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.

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Planter’s Punch

For anyone who has searched the internet, or hunted down books, they know there are a great many Planter’s Punch recipes out there.  It is not one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, aging as hundreds of years than thousands of years.  Yet, when considering the lifespan of rum, or what was first called “Rumbullion” (1650s), it is an old recipe, 200 years old – and still looking good.

Out of all the tiki drinks, “Polynesian” drinks, Caribbean drinks, or tropical drinks, out of the great many drinks to choose from – there were the first ones, the ones which started the craze, the originals.  Afterwards, numbering like the stars in the night sky, they opened the doors for a new creativity (or some not so much, more like stealing).  But in the beginning, which is a broad span of time, it astonishes me how most tropical drinks were not created anywhere near the tropics, but as a tribute to them, or most likely to remind people of far away exotic places.  Thanks to what I read from Beachbum Berry’s book, Remixed, when it comes to classic tropical drinks, the Daiquiri (Cuba), Planter’s Punch (Jamaica),  and Dr. Funk (Samoa) are the only originated in the tropics.  I have mentioned the Daiquiri in an earlier post, now I must pay my respects to another fostering fortification.

I have so much fun learning about rum’s history, where it first introduced production, the infancy of how to drink it – other than straight, development throughout the world, and the shining celebration of what rum is today because of it all.  Planter’s Punch had its own say in history, a voice which echoed into modern ears, a timeless recipe all on its own, as well as a blueprint for brilliant variations.  Here are two ways the recipe was remembered:

"Planter's Punch! A West Indian Recipe"
A wine-glass with lemon juice fill,
Of sugar the same glass fill twice
Then rub them together until
The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.
Of rum then three wine glasses add,
And four of cold water please take.
A Drink then you'll have that's not bad —
At least, so they say in Jamaica.
-- published in Fun magazine, London, September 1878
__________________________________________________________________
"Planter's Punch" 
This recipe I give to thee, 
Dear brother in the heat. 
Take two of sour (lime let it be) 
To one and a half of sweet, 
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong, 
And add four parts of weak. 
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong -- 
I know whereof I speak.
-- published in the New York Times, 8 August 1908
Note:  Back then, a “wine-glass” measurement was considered 2 ounces.

I need to say something about the garnish, because in this case it has to do with Jamaica more than it has to do with this drink.  Garnishing basically does two things:  It makes the cocktail look nice, and it gives off a scent, or sometimes many scents.  Of course there is the option of eating your garnish.  With that said, I’m throwing all of that out the window for this drink, just this once, and intend a garnish to mean more.  This garnish means something else.

jamaica-flag

Jamaica.  Please go there, and have the best time of your life.  Please spend lots of money on the island, please eat all you can and as many different things you can find.  I went with a group of finicky eaters, except for one.  He and I ate like kings on what the rest refused to eat, or too frightened to swallow.  I could go on and on about how many delicious foods and drinks come from that phenomenal island.  I’ll leave that between you and your internet.

I was lucky to study for a short time in Jamaica, far too short, and still miss the friends I made there.  My school sponsored a semester abroad, allowing me attendance to two universities (and a home-stay) in both Kingston and Mandeville.  When not in the classroom, we drove all over the island to celebrate “weekends” or “vacations” for the sake of exploration and curiosity.  It was simply glorious.  Ninety-nine life-changing days, ninety-nine days of paradise, ninety-nine days of beautiful scenery and beautiful people, including ninety-nine days of widespread poverty, yet always the wondrous sensation of the Jamaican spirit.  Please do no go to Jamaica for the place alone – it’s the people who make the place.  The nation is both land and people – the people become the land as the land becomes the people.  Please go there on vacation, and meet as many people as you can.

When I thought of making this drink, I wanted to separate the garnish from the thought process by using it to reflect my time on Jamaica, instead of provoking the flavors of the drink.  I drove by a banana plantation, noticing only for a moment a few banana pickers.  They wore next to nothing.  The term “rag” held more of a definition to that of fabric than what those men wore in the jungle.  Then on a northern  beach, on holiday, as a marching band played one of my favorite Bob Marley tunes, I bought the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever tasted from one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met.  And finally, while staying in Kingston at the Cole’s, at least two different mango trees fed us daily (of course not the only thing – some of the best food I’ve ever eaten was made by Mrs. Cole).

I will always remember Mrs. Cole (and her family, as well as Velita, the woman who worked there).  When I see a mango, or eat one, my mind immediately takes me to the comfort she provided under her roof.  I will always remember the kind woman who sold me the little pineapple before a rain came.  Regardless if it was such a short conversation, that spectacularly-filled moment marked itself in my memory whenever I eat pineapple – a moment so full of powerfully remembered events, making an ordinary day a holiday in its own right.  I will always remember those men walking along the road, wearing  strings for clothing under the dark shade of the dense banana fronds, foregrounding a waterfalls in the distant mountains.  I asked myself in that VW bus, “How long until jungles no longer exist?”  That moment is a permanent memory, and one I think of often, since I am able to buy bananas anytime.

These three fruits do not sum up all of my experiences in Jamaica.  However, this is the most honest representation I could think of without the use of a Jamaican flag.  Inhale deeply when you drink this, as with all drinks, but in this example inhale and imagine Jamaica.

Planter's Punch
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz honey
1/4 oz falernum
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Bärenjäger (honey liqueur)
1/2 oz gold Jamaican (Appleton)
1/2 oz dark Jamaican (Smith & Cross)
1 oz gold Virgin Islands (I used Pyrat, from Anguilla)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 oz crushed ice
 

Warm honey so it will shake more easily into other liquids.  Shake ingredients with crushed ice until frost begins to form on metal shaker. Pour unstrained into chilled glass.  Add more ice to fill if necessary.  Garnish with sizable chunks of pineapple, banana and mango (if the mango is too thin after cutting from the seed, join pieces and trim to look like one big piece).

I called the next recipe a Fizz because of the definition of a Fizz, which takes after an older invention – the Sour.  A Sour is a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and sugar.  The Fizz is basically a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and carbonated water, whose fame grew substantially in America between 1900 and the 1940s.  The Gin Fizz was particularly popular in New Orleans, another town specialty.

Wray & Nephew and Ting go great together.  There are a lot of people who don’t care for the flavor of Wray & Nephew rum, and understandably so since it has a unique taste about it.  And mixing it with other rums can get a little tricky because it can take over even after adding such a small amount.  I think of it very similarly to that of Maraschino liqueur – any more than a dash will alter the drink irrecoverably.  Another good example is demonstrated from the movie, The Myth of Fingerprints, where they briefly discuss the concept of spreading too much mustard on a sandwich, and in effect creating nothing more than a mustard sandwich.  Reluctant in adding too much Wray & Nephew, yet hoping the Myers’s rum would play its mellow pronouncements well enough in contrast, I knew the overproof would win since the term “overproof” essentially means more flavor anyway.  And for those unfamiliar with overproof rums, please always remember they are twice as strong, and require half as much for both flavor and alcoholic effect.  

Planter's Fizz
1 oz Myers's dark
1/2 oz Wray & Nephew overproof 
1 oz fresh lime juice 
2 oz Ting (Didn't have this time - used Jarritos) 
2 oz Pineapple pop (Jarritos)

Shake all but pop with ice, pouring unstrained into chilled tall glass.  Stir pop in gently.  Garnish with a cherry.

Will the Planter’s Fizz become my precedent recipe for Planter’s Punch?  Absolutely not.  The most simplistic version is what I will drink the most, followed by others’ renditions.  Only after properly paying tribute will I shake-up my own recipes.