Moveable Feast: Holiday Punch

PunchJeremy Noble (Flickr Creative Commons)

Moveable Feast: Holiday Punch


November 20, 2015

Bear with me here — I know that punch conjures images of a post-First-Communion receptions with a blend of 7-Up, frozen lemonade, and pineapple juice. However, I'm talking alcoholic punches — the most popular social beverage in colonial America, and perfect for serving at holiday gatherings.

These punches were thought to be the first mixed drinks, pre-dating cocktails. If you want to really geek out and go super-authentic, pick up a bottle of a spirit called Batavia Arrack. It's a funky, aromatic, rice-based spirit that was a precursor to rum — it comes from Indonesia and has been produced since back when Java was known as Batavia and was under Dutch control. This was a primary punch ingredient several hundred years ago, but it had fallen off the radar long ago until a locally based rare spirits importer brought it back into the United States recently due to demand from bartenders looking to re-create historic drinks. You can find it at Surdyk's and Google a recipe — it's great for hosting because it's guaranteed to be unique and it's easy to serve, since you can make it in batches.

On a related note, Sunday, Nov. 22 is St. Cecilia's Day — the feast day of the Patron Saint of Music. Here is a recipe for St. Cecilia Punch, courtesy of conductor Nic McGegan (who claims that this punch is potent enough to "kill a donkey")!

Charleston St. Cecilia Punch

6 lemons

1 quart brandy

1 pineapple

1-1/2 pounds sugar

1 quart green tea

1 pint heavy rum

1 quart peach brandy

1 gallon champagne

2 quarts carbonated water

Slice lemons thin and cover with brandy. Allow to steep for 24 hours. Several hours before ready to serve, slice the pineapple into the bowl with the lemon slices, then add the sugar, tea, rum, and peach brandy. Stir well. When ready to serve, add the champagne and water. 80-90 servings.