Punch Drinks for Parties
Breaking the ice can have more than a social meaning. There are those days and nights when frost and snow make a hot drink the best welcome and the best stirrup-cup for the departing guest.
SOUP – LACED OR PLAIN
If it’s an eats-and-drinks party, a light soup to stimulate the appetite, rather than cloy it. A home-made beef tea, a clear chicken broth or a consomme go well. They go even better if the beef tea is laced with Whisky (or pretty well any other clear spirit, to your taste), and you can give clear soups an air of sophistication with a touch of dry Sherry from Spain, one of the variants from Cyprus, Australia or South Africa, or a Sercial from Madeira. Whatever you use, it needs only about a tablespoonful added to each bowl or cup, just before serving.
MULLS, TODDIES AND OTHERS
There’s a long list of party drinks that can be hot. Punches, possets, mulls, toddies and grogs — all good warmer-uppers, even their names sing a happy party song. And, besides providing fun in the making as well as in the drinking, they can be comparatively easy on the purse. Obviously since they are mixed drinks, deriving their character from sugar, spices and other non-wine ingredients, it would be folly to use fine wines for them. Where a recipe says Claret or Burgundy, any of the most bourgeois growths will be quite satisfactory — or, indeed, any wine of similar style from another country, whether it is a branded wine or not. But do try them out first. For that matter, since most of these drinks specify sugar, spices and other ingredients ‘to taste’, they’re all worthy of a little rehearsal before the party — say, with your family or a few friends. It isn’t a painful exercise.
Another important point is that since the drinks are hot, they’re best served in goblets or other containers which have handles. Silver or pewter may be considered status symbols but, in fact, metal cups conduct heat and may be a hazard to tender lips, so little china or glass mugs are better. If they’re glass and your toddy is really hot — which is the object of the exercise — a spoon placed in the cup during the pouring will dissipate the heat and save breakages.
One other point: mulls, punches and the like used to be warmed by plunging a red-hot poker in them. Nowadays it’s much more efficient to heat them gently on the stove. Get them hot but never let them boil unless you want to drive off all the benign influence of the alcohol — which you don’t, presumably, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
Let’s take punches, for instance. In the eighteenth century the making of punch was a high-society ritual, undertaken with flourish and solemnity. The bewigged host, standing at the head of his table, had the undivided attention of his guests as they watched him summon servant after servant to bring each successive ingredient to go into the punch bowl.
Punch is still fun. To begin with, it’s a natural starter for general conversation. Does the word ‘punch’ come from the Hindustani panch (meaning five), since the ingredients when it was first introduced from India in the seventeenth century were five — spirit, fruit juice, water, spices and sugar? But weren’t some of those original recipes of only three ingredients and some of them of six ingredients? And anyhow, isn’t it simpler to take the word simply to be an abbreviation of ‘puncheon’, the name of the casks from which the sailors on the East India run drew their grog rations? “But,” says your favourite extrovert guest, “does all this matter — when your punch is the greatest?” If he is being truthful, the heart of your successful punch will still be those five ingredients, though the proportions can be infinitely varied, according to your guests, to their tastes and capacities — and to yours too. As to quantities for a party, a couple of 1/4-pint punch goblets are enough for some, too much for others. It is up to you to know the inexperienced drinkers, who can be quietly given a bit more hot water and fruit juice, and the rather more experienced ones, who take your standard-mixture punch. Again, it’s worth some rehearsal.
Here’s a warmer-upper which truly began in the eighteenth century and is sometimes called Dr. Johnson’s Choice. It makes about 12 to 15 punch glasses or goblets.
Heat two bottles of Claret gently with one sliced orange, 12 lumps of sugar which have been rubbed on the orange rind, and six cloves. Bring the mixture nearly to the boil and remove it from the stove, immediately adding a wineglassful (say, 6 fl. oz.) of one of the orange liqueurs (branded Cointreau, Grand Marnier, South Africa’s Van der Hum or simply Curacao) and the same quantity of Brandy. Ladle it into your punch cups and sprinkle each with nutmeg.
For 12 to 15 drinks, stud a lemon with cloves and bake it in a moderate oven for 30 minutes. Heat 2 pints of Port to just below simmering point. In another pan boil 1 pint water with 1 teaspoonful mixed spices and add it to the hot Port with the baked lemon. Rub 2 oz. Lump sugar into the rind of another lemon and put this sugar into the punch bowl with the juice of ½ lemon and pour in the hot wine.
Hot Tea Punch
Take ½ pint each o Jamaica Rum an Brandy and pour into a warmed metal bowl.
Add juice of one lemon, and set alight.
Add 2 pints hot, strong, strained tea in which ½ lb powdered sugar has been dissolved.
