grand Secret of Punch travelled from India to the British Isles and eventually to America by way of the Caribbean Islands.
Rum Punch

There are two theories on the origin of the word punch. There are those who live by the conviction that punch is an abbreviation of the word "puncheon." Nay-sayers follow the creed that the word punch is derived from the Hindi word for panch or five, which embodies the number of ingredients traditional punches contained; lemon, sugar, arrack or rum, water or tea, spice (usually nutmeg.)
You know from Eastern India came
The skill of making punch as did the name.
And as the name consists of letters five,
By five ingredients it is kept alive.
To purest water sugar must be joined,
With these the grateful acid is combined.
Some any sours they get contented use,
But men of taste do that from Tagus choose.
When now these three are mixed with care
Then added be of spirit a small share.
And that you may the drink quite perfect see,
Atop the musky nut must grated be.
...If by punch you mean the anything-goes catchall favored at fraternity parties or the cloying mix of canned fruit juice and cheap beverage alcohol customarily ladled forth from cut glass at country club dances, it hardly bears considering. If, on the other hand, by punch you mean the social drink that, in its 18th-century heyday, fueled the European Enlightenment, a subtle and delightful blend of fine and often exotic liquors, softened with water, brightened with the freshly squeezed juices of citrus fruit, sweetened with pure cane sugar, and touched with rare spices—a drink assembled according to exacting formulae and shared by kings and gentlemen, poets and adventurers—well, that's rather a different story, isn't it?... With Glasses Raised: All About Punch by native Long Islander David Woodrich for Saveur)

Ah, the quintessential punch bowl. However, not always. England may have welcomed punch with open arms, or should I say pursed lips, however, the punch bowl, they made their own.

Monteith Bowl
A large Monteith, known as the John Bull bowl, was presented by Sir Thomas Abney, Lord Mayor of their name from a gentleman of fashion named Monteith, who was remarkable for wearing a scalloped coat. In [William] King's Art of Cookery occur the lines:
"New things produce new words, and so Monteith
Has by one vessel saved himself from Death."
Like this gentleman's coat, the vessel had "a moveable rim ornamented around the top with escallops, in which glasses were placed with their feet outwards for the purpose of bringing them into the room. The bowl was, of course, brought in empty, each gentleman fancying he had an especial talent for concocting the beverage, and a silver ladle and a lemon-strainer were brought in with it."

There are stories of punch parties where the fulfilling criteria for the size of a punch bowl was sometimes so extraordinary that extravagant containers had to be devised to hold the amount of punch that was to be consumed. One tells of a British naval officer who served 6,000 guests a punch made of 80 casks of brandy, 9 casks of water, 20,000 large limes, 80 pints of lemon juice, 1,300 pounds of sugar, 5 pounds of nutmeg and a huge cask of Malaga wine. The marble basin that was finally agreed upon was large enough for a ship's boy to row a small boat inside. 3

These days, a harmoniously balanced punch can be made with any measure of ingredients. The multitude of recipes is endless. I have left a few of those I think you may find of interest linked below. For indeed, Benjamin Franklin was a "puncher" an modern adaptation of his milk punch recipe is available at the Massachusetts Historical Society website along with the hand written recipe.

Here we have an adaption of a recipe and a historic description of a popular reception punch named in honor of Massachusetts senator, Daniel Webster from Politics & Pot Roast written by Sarah Hood Salomon and humorously illustrated by Glenn Foden. (©2006) I read here that Andrew Jackson "liked to serve his White House guests Daniel Webster Punch which was a potent potion."

Daniel Webster Punch
24 lemons
2 lbs. sugar (5-1/2 cups)
1 cup green tea
1 quart brandy
3 quarts dry red wine
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks
2 bottle champagne
Squeeze juice from the lemons, straining out all seeds and pulp. Add sugar, tea, brandy and red win. Cover tightly and chill. Just before serving, pour into a punch bowl with ice, and add strawberries, oranges and pineapples. Pour in champagne. Yields 2 gallons.

The punch recipes found in this Anchor Hocking booklet are reminiscent of days gone by.

Personally, I think they should be revived. Don't you? (click to enlarge)

Since I missed the party at Pam's for Talk Like A Pirate Day yesterday, I had better serve up this Halloween Punch Party recipe page from Betty Crocker's Hostess Cookbook so you have time to prepare:)

Halloween Punch Party & Celebration Punch

1.History of Alcohol in America
2. A Brief History of Punch
3 Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery Vol. 9
4. Monteith Bowls: The Connoisseur, Volumes 44-45 (1916)
5. National Rum Punch Day! @ Slashfood
6. 8 Rules of Party Punch Recipes
7. Roman Punch @ The Old Foodie
8. Celebration Punch
*David Wondrich's "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl is available @ Amazon.
Celebration Punch Poem from Cricket Cookery by Pauline Watson ©1977


  1. Hey. She totally took my comment ;) ha ha ha, I was all set to write- Fun! I guess that just proves it, this was a very entertaining post, Louise!

  2. Everyone craves a Bright Monday, Rita. Delighted to share one with you:)

    Clueless? I don't think so, Mae "Un-TV" savvy, perhaps. That makes two of us:)

    I haven't made a real effort to find the Soprano cookbook, Rosa. I was thinking maybe one of the kids would buy it for me. Still waiting...

    If I had my way, Yummy. I'd be at Cafe Nervosa!

