Back in the days of senior year at GT—and that was the class of ’00 for me—I would go to many house parties after basketball games, football games, midterms, detention, Tuesday’s, etc. The standard was terrible lite beer, some flavored vodka, Jack Daniel and perhaps Mike’s Hard Lemonade for the ladies. Let’s not forget, or rather let’s, the Smirnoff Iced-whatever that was possibly the last resort for many of us.
And you know what? We had the time of our lives. However, now that I’m a bit older, I look back and, as I’m sure all of you do, wonder, “What the f*ck was I thinking?” It’s alright. We all took part in this ritual that is the natural progression of high school.
What’s this have to do with anything? I’ll tell you.
About a year ago, my little cousin, who is a senior, calls me and asks, “Hey cuzo! You make a lot of different drinks, right? I want a recipe for a great punch.” She then proceeds to rattle off things he wants to use such as grape soda, lemonade, Hawaiian Punch and like twelve bottles of booze, most of it was flavored vodka. That’s a great recipe for Jungle Juice, or as I like to call it, Blackout. I told her to hold off on that, and I’d do some research and get back to her.
I found many recipes online and in books. Particularly one that is now my favorite, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich, who is a fantastic historian on cocktails and spirits, had all the information I needed.
Punch is possibly the word’s oldest documented mixed drink, if not the oldest. Some of the earliest known recipes included, but were not limited too, sugar, citrus, dairy, water and spirit. That was the base. With that down, you can play with anything extra. Intrigued, I continued to do research and many little known facts would amaze you. But one thing was clear: whether punch was present at weddings, parties, get-togethers, funerals (probably) — the point of it was to get drunk. Or, as my co-worker so colorfully calls it: loose.
I also read that punch was ever so present in United States history. For instance, before the first presidential election in our great country was about to happen, some candidate named George Washington would hold parties to potential voters. And he had punch. Crude but it would get the job done. And if you had a ladle of his punch, it meant he had your vote. And in all honesty, if John Milton (look it up) served punch, he’d have my vote too.
Flash forward to a year ago here in the Windy City. I started having cocktail demo’s and realized that making a punch bowl was easy and if you did it right, can make even the pickiest person enjoy it. Even better, I started seeing punch bowls offered at awesome cocktail bars such as The Drawing Room and The Barrelhouse Flat.
I am now a huge fan with plenty of my own recipes. As a man who has made punch for parties, work and cooking demos, it’s such a fun and easy way to get and keep the party started.
Also, it’s cheaper. For a good flowing bowl that can get up to 25 people drunk can cost less than cases of beer and bottles of wine and booze put together. And trust me, they will not complain.
What was funny about punches that the average person makes, or believes it should be, is bright colored with chunks of fruit floating around and little umbrellas in the glass. Traditional recipes, which I have gleefully re-created, look brown and not appealing at all. But they taste wonderful and get you tipsy-ripe.
I hope that this little piece of history of cocktails came in handy and has you at least considering an order of a punch bowl the next time you’re out and about. Or even better, making one for your own for friends, family…or me.
Here is one of my recipes from our cooking and cocktail demo for Valentine’s Day.
Tips for all you future flowing bowl aficionados: Buy a nice, big punch bowl. You can find them at Bed, Bath & Body works brand spanking new. If you’re a drink nerd like me, though, cruise Craigslist for used ones (and not for the hook-ups) or even Ebay. I found mine on that. Older bowls, to me, seem more authentic, and I like the originality of glass verses plastic.
LOVE POTION NUMBER 9
tequila, dark rum, seasonal fruits, citrus juices
Yields: 20 drinks
- 1 bottle of Corzo Tequila
- 1 bottle dark rum
- ½ quart of brown sugar syrup
- 4 fl oz pomegranate juice
- 16 oz brown sugar
- 10 limes
- 10 lemons
- Heat water and dissolve brown sugar.
- Zest limes and lemons into punch bowl making sure all skin is inside.
- Cut limes and lemons and squeeze into punch bowl.
- Add syrup and stir.
- Add pomegranate juice and stir everything.
- Serve with a bit of fruit in each glass.