Cocktail historian Wondrich packs a pleasant 'Punch'In cocktail historian and enthusiast David Wondrich's book "Imbibe!" (2007), there's a chapter on punch, which, contrary to poorly concocted renditions at school dances and frat parties of yore, is a historical drink worth considering.
By: Lauren Viera, Chicago Tribune (MCT)
In cocktail historian and enthusiast David Wondrich's book "Imbibe!" (2007), there's a chapter on punch, which, contrary to poorly concocted renditions at school dances and frat parties of yore, is a historical drink worth considering.
Its lineage, Wondrich learned, predates the cocktail by centuries. And at nearly 300 pages, his new book "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl" just begins to scratch the surface.
Upon researching punch in detail, there wasn't so much of a "Eureka!" moment; it was more piles of information and anecdotes to sort through — much of it contradictory. In defense, he says, "Drink history is the history of people who've been drinking. It gets a little fuzzy at times."
We do know this: Invented in the 16th or 17th century, punch was initially a very simple drink, made up of distilled spirits with water (hot, cold or iced) to stretch them out, lemon juice to give it a little coolness and bite, sugar to balance the acidity of the citrus, and, optionally, a little bit of spice to wake up the flavor.
From there, anything goes. Many have pinned punch to the Indian colonies, saying that its name was taken from the Indian word for "five." The author suggests the drink is more likely British in origin, but that's debatable too.
"I was never able to find, 'The first bowl of punch was made by so-and-so,'" Wondrich said. "Of course, most in that enterprise (of colony building) were illiterate or died." Not necessarily by natural means, either.
Hence the inclusion of the word "danger" in the title: Given its role as one of the first drinks consumed by folks who had previously drunk primarily brandy, ale and wine, punch was lethal. Even today, even among those who know its limits, drink too much tea-infused punch, as Wondrich once did, and you're not only tipsy, "you're heavily caffeinated, as well, and headed for loco-town."
The book features nearly 50 recipes. But the stories are the gems, such as the one about the English admiral who filled a fountain with punch for 700, ladled by a young boy paddling a rowboat through the stuff. "The hardest part with this book is having to pick and choose (stories about punch)," Wondrich said. "I had to leave out people using Blackbeard's skull as a punch bowl. ... I could write another book without repeating any of the same anecdotes."
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