Fish House Punch

When I first heard about a drink with fish as the first word in its title, I did not actually guess any incarnation of fish flavor, but could not predict anything pleasant either.  I think I imagined in that moment a peculiar rights of passage, smirking at the creative name, but assumed something I would likely only taste once, and never again.  Then I looked at the ingredients.  The smirk went away.

Punch bowls, ladles and little cups trigger thoughts of a party, not merely any party, but a festive occasion, a unique calling for merriment.  Words like mirth, cheer, especially jolly – they are somehow linked to the celebratory vivacity of what is inside a punch bowl.  I also feel the idea lends itself towards a formal gathering, even when I was a boy and what seemed a symbolic gesture of punch served out of a large bowl, even that clouded my mind with its charms.  When I made my first punch years ago, mixing the ingredients, garnishing, and gently settling-in a bucket-molded ice block, I clearly felt a pride, not only offering my contribution of supplies to the party, but contributing my goodwill.  Granted, I was glad to hear some enjoyed the drink, it was a great deal of fun to watch people enjoy it.  Watching eyes light up and spreading smiles pleased me more.

In researching this drink, both by internet and book form, I needn’t go further than the works of Ted Haigh, AKA Dr. Cocktail, specifically from one of his books, Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails.  He wrote an impressive historical summary of the drink’s fascinating origin, the Schuylkill Fishing Company, as well as contributing a proportionately accurate smaller amount, grateful as one not wishing to conjure this old drink as an entire bowl every time.  Please buy his books, each are exceptionally effective resources.

In the instructions below, I use a pitcher, rather than pouring entirely into a glass, figuring the amount too large.  Using pitchers, I find, is an indulgence, whether refilling my own glass, or better yet – refilling the glasses of those whom I am sharing a moment (which you might want to double the recipe if sharing).  Also, I would advise not using too sweet of a champagne, as the sweetness might unbalance the collection of flavors, though spending more for a dry champagne may prove unnecessary.  Instead, lessening the amount of champagne could keep it in check.  I prefer a splash, simply to liven up the “texture” of the liquid, not so much softening with dilution.  If you prefer a bit less robust flavor, as this lovely drink will offer in plenty, add more champagne, but not too much at first.  Taste-test your way to an opinion and preference on your first try.  And finally, when it comes to brandy, that is mixing with other spirits and powerful flavors, do not feel obliged to buy a quality brand.  You will spend enough on all the ingredients, and would not suffer in blending in a lesser priced brandy.

fish house punch

Fish House Punch
2 oz Jamaican rum (Appleton)
1 oz brandy 
1/4 oz peach brandy
1/4 oz Maraschino
1 oz fresh green tea
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 to 2 oz champagne (to taste)

Combine in a tightly sealing jar and allow to osmose for 2 days.  Pour into a small pitcher with large chunks of ice.  Stir in a handsome splash of champagne.


(Fill in the Blank) Fog Cutter

The Fog Cutter is one of those drinks I have lifted on high in massive glory, a neon-lit icon for all to see as a genuine representative of tiki drinks, like the Zombie, Mai Tai, and Hurricane.  Even though there are many others (seriously – there are a lot of tiki drinks…thank goodness), some drinks are simply born with spot-lights of fame because of a person’s imagination.  A long time ago, as in before my drinking age, if I were to describe a Zombie, it would have looked red, as well as a Mai Tai, and for some reason imagining a Hurricane as a blue drink.  When I learned what the drinks truly were, and they became real to me, the lofty heights of my given stardom no longer appeared so unreachable.  Reality replaced fantasy, and appreciation changed my perception.

The Fog Cutter, once again, is a drink with questionable origins, whether invented by Trader Vic, Tony Ramos, or from Edna Earle’s restaurant, which Fogcutters was named after a diving knife.  And for those of you who enjoy trivia, which has nothing to do with the Fog Cutter, the term Cutty Sark originally was not for the British clipper, but named for women’s undergarments.  Cutty meant “short” – Sark meant “shift” or “chemise.”  First came the underwear, then the famous ship, then the Scotch whiskey.  I guess the bottle would look pretty silly with something other than a sailing vessel on its label.

