Saturday, December 11, 2010

Exhibit #47: Boozy Dickens

We all know Charles Dickens (1812-1870). What some of us may not know is that Dickens loved his hooch. It being the 19th century that meant punch, and lots of it. As you’ll see from his recipe reprinted on the reverse, he had very distinct ideas about the proper compounding of the mixture - the hallmark of a veteran, and to a lesser extent just how evolved the drink had become since its initial appearance two hundred years previously. Coincidentally, for a time Dickens edited a popular weekly magazine of humor and satire named Punch. And of course punch and drinking in general have a prominent place in his literary works, particularly A Christmas Carol. Come back next week to enjoy a “Smoking Bowl of Bishop,” just like Scrooge vowed to serve Bob Cratchit.

Punch was the means by which 17th century drinkers, particularly sailors and merchants stationed in the East Indies, made the new rough ‘n’ ready spirits of the day palatable. For peoples used to drinking alcohol in vast quantities (wine for the gentry, ale or mead for everyone else), straight liquor was not an option because drinkers were simply not used to sipping. As a result, the punch maker’s aim was to essentially make a wine-like beverage by other means. As formulae for punches became more sophisticated, even “people of quality” got in on the act – see Regent’s Punch, and others that incorporate champagne, for instance. Once distillation technology really began to improve in the 19th century, and with it more consistent and elegant spirits, we see the cocktail emerge as the drink of choice while punch faded into the background, appearing only at special events or during the holidays.

Dickens’ Hot Brandy & Rum Punch $6.50
Rum (Smith & Cross and El Dorado 12yr), cognac (Camus VS), lemon juice and peels, sugar, water, served warm.

We will also be serving some of the 2010 favorites from last week.

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