Mulls are basically sugared and spiced wines, beers or ciders, very like punches and served, if you choose, with the same ceremoniousness. They are usually diluted with water, served really hot, but laced with fortified wines, spirits or liqueur, added after the heating. One which also has the Dickensian name of Negus is:
Red Wine Mull
For 8 drinks, b
oil a pint of water with 2 tablespoonsful of sugar, 10 cloves, some slices of lemon and grated nutmeg. Warm a bottle of red table wine in a pan, remove it from the heat and stir in the spiced boiling water. Add 2 to 6 fl. oz. of Brandy or other spirit — kind and quantity to your taste — and serve at once.
White Wine Mull
For 10 to 12 drinks, gently heat 2 bottles of dry white wine with the juice of 2 lemons and six tablespoonsful of honey (your choice of honey since it comes in all sorts of flavours). Before pouring the mixture into the goblets, add pint of Brandy, White Rum, Vodka, the Scandinavian Aquavit or other spirit.
To make 10 to 12 drinks of this beer mull, which takes its name from the frothy sieved apple in it, bake 8 or 10 clove-studded cooking apples in the oven. Mash them with 2 to 2-½ pints of old ale (or draught brown ale) and add, to taste, ground ginger, nutmeg and sugar. Heat the mixture gently, without boiling, and serve it hot.
Possets, which used to be popular, particularly as Christmas drinks, began as health drinks, cures for colds and other ailments. But they became popular party drinks: Samuel Pepys records that he sent his guests away ‘highly pleased’ after a posset. Fundamentally they are mulls made with milk or eggs, or both, curdled by ale or wine. A traditional one is called Huckle-my-Buff, said to be old Sussex slang and impossible to translate!
For 12 drinks, beat a dozen eggs thoroughly with 2 pints of draught beer and 3/4 lb. Sugar. Heat the mixture but take it off the heat before it boils. Add another 2 pints of beer, 4 teaspoonsful of grated nutmeg and Brandy or other spirit to taste.
Auld Man’s Milk
Another posset is Auld Man’s Milk, basically Scots and so made with Whisky, but equally happily made with Rum, Vodka, Aquavit or any other spirit. To make a dozen drinks separate a dozen eggs, beat the yolks well with f lb. Sugar and then beat this mixture into 3 pints of milk and 1 pint of Whisky, with a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon.
Warm the mixture. Whisk the egg whites thoroughly and fold them into the warm mixture, again thoroughly.
Yard of Flannel
Yet another posset, called Yard of Flannel, can form a dramatic climax to any party but — be earnestly warned — it needs plenty of practice by the host or it is in danger of becoming a terribly messy anti-climax.
For 8 drinks you need 3 pints of strong ale, 8 eggs, 1/4 lb. Sugar, 1/2 pint Rum, 2 teaspoonsful of ground ginger. Warm the ale. Beat thoroughly together the eggs, sugar, Rum and ginger and put the mixture into a large jug. When the ale is nearly boiling pour it into another jug and pour from one jug to the other until the mixture is quite smooth. Pouring swiftly with ever-expanding distance between the jugs can be a triumph of skill but — remember! Remember! — it does need practice.
Hot Egg Nog
For every two drinks, beat one whole egg and one yolk with 1 tablespoonful of sugar and 2 tablespoonsful Whisky. Add, beating vigorously, £ pint of hot (not boiling) milk. As variations, the amount of Whisky can be doubled or even trebled and instead of Whisky you can use any spirit or liqueur or double the quantity of Marsala, Madeira, Port or Sherry.
HOT TODDIES AND GROGS
Making these by the glass, put into each goblet 2 oz. Rum, 1 oz. Concentrated orange juice (straight from the can), 1 teaspoonful caster sugar and 2 cloves. Top up with hot water, stir and give each goblet an orange-slice float and a sprinkle of grated nutmeg. As a variation, use lemon juice instead of orange, fill up with hot freshly brewed tea (strained) and garnish with a twist of lemon rind.
ALE AND CIDER
Cold-night comforters can be made with ale or cider as tastes (and maybe budgets) dictate. Spiced Al Heat mild rather than heavily hopped beer with grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon and brown sugar, all to taste, plus a twist of lemon rind. The addition afterwards of a measure of Brandy or other spirit is optional.
Golden Cider Mull
For 6 drinks, put 1/4 pint of water in a small saucepan with 12 cloves, a 3-inch cinnamon stick, 3 blades of mace, a little grated nutmeg, 1-1/2 oz. Brown sugar, 1 lemon and 1 orange. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Meantime, stud 4 small oranges with cloves and bake them in a moderate oven for 15 minutes. Add the boiled spice mixture to 3 pints of still cider and reheat before straining it into the punch bowl. Add the baked oranges to float in the bowl.