Charles Dickens had a taste for punch. Documented in letters he wrote, Dickens shared his appreciation for the labor intensive cocktail as well as the recipe, which combined lemon, lump sugar, “good old rum,” brandy, water, and fire (yes, fire). Historians have since discerned that Dickens was indeed a rum punch connoisseur, inviting friends over to partake on a regular basis and bringing the 17th century drink into 19th century social circles.
Over the years, punch has come in and out of fashion. Widely considered one of the first cocktails, it was created in India and then brought home to Europe by English sailors in the 1600s. Men spending months on the seas liked it as an alternative to beer that had gone bad, and they often resorted to whatever was on hand, mixing it in a bowl and slurping it down. Because of its global nature, ingredients from faraway places like Asia and Africa were often incorporated into the libation.
Since then, though, punch has been refined and retooled, though it’s often formulated by that old equation of spirit, citrus, sugar, water, and spice. Liquor historian David Wondrich calls it “the monarch of mixed drinks,” and it’s been on the rise on menus in recent years.
Today is National Punch Day, and we think that’s a good excuse to gather a couple of friends and head out to sample a few different versions of this drink.
Clover Club in Brooklyn currently offers two punches, the Boathouse Punch with gin, Aperol, elderflower liqueur, lemon, grapefruit, orange, and rose Champagne, and the Tennessee Ruby Punch, with rye whiskey, amaro Nonino, lemon juice, ginger syrup, raspberry syrup, and blood orange tea. Each is $46. For a far cheaper and sweeter take on the shared concoction, try Negril Village below Washington Square Park, where the punch comes in $4 pours, packed with a potent kick.
Other places to find a bowl of punch in the city:
Cienfuegos, 95 Ave A, 10009, (212) 614-6818
Sugarcane, 238 Flatbush Ave Brooklyn, 11217, (718) 230-3954
The Drink, 228 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, 11206, (718) 782-8463
Death & Co., 433 E 6th St, 10009, (212) 388-0882
The Dead Rabbit, 30 Water St, 10004, (646) 422-7906