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 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.