Christmas Punch

Christmas Punch

For Christmas dinner this year, I wanted to make a traditional Victorian punch.  My first step was Mrs. Beeton’s to get an idea for what was expected.  Her recipe is pretty standard.  (paragraph 1839)

  • 1/2 pint of rum
  • 1/2 pint of brandy
  • 1/4 lb. of sugar
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of nutmeg
  • 1 pint  of boiling water

OK, fair enough.  Half spirits and the other half water served hot with sugar, spice, and lemon.  That’s pretty-much a modern toddy recipe.  But after the punch recipe, Mrs.  Beeton goes on to list other ways of making punch.  She’s got everything from the same recipe except chilled, to punches based on wine, substituting 19th century lemon flavoring for the lemon, and even a recipe for mint juleps.  Hmmm, it sounds like I can I make whichever one I want and not go far wrong.

Punch recipes were brought to England from India early in the 1600s.  The basic recipe called for some type of booze, sweetener, citrus, water, and tea or spice.  Most punch in England was based on wines or on spirits native to Europe like brandy or whiskey.  But Jamaican rum was incorporated after it became available around 1655.  And punch recipes had traveled to the New World, returning as cocktails like the mint juleps Beeton mentions.

Hmm, so by Victorian times, punch could be hot or cold, based on wine or spirits, and incorporate a wide variety of mixers.  It could even have referred to a classic cocktail like a flip or the almost direct descendant of punch, the sour.  In that case, I believe I’ll have to make them all.  For the holidays, I decided to start with a classic Planter’s Punch, because I wanted something cold.  And all of the ingredients would have been available in a Victorian kitchen.

  • 6 parts rum
  • 3 parts lemon
  • 1 part grenadine ← This ingredient might be a stretch as the history of grenadine is a bit murky, but raspberry syrup would have been available which is pretty close in flavor and appearance.
  • dash bitters

And here’s the finished drink in all its glory.  It was delicious.

Planter's Punch

Here’s a flaming version of punch, which I need to try.  Everything’s better when it’s on fire.

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