It seems to be Punch Month. You have your Christmas parties, of course, this year the Imbibe November/December issue is dedicated to it, and David Wondrich’s new book Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl is new on the scene as well. I haven’t posted a real punch recipe since my rundown on Chatham Artillery Punch. (Be sure to check out page 22 of the Imbibe issue, where Ted Haigh makes a kind mention of us.) I’d toyed with getting in on the punch action but was at a loss for anything special.
Well, enter my mother and sister, who are going through the old family documents. Today, they sent me a copy of my late father’s transcription of my great-grandfather’s notes on Regent’s Punch. He states that the gentleman from whom he got the recipe, one William H Felton of Macon, Georgia, had been making it for twenty five years, so this version dates back to at least 1888, or 132 years ago. (Or it could be older than that. See below.) As Wondrich notes on the Esquire site, there are a zillion versions out there. Darcy O’Neil offers Jerry Thomas’s version over at Art of Drink.
I offer the old ancestral version because, in part, it is markedly different from any version out there that I’ve seen, and because my great grandfather’s words are interesting in and of themselves. Read them and the recipe, then I’ll have a few thoughts on the language and content, as well as a quite possibly apocryphal tale of the sordid origins of Regent’s Punch.
3 January, 1913
Mr. Felton says that he has used this recipe for twenty five years without either change or need for same. He says the ingredient quantities my be increased for larger parties. He further adds that one quart of the finished stock should be mixed with three quarts of Champagne — the drier the wine, the better the punch. He cautions that, though he knows that such a caution is not necessary, only the finest ingredients should be used. He feels that there are imitation cordials sold in the U.S. (which) are a disaster.REGENTS’ PUNCH STOCK
- 1 quart strong black tea — while hot add
- 3/4 lb. sugar — dissolve thoroughly
- 1 pint high grade Rye or Blended Whisky or imported brandy
- 1 pint Maraschino
- 3 gills* Benedictine
- 1 1/2 gills* St. Croix Rum (he does not mention light or dark, so I say aged)
- add the juice of 1 dozen oranges and
- 1 dozen lemons — strained
- 1 dash good bitters, orange preferred
*ed. note: 1 gill = 1/2 cup
This stock will keep indefinitely and is better to be made several days before its intended use as this allows it to blend and mellow. Keep it in a cool place else the sugar and fruit juices may ferment. Fermentation does not spoil it, however, as it can be strained and added to other stock freshly made.
As stated previously, use one quart of stock to three quarts of Champagne, and pour this amount over one large block of ice — so as to cool it quickly. He finds that it is better for the Champagne to be used be thoroughly chilled before mixing — the reason is so as not to melt the ice more than necessary thereby diluting the punch.
My father added (circa
This is similar to, but less complicated than, the Charleston Artillery Punch that my father H Dillon Winship, my brother Dillon and I spent several weeks of mixing and testing to be sure it was properly mellowing.
The distaff side was not impressed with our efforts, but it was one hell of a 25th Anniversary!
OK, first off, One Dash of bitters? Unless they had some nuclear bitters back in the day, that measure is obviously wrong. Anyone got a better suggestion? A teaspoon? Tablespoon?
I am struck by how much these notes read like a blog post, especially one here. Apparently being a wordy bastard is deeply coded in my genetic sequence, along with plenty of other bloggers’. I find it comforting to know that we did not really invent the “bloggy” style of writing that we, love it or leave it, claim as a modern creation. My great grandfather could have been seamlessly blogging in the fifteen minutes it would have taken to teach him WordPress. His punctuation and copy-editing would have fit right in, too….
Similarly, there is little new in the world of booze appreciation either. Let’s see:
- Ice geekery? Check.
- Crabby commentary on the sad state of modern ingredients? Check.
- Overly elaborate, time consuming processes? Check.
- Oh, by the way, Franken-food chemistry? Check.
Yup. This document is a cocktailblog post from 1913.
Finally, whence the name, Regent’s Punch? It is named for Prince George the Not-Yet-Fourth, of England. George III, having lost some prime real estate in his lucid youth, descended into syphilitic madness in his later years, and his heir was made regent for the good of the Empire and everyone’s peace of mind. I’m not sure how well this worked out, because George spent most of his regency eating and drinking, as well as schtuping every available and unavailable woman in sight. It’s good to be the king. And even better to be the regent, since if anything had gone wrong, the mob would have cut off the head of batty old dad.
Needless to say, were you a member of the nobility, you endeavored to curry as much favor as possible with the Prince Regent whenever he came to call. He was likely to build up quite a thirst whilst banging your lady wife, so a nice punch named in his honor was just the ticket. If the punch was really kicking, he might drink enough to omit the wife-borrowing part of the program, so there was that as well, I suppose.
Drink historians grouse that there is no way to determine the “real” Regent’s Punch from among the thousands of versions out there. I’d say it is likely, given the origin story, that most any agreeable punch would have born the name in the attempt to slake the man’s appetites. (Or, given enough tea in the recipe, to stoke said appetites—depending on the amount of favor the host needed to curry!) The one curated by Mr. Felton might be one of those from the day. Maraschino was becoming trendy among the nobility in Britain during the Regency. And it would have been a royal drink indeed, as the Abbey of Fécamp had recently been destroyed in the French Revolution and Benedictine would have been a precious ingredient to offer. If this was indeed concocted to suck up to George, the liquorati baron who did so must have wanted something bad!