Baltimore has a long and storied relationship with libations. To this day, red bricks in Fells Point still sport a faded call on Baltimoreans to Vote Against Prohibition. I dove into some of the history of booze in Baltimore and added a twist or two of my own to bring you a Merry and Bright Holiday Punch Cocktail (or mocktail) to celebrate the season!
From the early days of colonial settlement to the heyday of country club cotillions, punch played a big role on the social scene in our city. The earliest recipes for this communal concoction came from ships that had sailed trough the Indies and Southeast Asia. Arrack – a spirit made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, and often fruit, depending upon the country of origin – citrus, sugar and tea were often added to raw rum to make punch. This often replaced the daily allotted rations of beer sailors received as part of their payment. Welcome to the first booze cruise, eh?
Fast forward to the 1950’s. Punch undergoes a bit of gentrification, taking a place of honor atop crisp white linens in sparkling cut crystal bowls, bejeweled with bespoke ingredients befitting Country Club soirees. No longer high octane hooch disguised with some sugar and citrus, these punches would feature smooth bourbons, honeyed rum and proprietary potions – like handcrafted bitters.
Somewhere along the way punch began to loose its… well… punch. Morphing into a sugary, soda and sherbet-laden sludge devoid of spirits and made most often at pot-luck dinners and sock hops. Maybe a few of us remember it from those dorm days? Even so, the punch of old is something mostly forgotten to time.
It’s the holidays, and I say we bring it back!
The recipe below may not hold strictly to historic recipes, but it certainly pays homage to them. Adding in an excellent rum distilled in Maryland makes me feel as though the local history is respected. Handcrafted vodka, while not traditional, is a fine stand-in for those well kept secret ingredients.
Don’t have a punch bowl to serve it in? Try hitting a local thrift store. I found a lovely cut-glass bowl – complete with ladle– for less than $10.
Merry and Bright Holiday Punch Cocktail (or mocktail)
1 part Picaroon Maryland Rum
3 parts lemonade
1 part cranberry juice
1 part ginger ale
lemon wheel slices
Replace flavored vodkas and rum with pomegranate juice and ginger beer!