WEST INDIES PUNCH

traditional | 1760s

In the bowl, create an oleosaccharum:
Peels of 4 lemons and 6 limes
1 cup superfine cane sugar

Add the following, then remove citrus peels:
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup lime juice
4 cups dark Jamaican rum
6 cups cold unsweetened black tea
Garnish: clove-studded lemon slices and freshly-grated nutmeg

SERVES 20

The idea for punch came to British and Dutch sailors by way of India — and from there to the Caribbean and Colonial America. This lineage is evident in the word itself: “punch” comes from the Hindi “panch,” meaning “five.” Why five? There’s a Barbadian rhyme that spells it out: “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak, and a touch of spice to make it nice.” Cute, but it would actually make an unbalanced recipe. The goal with punch is balance across all five elements, including dilution by way of water or tea. Boozier versions may use fortified wine or champagne as a lengthener. Punch held dominance in Colonial America’s taverns until the mid-1800s, when the pace of life began to quicken and people just couldn’t afford to spend hours hanging out and imbibing socially. I can’t imagine what they would think of today’s instant-gratification world. The decidedly old-school bowl of punch is one of the simplest ways to make sure a large party is sufficiently quenched. Sure, it’s a bit of work upfront that you’ll need to plan far ahead for, but it frees you — the host — to kick back a bit when your guests arrive. They’ll serve themselves and gather around the punch bowl just like in olden days. Plus, punch also has a built-in safety factor: as the bowl depletes, it becomes more diluted, helping ensure guests don’t overserve themselves. 

© 2020 Wexler of California / Dave Stolte

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