Punch for the in-laws


by Kevin Barrett

illustrations by Amy Richards

Let’s cut to the chase, mostly because I couldn’t think of an opening to this article. It’s Thanksgiving. I can’t help you with the food. That’s for the men and women who don’t mind burning themselves and cutting their fingers. My hands are too soft for that. I’m a bartender: I can help you with drinks.

If you’re not serving Beaujolais Nouveau – please don’t – then serve a light pinot noir, a well-rounded riesling, or a rosé, you sophisticate. Neither the riesling nor the rosé need be sweet. Sugar washes out your palate, so ask your friendly wine shop attendant for semi-sweet or dry options. There are plenty.

If you’re serving beer, well, somehow craft beer pairing has become more complicated than wine pairing in the last few years. I say skip all that, buy a case of PBR in cans, and be done with it. Or perhaps pick up a mild IPA to drink while you watch football – but not one that lays waste to your palate and has 12 percent alcohol. Uncle Joe will be passed out by halftime.

Now, if you’re interested in a cocktail to serve along with the turkey and Aunt Mildred’s green bean casserole, I think you should consider a punch.

This year we’re going to keep it simple. Well, pretty simple. In last year’s issue of Walter, some wannabe-mixologist gave out an elaborate recipe with pureed sweet potatoes that were flambéed or something crazy like that. Although his writing was exceptional, the recipe was too complicated for an already hectic event. Our drink this year is a classic punch recipe that George Washington himself once reportedly got snookered on. It’s called Philadelphia Fish House Punch. It’s potent and easy to make, but there’s a catch. That comes a bit farther down.


Philadelphia Fish House Punch

1 cup of sugar

3 ½ cups hot water (add more to taste)

1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice (6 to 8 lemons), strained

1 (750-ml) bottle Jamaican amber rum (I like Appleton)

12 ounces Cognac

2 ounces peach brandy

Lemon or orange slices, for garnish

Make sure the water is faucet-hot, mix in the sugar, and stir until it’s dissolved. (No need to make that sugar syrup on the stovetop, which Aunt Rosalie has claimed for the day.) Next, mix in all the other ingredients, and chill for at least three hours. Boom. Done.

Now here’s the overly complicated and underappreciated part that makes this punch perfect for Thanksgiving: It is best served over a block of ice.

Freeze a block of ice in your freezer, put it in a punch bowl, and serve. I’m not Martha Stewart, so I’m not going to tell you exactly how to freeze a block of ice. You should really be able to figure that out on your own, but there are ways to complicate it even more if you so choose. For instance, if you want your ice crystal-clear, first bring the water to a rolling boil and let it cool to room temperature before freezing. And if you’ve gone that far, then you might as well throw some sprigs of thyme or rosemary in the water, along with some peach or orange slices, because that’s how Martha would have wanted it.

Or just serve the punch over ice cubes from the freezer.

Happy Thanksgiving.