The definition of a "punch" has changed considerably over time. At one point, there was a distinct difference between a "cocktail" and a "punch". A cocktail was liquor, sugar, water, and bitters. If you added any sort of fruit or fruit juice to that make up, it was turned into a punch. For a good reason. The word "punch" comes for the Sanskrit word "pancha", or five. There were five ingredients in punch: the spirit (usually brandy or rum, or both), water, spices, sugar, and lemon. Punches were usually created for large groups to share. A bowl of punch in a bar or at an event encourages people to share the bounty and get to know each other as they are indulging in the beverage. It is rare in classic cocktail books to find a recipe that is a serving for one. But find one I did.
In Thomas' "How To Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant's Companion", there are a few single serving punches. One of which I plan to explore in the future. The one that caught my eye to explore today is the Mississippi Punch. I was looking for something with rum in it for National Punch Day, which is celebrated on September 20th every year, and this year I decided to play along. Here is the original recipe:
1 wine-glass of brandy
1/2 do. Jamaican Rum
1/2 do. Bourbon whiskey
1/2 do. water
1 1/2 tbsp. of powdered white sugar
1/4 of a large lemon
Pour all of the ingredients over ice into a metal mixing tin. Shake very well, then strained over shaved ice. Add orange and seasonal berries for garnish
This brings up many questions: What is a wine-glass? What does do. represent? Fortunately, someone at the Jerry Thomas Project helped with a handy reference guide for beginners. Or you can look to the king of cocktail history, David Wondrich and Esquire magazine, for a translation.
Mississippi Punch (via David Wondrich and Esquire)
2 oz./ 60 mL cognac
1 oz./30 mL dark rum
1 oz./ 30 mL bourbon
2 tsp. superfine sugar
.5 oz/ 15 mL lemon juice
Garnish: Orange slice and seasonal berries
Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing tin. Add ice, and shake until well chilled. Pour over the crushed ice into the Collins glass, and add the berries and orange slice. If you want to enjoy in the traditional way, sip it through a straw.
True, it does have five ingredients. Three of them are liquor. Doing some quick math, that is 4 oz./ 120 mL of the hard stuff for you to imbibe. It is an enjoyable treat, but not something you are going to put away quickly. The ice is a lifesaver in this one, adding water to the mix as it melts quickly into the cocktail. The berries also add flavor over time, especially if they are sliced or pierced. I am a fan of it, but I am a fan of liquor forward libations. Enjoy National Punch Day! If it is with this cocktail, just do it slowly.