Old-School Boozy Punch

by Rebekahcooked up on November 13, 2014

I’ve been thinking about making this punch for a while. I’m getting ready to speak on a radio show about cocktails for the holidays, and I think that making an old school punch is the perfect accompaniment to a modern Thanksgiving – especially in the midst of a craft cocktail resurgence.

I like the idea of this recipe first because it’s almost historically appropriate. Punch originated in India and made its way west on British ships. It’s first known to have been written down a decade or so after the first Thanksgiving.

Old-School Boozy Punch | PDXfoodlove

Punch is a tea-based beverage, which makes a lot of sense considering it came through Britain via India. It incorporates a lot of limes – key for a time when getting vitamin C wasn’t so easy, and getting it through boozy drinks was a good way to get a lot of it at once. Punch was originally made with brandy, but as it made its way over to the Americas, they started to use rum.

Why rum? Simple: rum is basically the most American beverage there is. It’s made from sugar cane, which was strictly a New World thing back then, grown in the Caribbean and traded up the coast. That’s also why it was a little easier to sweeten beverages like punch – sugar was highly sought-after commodity, but the Americas had the advantage of being on the right side of the ocean to make it more affordable.

I’ve always loved the Good Eats episode “Feeling Punchy,” and so I finally decided to test out the essential formula AB talks about: one of sour, two of sweet. Three of strong and four of weak, plus spice. For my recipe I used lime juice, simple syrup, white rum and English breakfast tea. For the spice, you just grate a little nutmeg on top.

Old-School Boozy Punch | PDXfoodlove

Dave and I tested probably 8-10 variations, playing with the ratios and experimenting with flavors – on a SMALL SCALE, mind you, we weren’t stumbling around. What we found was that even though we have a lot of fun and fancy ingredients, the simple tried and true formula was the best one.

Old-School Boozy Punch | PDXfoodlove

I think it’s a great drink to serve during a holiday meal. The lime keeps it light, but it tastes a little bit like a boozy iced tea, and I think I spent most of my formative years drinking iced tea at Thanksgiving (the non-booze kind), so it seems like a good fit. And, most importantly, it’s a cocktail that guests can serve themselves. Things that don’t require heat should be as low maintenance as possible.

1 part lime juice (reserve spent limes to rest in pitcher/bowl)
2 parts simple syrup
3 parts white rum
4 parts English breakfast tea, brewed and cooled completely – this is easiest to make ahead.

Old-School Boozy Punch | PDXfoodlove

Add spent limes to a large bowl or pitcher before adding the rest of the ingredients and stirring. Add ice and chill completely – it’s pretty good when it’s coldish, but it’s REALLY delicious when it’s ice cold. Serve in small portions, like 4 oz., ish.

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