Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Repeal Day

A few days ago, this country celebrated the 78th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition.  The Nobel Experiment engendered by the 18th Amendment came to an inglorious end with the ratification of the 21st Amendment.  The effects of Prohibition would be felt for decades as it had a predictably negative effect on alcohol production in this country.  It would take decades for the beer-brewing and winemaking to recover.  Not to mention, the detrimental effect that Prohibition had on the way the American public drank, most notably the fondness of tasteless, high-volume beer and sweet, overly alcoholic wine.  On the other hand, Prohibition had the effect of promoting cocktails, after all, the only sources of alcohol were generally poor quality distilled spirits: bathtub gin, smuggled rum, moonshine and Canadian whiskey.  Moreover, barmen like Harry Craddock, plied their trade in Europe and became exposed to an even wider variety of cocktail ingredients.  Not to mention, we still have a strong fascination for speakeasies and a gilded memory of that era.  In any case, Prohibition ended, thankfully, and cocktails experienced a short boom.

In my annual celebration of the end of Prohibition (really, what is better than a holiday celebrating the fact that you are allowed to drink), I had a bit of a bash, managing to fit some 30 or so people in my apartment.  Given my experience in past years, bartending all night and shaking up a storm, I decided that I wanted to give myself to enjoy the soirĂ©e and be a better host to my guests this year.  The solution? Punch, in abundant quantities.

My first instinct was to go in a very classical direction, and this idea led to the first punch being the ever so popular Chatham Artillery Punch.  This punch was one of the first I remember reading about before the more recent punch resurgence in the past year or so, especially following the publication of David Wondrich's Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl.  Moreover, having made this particular punch before to a favorable reception, I thought it a safe starting point.  The recipe I used was from the NYTimes adaptation of Wondrich's recipe, which I've found primarily deviates in the amount of lemon peel (12 in the book to the 8 here).

Chatham Artillery Punch
Peel 8 lemons
1 lb sugar
16 oz lemon juice
1 bottle bourbon
1 bottle cognac
1 bottle dark rum
3 bottles champagne
*Muddle peels with sugar and let the oleo-saccharum rest for at least an hour, then add the rest of the liquid ingredients

The second punch for the evening was the Golden Fleece Punch, which has appeared with variations on a theme under a couple of other names, including the Gowanus Club Punch and the Plymouth Pilgrims' Punch.  The underlying theme uniting these punches is the use of a gin-base, along with the inclusion of green tea, pineapple and a touch of some herbal liqueur.  The recipe is again from David Wondrich (is it really any surprise that his name comes up repeatedly when talking of punch?).  I had to make a few tweaks from the original recipe as I couldn't find a ripe pineapple at the local store and lacked Drambuie.  Thus, I made a pineapple syrup using pineapple juice and sugar at a 1:1 ratio, and I substituted Licor 43 and yellow Chartreuse for the Drambuie.

Golden Fleece Punch
Peel 3 lemons
1/4 c sugar
1 c lemon juice
1L gin
1 q weak green tea (I used Longjing)
1/2c pineapple rich syrup
2.5T Drambuie
1 L soda
*Muddle peels with sugar and let the oleo-saccharum rest for at least an hour, then add the rest of the liquid ingredients

Lastly, I had a third punch waiting in the wings, a Xalapa Punch recommended to me by Fred from Cocktail Virgin Slut, but there really was no need by the time the two previous punches were running low.  I should also add that I did end up making a very short menu for people to order off of should neither punch strike their fancy.  I do enjoy dabbling in bartending too, so I could not give up mixing entirely.  In the end, the punch route did allow me to mix less and mingle more.

Happy Repeal Day to all!