    Ditto, ditto, ditto, Marjie. I do like to catch the "fashion police" though. They just crack me up! I remember your butterscotch and now YOU have me craving it! Doctors don't like me, (I don't listen) which is fine by me because I'm not too fond of them either:) We won't even discuss cholesterol.

    Oh that's hilarious, Pattie! Some recipes sure do have a way of enduring the tests of time. Some mom's do too and yours looks terrific! That 80th birthday bash proves it! Masks? Whoda thought! Get the book on sale, you'll love it!

    Wow! Duckie I actually din't see it that way but now that you mention it..."Appley" would be good. Perhaps you should bake up these Pecan Cookies with apples for your birthday tomorrow. After all, it is National Pecan Cookie Day!

    You should have seen the "stars" I ignored, Grace. I hadn't realized how many celebrity recipes and pics I have stashed.

  3. I love a pretty punch bowl, but I'm not a fan of cold and sweet drinks, but the Knight is! There aren't many punches he hasn't enjoyed.

  4. How can one not be happy when it is Punch Day; I really didn't know so much about this drink. i have to admit that the only time I made punch was non alcohol for the kids; they always looked forward to see what I would add.

  5. This post is fun and nice dear Louise I love ponches!!!

  6. Ah, punch. It always reminds me of the fun school holiday parties we had.

  7. I can't pass up a punch myself. I could drink my weight in punch easily. I wanted to blog about it today but the time just passed me by.

  8. I agree - let's bring punch back! I love it and it's easy to serve to a crowd. It looks beautiful and is fun. I really like those historic punch recipes with pure cane sugar and warm spices like nutmeg. I donated my glass punch bowl some years ago but now I'm thinking I should go out and look for another, maybe at a consignment shop where I might find an interesting one. Perhaps punch will be on my holiday table this year! Thanks Louise!

  9. . . . and, I just got a chuckle when I went back and read the Celebration Punch recipe . . . "mix to the tune of Auld Land Syne"! Sounds like a good idea to me. But, truly, it sends a message that punch (non-alchoholic) is something that kids can help make and enjoy. I remember making punch at home often for parties. Why, like your post says, almost any ingredients work. I remember using ginger ale or seltzer water with sherbets, ice cream, juices, fruit, etc. My parents didn't put out cans of soda like today . . .

  10. I think proper punch should definitely be revived! Interesting to learn about the possible origins of the word too. I'm going to have get a fancy punch bowl if it does come back into fashion!

  11. When I was a kid, my family used to frequent an eatery for Sunday dinner, and we always order fruit punch. I seldom hear this word 'fruit punch" anymore!

  12. How interesting about the punch word...had no idea its origin. Love punch!
    Hope you are having a wonderful week Louise :-)

  13. I enjoyed your post, very informative and well explained entertaining.

    You mentioned arrak in the punch ingredients. They have that in Goa and I think so in Kerala. They call it Urrak and its distilled of kaju fruits (-> Kajunut). Urrak is the first time distilling result, with a lower alcohol %. The second distillation result is called Fenni which has a 45-65%. Home made brews are always damn strong.

    Keep on the good posts Louise!

  14. fruit punch was one of the drinks that i usually had during my dating days..often suggested by the boys when i told them i couldnt take alcohol then :)

  15. I do think a punch revival is in order. It's a colorful and creative option (I love those lime green punches you often encounter at graduations), and so much easier for the bar tender than mixing individual drinks.

  16. You do such a good job with these, Louise! I could do with a slug of rum punch right about now!

  17. My Christmas punch is a perennial favorite. But it only has FOUR ingredients! Wahhhh! Can it continue to be punch anyway???? Please????

  18. This is an interesting post! I've really enjoyed reading it. To me a "punch" is just a "punch", until now! Never realised there is so much more to it than just a "punch"! And it has been a long time since I had any! Great post!

  19. Seriously, I do think punch should be revived especially with the holidays approaching. It's like one stop "sipping."

    Thanks for dropping by everyone!!!

  20. Punch is fun. This is fun. You are fun.

  21. I always learn so much when I come to visit! I am a big fan of the punch bowl and we always have a nice punch going over the Christmas holidays...sometimes a Swedish Glogg and sometimes a cold fruit punch!

  22. I shouldn't be surprised to find out there is an entire booklet on punch recipes. I hadn't seen the Anchor Hocking booklet before--thanks! The illustrations in that series of Betty Crocker cookbooks are wonderful--no wonder I hang onto them! Somewhere around here (perhaps the attic) I have my grandmother's punch bowl set. Perhaps I'll have to locate it and try out a punch recipe now.

  23. Hooray for punch!!!

    Have you seen the episode of Good Eats about this? I think you'd enjoy it very much...in the meantime I have to try some of those.

    Great post, Louise!

  24. And you are sweet, Chaya:)

    The holidays are the perfect time to revive the punch bowl, Susan. who can resist Swedish Glogg @ Christmas time!

    Oh how I wish I still had my grandmother's punch bowl set Kathy. I have a few of those anchor hocking booklets. You're more than welcome to one of them. Betty Crocker's calendar book was the inspiration for this blog!

    Thanks, Jesse. It was a fun post to do. I haven't seen that episode of Good Eats. I'll watch for it now that Chopped is done for the season.

    I think I did have a nice Wednesday, duckie. It's been a busy week but still GREAT!

  25. it's just not a party without punch! my favorite punches are easy ones with ginger ale, fruit juice, and some form of ice cream or sherbet. so satisfying! incidentally, my least favorite punches are ones that leave a black eye. :)

  26. The bowl of punch will definitely brighten up the table.


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise