When we think of punch now we think of awkward school dances, church socials, or God forbid, dry wedding receptions, but before the cocktail revolution, the craft beer revolution, Prohibition, or even the invention of the cocktail, there was punch. Clubs, Secret Societies, Fraternities, Military, hell, everyone had their own punch recipe, and more often than not they were devastatingly strong. Sadly, the high art of the punch has been replaced by sickly-sweet ginger ale and sorbet disasters.
The History of the Punch
Punch began on the high seas with the East India Trading company. Punch actually comes from the Hindi word Panch which means 5. Why? The 5 traditional elements in Punch are: Sour, Sweet, Strong, Weak, and Spice. Once punch made landfall if evolved rapidly and soon everyone had a punch recipe. Tons of old recipes still bear the name of their founding clubs. For example: there's the Philadelphia Fish House punch, the National Guard Seventh Regiment punch, the infamous Chatham Artillery which has been around since before the civil war, and the Cape Fear Punch.
At some point the world just became too busy to sit around the punch bowl and drink themselves into oblivion. People began drinking less and for shorter periods of time and soon the ubiquitous punch bowl started collecting dust, which I suppose isn't a terrible thing because it opened the doors for the cocktail. But since we've pretty much figured out the cocktail, it's time to bring back the Bowl. There are a whole host of punch recipes out there and if you really want to get into the topic I highly recommend the book "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowering Bowl" by David Wondrich
Cape Fear Punch
I'm going to level with you. Cape Fear Punch is delicious but contains a lot ingredients and rather than transcribe it from one of my books, I'm just going to give you a link to the recipe by Alton Brown from his Good Eats recipe on Punch, which was in no way the impetus for this post. And I definitely didn't watch the epsiode last night while shamelessly crushing a bowl of caramel popcorn...