WARNING:  Anyone allergic to almonds should not ingest orgeat.

However, “Almond Flavoring” precisely printed on the bottle should be harmless.   If you don’t want to buy a bottle orgeat, or make your own, which is easy, another option is to add a few drops almond flavoring (from the grocery store) into simple syrup to give a neighborhood taste – a couple drops for 2 ounces.  I mean, the flower water really makes the flavor profile, not simply almonds, and there really is not substituting orgeat for something less.  But almond flavored syrup is close enough in a pinch.  I used to think, “Maybe if I substitute another kind of nut flavor it will be alright, after all – it’s just a nut flavor, right?”  Since then, I’ve experimented, trialed-and-errored, and learned the inventors of drinks could have used Frangelico instead of orgeat, but didn’t.  Could vodka work just as well as gin, if not better?  No.  The recipes are in writing.  They are permanent.  New drinks can be made using the old recipes as guides, yet cannot be called the same thing.  It’s all about flavor.  Bottom line:  Please try the original flavor of a drink first.  If you don’t like it, of course change it.  If you don’t have the ingredients at first, make it as close as you can.  But please, strive to get the original ingredients.

With that said, I substituted out the sherry.  I don’t like sherry.  I learned from Beachbum Berry’s Remixed (all hail Jeff “Beachbum” Berry!), whatever you float on top of a Fog Cutter is allowed as long as you alter the name of the drink.  For example, if I wanted to float Maple Crown Royal, I could call it a Canadian Fog Cutter, or Fog Cutter Flapjacks, or whatever you can think of, whether prestigious or playful.  Your drink – your name.  Plus, once you drink a Fog Cutter, you’re not going to listen to another word I say.  If by chance your mood carries you into two of these drinks, your opinion will suddenly grow to monstrous heights, and might crush us all under your bootheel of wisdom!

fog cutter

Malagasy Fog Cutter
2 oz fresh Lemon juice
1 oz fresh Orange juice
1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 oz Light Rum
1 oz Brandy (no need for expensive kind since it's for mixing)
1/2 oz Gin (dry)
1/2 oz *Madagascar Mix

Shake everything with cracked ice – except the mix.  Pour into tall tiki mug and add more cracked ice to fill.  Float sherry on top of drink.  Garnish with mint.  Drink with a straw.

*Madagascar Mix
1/2 part Clément V.S.O.P. (I prefer rhums more than rums for this)
1 part Vanilla syrup
1 part Tia Maria (any Coffee Liqueur will work)

If you have trouble with the technique of “floating” and the liquid flows down too far into the drink – remember to pour slowly, perhaps using an up-side down spoon to help slow the pour.  As you can see by my picture, my float sank like a stone.  Obviously I need more practice, if you understand my meaning.  Also, I don’t have a Fog Cutter mug yet, and feel I should have gotten one by now.  After all, the drink and the mug are practically synonymous.  Just for curiosity sake, I made two drinks, substituting lime for the lemon, simply to see a side by side comparison.  They look the same, and both taste extraordinarily good.  My wife prefers the lime, while I favor the lemon because I can taste the gin better with lemon.

God Jul!

God Jul!  For those of you who do not speak Swedish (like me – even though I’m Swedish-American), it means Merry Christmas.  Pertaining to the approach of Christmas, not “the holiday season” since it does not have anything to do with Thanksgiving or New Years, this drink is like drinking Christmas Spirit.  However, this is how I see it, or from my perspective growing up with one of many traditions.  We called it “grog” in pronunciation, even though it should have been pronounced “wassail.”  It was my grandmother’s recipe, and meant to be non-alcoholic – no wine, no brandy, and certainly no rum.  Yet rum made its way in, only after it was done brewing all day, and resting through the night to be ready to drink the next day.  Whether a Christmas party, or merely to drink a bit of happiness into your life, we’d put the wonderment into a big, coffee maker with a spigot to warm it back up, and a bottle of rum nearby for the adults.  As a boy I never could see any reason to change what was perfect.

