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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Singapore Sling

 

Said to come from the drink, The Straits Sling, the Singapore Sling has a long history of struggling authenticity, whether the first practiced recipe was lost and experimented back to life from a loyal customer, or many names throughout time coming out with their claim to knowledge.  For me at least, it’s not so much what ingredients, but how much of what ingredients.  Regardless if the original Singapore Sling came from the Raffle Hotel or not, the amounts of the ingredients have altered through time.  I’ll first show you The Raffle recipe, then the one I like best.  I’ve tasted others too, even liked some, and am not saying there is only one recipe to drink, even suggesting you try all the different recipes you find to see for yourself.

Raffle Hotel recipe
1 oz gin
1/2 oz cherry brandy
4 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Bénédictine
1/3 oz grenadine
dash of Angostura bitters

Garnish with a slice of pineapple and cherry.

Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh extensively researched the Singapore Sling, writing an article for Mixologist: The Journal of the American Cocktail, later stating in his book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, “Strictly speaking, the Singapore Sling is no longer a sling at all, insofar as the flavor and composition of that drink form differed from the cocktail” and then describing it as “the prototype of the future Tiki genre.”

Okay, a quick history for reference:  Before there was the cocktail, which is a generic term in modern times, what began it all was the punch.  The earliest British documented reference to punch dates to 1632 from India by sailors and employees of the British East India Company. The word comes from the Hindustani “panch,” meaning “five flavorings,” that is – spirits plus lemon, sugar, water or tea, and spice.  Most punches at that time were mixed from wine or brandy.  Later, when the Barbadian and Jamaican rum trade began to thrive, rum took the place of brandy in many recipes. In 1655, British punches began using rum.  There are several rum-based punches, the two most historical rum punches are the Planter’s Punch and Bajan Rum Punch.  Bajan (Barbadian) Rum Punch is one of the oldest rum punches and a simple recipe commemorated in a national rhyme, “One of Sour, Two of Sweet, Three of Strong, Four of Weak.” That is: one part lime juice, two parts sweetener, three parts rum (preferably Barbados), and four parts water.  The sling showed signs around 1759, which is a spirit, sugar and water, and mainly at first garnished with citrus peel and nutmeg.  Close to 1800, the sling found itself with the addition of bitters, making it a cocktail. The earliest definition of the cocktail in print called the beverage a “bittered sling,” a mixture of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters.  The definition of a sling is an iced alcoholic drink, typically containing gin, water, sugar, and lemon or lime juice.

I enjoy Haigh’s drink recipe better because of how he changed it, in effect highlighting the flavors where they were not as perceptible.  Believe it or not, the flavor of the gin is not as pronounced thanks to the other adjustments.  Lessening the pineapple juice makes it less of a dominant flavor, and more like a spice, as well as upping the lime juice and Cherry Heering please my taste buds more desirably.  Understandably, adding soda water thins the drink, but thankfully so since the earlier recipes did not succeed with me.  Maybe Dr. Cocktail simply made it more refreshing as well.

Ted Haigh's version
2 oz gin (I prefer a dry gin)
2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Bénédictine
1/4 oz grenadine (remember: real pomegranate syrup)
dash of Angostura bitters
soda water

Shake all but soda with ice.  Strain into ice-filled, pre-chilled, collins glass.  Top with soda water and stir.  Garnish with cherry, orange wheel, and pineapple (sorry – no pineapple on hand for the image).