When you think of (adult) punches, what comes to mind? College hangovers from too much Nupe Juice or some unnamed, plastic bottle-meets-“juice drink” concoction? Holidays? The beach? I was recently very surprised to learn that spirited punches are one of the oldest American drinking traditions and had the opportunity to sample one that was a favorite of none other than first POTUS, George Washington.
Fish House Punch sounds like something you get with a 2-piece-whiting and side of cornbread (think “Omar Juice,” for my fellow Chicago natives), but it is actually the product of the Schuylkill Fishing Company, which is the oldest club in the country. Members of the group, founded in 1732 and based in what came to be Pennsylvania, gathered to fish, eat drink and be merry and their signature cocktail is one that has lasted the test of time—and for good reason.
The recipe has been copied and undergone various tweaks over the years, but the main ingredients remain the same: rum, cognac, lemon, sugar, nutmeg and peach brandy. Peach brandy is NOT to be confused with peach schnapps, as “drinks historian” and leading DC craft mixologist Derek Brown explained to a group of thirsty journos last week. While schnapps is typically made from grain alcohol, artificial flavor and sugar, peach brandy is made with actual peaches. (This does not negate any of the joy I got as a 21-year-old from telling my fave bartender “Make me something peachy!” and drinking a concoction that was half peach schnapps, half death. But perspective is important.) It can be aged in barrels, like the limited edition George Washington’s Peach Brandy (which goes on sale next week, exclusively at the Gristmill Shop at Mount Vernon) and Short Hill Mountain Peach Brandy from Catocin Creek, or an unaged eau de vie, like the one from Finger Lakes Distilling in New York state).
Check out this great classic recipe, plus two other great punch options:
FISH HOUSE PUNCH
Here is a simple Fish House Punch recipe that should satisfy fruity cocktail enthusiasts and those who typically avoid more sugary concoctions alike. I’ll be making a batch for a birthday party this weekend and I am literally counting down the days.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 quarts water (room temperature)
- 1 quart lemon juice
- 2 quarts Jamaican rum (I recommend Appleton, dark)
- 1 quart cognac (Hennessy, of course)
- 4 ounces peach brandy
In a punch bowl, dissolve sugar in water, then add other ingredients. Traditionally, Fish House Punch is cooled by a large block of ice, but ice cubes will do just fine. Serve and smile.
CRUZAN HOUSE PUNCH
One of my other favorite punches is Cruzan House Punch. I’ve been fortunate to visit St. Thomas and St. Croix, the home of Cruzan Rum, and the rum cocktails and punches on both islands are amazing. House Punch is very easy to make (and easy to drink, so enjoy responsibly) and certified crowd pleaser.
- 2 parts Cruzan Estate Light Rum
- 1 part Cruzan 9 (Cruzan 9 is the brand’s spiced rum; you can substitute Cruzan Black Strap Rum for a richer, darker punch or Cruzan Coconut for a lighter, tropical treat)
- 4 parts pineapple juice
- 2 parts mango juice
- 1 part orange juice
Mix in a bowl and serve over ice, if desired. (I personally prefer my punch chilled, sans ice.)
PINNACLE BRUNCHY PUNCH
I had this last one a few weeks ago, and I will admit, I was HIGHLY skeptical about the idea of a cinnamon roll-flavored vodka. It was so good, so amazingly good. It didn't taste like bread and icing, it tasted like the perfect addition to omelets and laughs with friends.
- 1 750 ml bottle Pinnacle® Cinnabon® Vodka
- ½ Liter bottle Cranberry Juice
- ½ Liter bottle Orange Juice
- ½ Liter bottle Club Soda
- 1 orange sliced
Pour all ingredients except for club soda into a punch bowl with ice. Top off with club soda and fresh fruit when ready to serve. Makes 12-15 servings.