What we made was wassail, a hot mulled cider (Old English wæs hæl, literally ‘be you healthy’ – an ancient southern English ritual intended to ensure a plentiful cider apple harvest for the next year.  The term wassail was meant for both drink and toasting).  Regardless, we didn’t call it that.  We called it grog.  When looking up various recipes for grog, or glögg in Swedish, I quickly found out several missing ingredients.

Glögg, pronounced somewhat like glooog (roughly translated: “glow”), is a sweet, high-octane, mulled wine.  According to the Wine & Spirits Museum in Stockholm, King Gustav I of Sweden was fond of a drink made from German wine, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves. It was later named “glödgad vin” in 1609, which meant “glowing-hot wine.” The word glögg is a shortened form that first appeared in print in 1870.

There are several recipes I am fond of, all which include various fruits, either sweet red wine or port, or both, and all with fortifying spirits.  Here’s a Swedish glögg recipe:

2 bottles sweet red wine
2 cups water
1 1/2 oz dark rum (with this I prefer Gosling's)
1 1/2 oz brandy (doesn't need to be expensive with so many flavors)
1 1/2 oz port wine
10 dried prunes
4 pieces dried apricots
4 pieces dried apples
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
2 oranges (washed and sliced)
rind of 1/3 of a lime (no pith - either peeled or grated)
1/2 cup dried cranberries 
1/4 cup pistachios (should be almonds, but allergic to)
2 Tbsp whole cloves
1 tsp cardamom pods
4 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
1 cup brown sugar (light)

Bind up cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and lime rind in cheesecloth.  Bring all ingredients, except alcohol and wine, to near boil (do not boil) and simmer for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours.  Remove bound up spice packet.  Add remaining ingredients only minutes before serving, reheating to near boil (again, do not boil).  Serve in heatproof glass cups (so you can see inside – this Christmas gift comes with see-through wrappings), adding a small helping of fruit and nuts to each glass, and a teaspoon to eat by.  Garnish either with an orange peal in the drink, or an orange slice on the rim of the glass.

I know that sounds like a lot of ingredients.  But the idea is richness, deep thought-provoking richness, the kind your most precious memories from Christmas past will conjure.  Also, if you would prefer, I’ve heard of substituting Aquavit (or Akvavit) for the brandy, but not for this precise recipe  This is where I haven’t experimented enough to make this call – maybe if Aquavit is added, maybe the cardamom will seem too powerful.  Sorry for not knowing for sure.

Even though I’m talking about glögg, I’m writing this to show the grog recipe I grew up with, regardless if it’s really wassail.  It’s a simple recipe, easy to make, and so happy and bright with flavor.  You could even use it as an ingredient if making a mulled wine.  I am very proud of this drink, and so glad my parents shared this recipe with me.


Julglögg (Christmas Grog)
1 quart hot tea (black tea - just use teabags)
2 tsp whole cloves
1/4 cup stick cinnamon
1 gallon apple cider
1 quart orange juice
1 pint grapefruit juice (not ruby red)
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup hot water

Make hot tea by steeping for 5 to 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring water to boil and dissolve sugar completely within to make a simple syrup.  Add cloves and cinnamon to tea, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add cider, orange juice, syrup, grapefruit juice, and cranberry juice.  Bring to boiling point, but do not boil.  Simmer for a few hours.  If you don’t have time, just cover and let it sit all day.  Either way, let it stand overnight to marry the flavors.  Serve hot (but do not boil).  If you’re in the mood, add a splash (or more) of amber rum.  Silver rums feel a little too rough, and spiced rums think they are in charge.  I first thought dark rums would be ideal, instead learning they kind of clash as well.  A list of rums that work:  Appleton, Matusalem, Mount Gay, El Dorado, Pusser’s, and Bacardi.  Due to how more mild it is to any other, Gosling’s is the only dark rum capable for this recipe.  Finally, garnish with a slice of orange with a number of whole cloves poked into the skin, thanks to my loving parents for sending my wife and I a box of delicious Florida oranges.

Merry Christmas to all who read this.  Astonished to see so many people from so many places visit this website, I hope I can be of any help, even if it just means a suggested recipe for an option of what to make with certain flavors.  Thank you one an all.  And for those who do not celebrate Christmas, I wish you a Happy New Year.  Be safe.